What I’m Learning in Grad School: CI Demo

This past weekend I began my first class for my master’s degree in Spanish Education through Auburn University. The first item on the weekend agenda was a CI demo in German! The presenter, Andrea Wilkinson, was excellent. I was reminded of so many little tid-bits about teaching in the TL just by watching and learning from her. When she first started talking I was totally confused, but pretty soon I was answering questions in German! Here’s the board with her visual aids. Each time she introduced a new word, she wrote it in German under the person it corresponded to – no English!2015-08-14 19.22.36

The topic was physical descriptions. She would present a new word, and then start asking questions. Who is pretty, Cindy or Helga? Is Cindy pretty? Is Cindy young? Is Helga young?  Every time she asked a question, she had us raise our hand and called on someone. When you answered a question, she handed you a Euro.  As soon as I saw the girl next to me get the first Euro, my attention spiked – I wanted the Euros so bad! My hand started going in the air and before I knew it I was answering her questions in German!

2015-08-14 21.00.59

The timing of this demo was quite serendipitous as I started my descriptions unit in Spanish 1 the following Monday. Having spent the whole weekend in Alabama I didn’t have time to print and laminate Euros or hunt through magazines to find the perfect visual aids, but I made it work. I have a PowerPoint with pictures of people for descriptions, but I wanted to do it like Andrea did in her demo, with all the pictures visible at once – that way, I could write all the vocab on the board and maximize potential for questioning and comparisons. So, instead of starting with my usual pictures, I started talking from this Quién es Quién image, cropping off the edges to make the image more manageable.

quien es quien

I wanted to track participation, but I didn’t have Euros to hand out. I kept the hand-raising and calling on someone strategy (if they called out the answer I just ignored them and called on someone anyway – they learned quickly to stop calling out), and wrote each student’s name on the board as they answered questions, and added checks as they continued to participate. Yesterday and today I switched and just wrote a check in the gradebook each time I called on a student. I’ve been really pleased with this for a number of reasons. One, my kids are eager to participate! Secondly, they don’t mind me circling so much because they want to get credit for their participation. I’m reminded to ask more questions and keep repeating so they all have an opportunity to answer. The gradebook is working fine for now, but I’d like to try the Euro strategy sometime because it was just so fun to feel rewarded every time you answered. Another option for tracking participation would be making a big chart on laminated poster board with all my students’ names and making the check marks there – that way, they would be able to see how many checks they have and audit me if I mess up.

One more tip I learned from Andrea was asking tag questions: You ask a question with the question word, like, Who has brown hair?, but add a choice at the end – María o Anita? The advantage of tag questions is that they are hearing the question word, but the choice at the end makes it easier to answer. It’s also a great strategy for differentiation – start with an open-ended question, and then add the tag at the end if kids aren’t sure how to answer. I was amazed at the hands that went up when I switched from Who and What questions to tag and either/or questions – I realized that students were listening hard, and were just waiting for the right question to raise their hand.

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About Andrea

I am a teacher, dancer, and Spanish-speaker. This is my place to organize & share my thoughts on teaching, foreign language & language learning.
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6 Responses to What I’m Learning in Grad School: CI Demo

  1. Martina Bex says:

    Fun activity! How did she establish meaning? I don’t see English on the board, so how did you know what all the words mean if she didn’t use it either?

    • Andrea says:

      She wrote each word on the board as she introduced it under the corresponding picture. Meaning was established by pointing to the pictures, gesturing, and contrasting between the pictures (short/tall, young/old, pretty/ugly). It worked with these words because they were so concrete and she had really good visual aids, but in general I agree with you (I think it was you?) in that using English to establish meaning saves a lot of time and confusion.

      • Andrea says:

        My professor is explicitly anti-English. Her take is that it is an extra step – TL to English to Concept. She teaches her undergrads to use no English and connect the TL directly to the concept. #notanundergrad 🙂

      • Martina Bex says:

        Yes, I think that giving the English is very helpful! That is the only thing I would change about the activity, but I love it!!!

  2. Blair brown says:

    I follow you on Twitter and am enjoying your blog. I’m a grad of the program at AU (I was Dr B’s GTA 07-09) and I remember that German lesson to this day!! It really jump started a total shift in my thinking about language learning.

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