Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Taking Advantage of an Interruption

For my second day back with my Spanish 4 classes, I was ready to share a story about a boy whose father buys him a magic carpet. I introduced the new vocabulary, asked some questions to practice the vocabulary, and then began to set up the beginning of the story. It was then that I noticed a student in the front row (the desks are arranged in a U formation so there are many students in the "front" row), slyly reaching into his bookbag on the floor. Inside the pocket of the bookbag I saw a shiny wrapper - you guessed it, chocolate wrapped in yellow foil, most likely from Easter.

Suddenly, my story wasn't so important any longer. What had my attention, and in short time, the attention of many of the other students, was... What was José reaching for in his bookbag? I continued asking questions as I walked towards José, both of us smiling knowing he was caught red-handed, and sat down in the student desk next to him, all the time continuing my questions, now directed to José, about the first few sentences of the story. As I asked the questions to José, I continued to look at him and then at the bookbag, then back at him. It was a little unrehearsed game and I was enjoying it, José was enjoying it, and the other students were enjoying it. By the time I stood up and moved away from José, everyone in the class knew that José would not be reaching into his bag again to snack on candy.

But, the best part was when I added a new sentence to the story, only to glance at José to see him licking his fingers. I couldn't help but zero in on José again and ask him what he was doing. He explained, in Spanish of course, that there was "chocolate en mis pies". ¿en tus pies? What a great time to review parts of the body, fingers and toes, and all the while with the attention of the whole class. It was at that point that I realized that this was "flow" that some TPRS teachers mention. The students in the class, including José, were so focused on what was happening with José and his bookbag and the chocolate, that the emphasis was not on Spanish, but Spanish was being used to follow and narrate the events. Personally, I didn't care that the whole chocolate episode took 4, 6, or 8 minutes out of my planned story, it was communication in the target language and they were focused in on the action.

Turns out, José said (in Spanish again, of course) that he was going to give me the candy when I was seated next to him, but I stood up too soon. Naturally, I sat next to him again, he gave me the candy, and I placed it on my desk for later.

Let me assure you that I know, without a doubt, that José wasn't embarrassed nor did he feel put on the spot, at any point during this interaction. He is a great student with a super, super, SUPER personality and I knew this little "game" was just as fun for him as it was for anyone in the room. He helped create the "flow" and nobody else, at that particular point, could have drawn the rest of the students' attention into the conversation like José did. Was it an interruption - certainly. But it was time well-spent. There's time tomorrow to continue the story. THANKS JOSÉ for helping with the lesson.

Just one of those days I have to ask myself, "and they pay me for this?"

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