The main goal of the elementary language program is to help students communicate in the target language. As the best way to do this is with lots of repetitions of high frequency words (it takes between 40 to 100 repetitions to acquire a word in a new language), this means I talk a lot in the classroom. I also try to make the words sound fun to say (our brains naturally want to imitate what sounds fun), and I create actions or signs with students for new words that help convey the meaning (tying the new information to a different part of the brain). This method of teaching forced me to think about 'noise' from students in the classroom in a very different way. In past years I have always led a classroom where students do not talk when the teacher is talking. While I definitely do not encourage students to talk over me, I've had to let go of this a little bit. This revelation occurred one day in class when I moved to stand closer to two students that had been whispering during a story we were acting out. My intention in moving closer to them was to gently remind them to be quiet listeners. However when I stood closer to them I could hear that the things they were whispering. These two students who I had assumed were not paying attention, were repeating (to themselves and sometimes each other) almost everything I was saying. This was a major revelation for me. Much like a baby learning their first language, these students were just quietly practicing their new language. I began to listen more closely to all student conversations, more often than not students were repeating me speaking and/or telling each other things in Spanish (para=stop, silencio=silence, yo, yo, yo (me, me, me) when I ask them to raise their hand). I had to make a major adjustment to my teaching style. While I definitely do not want behavior to get out of control, squashing these early attempt at communication is contradictory to teaching students to communicate in the target language. I've adjusted my teaching to be more selective at what kinds of 'noise' are acceptable in the classroom. Rather than move to keep the students quiet, I now carefully "choose my battles". After all, when teaching a baby new words, you wouldn't want to silence early attempts to communicate. This has forced me to listen at a new level in the classroom. Not only have I developed a greater appreciation for how much my students are trying (and succeeding) in learning, but it has also given me greater insight into what motivates my students to try to learn a word. Is it a cool prop? A motion we made up? The tone of my voice? The mood of the room? All of these change how language is acquired, and really listening to my student helps me become an expert in this area.
I am in my 11th year teaching in Saline. I've taught: 3rd grade, 5th grade, Spanish/French/German Intro, Quest, Middle School Spanish, and Elementary Spanish.