It is always my goal to speak Spanish for at least 90% of the class period, but I’m not strict about requiring students to always speak in Spanish. I was introducing activity vocabulary (basic verbs to use with I like/I don’t like) with pictures today, and working on getting lots of reps of me gusta and each verb. I was doing circling questioning, telling them about myself and my own likes, and generally working really hard to make myself comprehensible and interesting and get in enough reps of each word. I had a lot of fun teaching the lesson throughout the day, but students mostly talked about the activities in English, only using Spanish when I made them.
So my seventh period is my wild class – a discussion day will always be challenging for them, because they’re already so talkative and energetic, and it’s difficult to reign that energy in and focus on the task at hand. I gave them a lecture at the beginning of the class about the importance of listening in learning language, and reminding them that I would work to make sure they understand, but that they need to pay attention and control their talking. Fast forward a few minutes, and it’s not going well. They’re talking too much, and one or two students are derailing the conversation with off topic or attention-seeking comments. I think to myself, What if they’re only allowed to speak in Spanish? And one more irrelevant comment is shouted out, and I snap, and I ban English, with threats of deducted participation points, and start writing names on the board when the policy is violated. Here’s my reflection on how it went:
- Pro: a couple of students took risks and managed to communicate with me in Spanish! The kid who started calling out Me gusta nadar and no me gusta escribir every time I changed to a new slide. When I told the class, with heavy gesturing and pointing, that I don’t like to write by hand, but I like to write on the computer, a girl raised her hand and asked, Mano es … ? and pointed at her hand. Or the guy who turned around and studied my word wall a minute and threw out, Me gusta nadar siempre! Nadar ahora!
- Pro: The behavior improved and the off-topic comments greatly decreased. I was able to teach class without disruption. At the end of the class, I checked assessment with TPR (we gestured each word), and they did pretty well!
- Con: passive resistance. I noticed several students mentally check out after the English ban.
- Con: active resistance. I had to remove one student (the one who was the most disruptive from the beginning of the class) who refused to stop speaking in English and refused to take notes or participate positively in class. He challenged me and said that I was being unreasonable, that it was impossible for him not to speak his native language in class. I spoke to him one on one, asked him to give me a chance, to pay attention and see how much he understood. The disruptive behavior continued, so I sent him to ISS with a textbook and continued class with students who were willing to engage with me.
- Con: The one problem I had with comprehension in Spanish-only mode was getting students to practice with partners. In previous classes, I gave brain breaks (talking breaks?) by having them make a few statements to their partner in Spanish – I like ______, I really like _____, I don’t like ________. I wanted 7th period to do this as well, but they had a hard time understanding my instructions. Also, I think I scared a lot of them silent with the English ban, and they didn’t want to say anything.
Over all? Success. A wise teacher once told me that though we may have a perfect lesson, we don’t have perfect students, so do the best you can and don’t stress too much. While not a perfect solution to my behavior issues seventh period, the Spanish-only policy allowed me to manage behavior in such a way that I was able to teach my class without disruption. So yes, overall, a success.