Episode 20: The Coaching Tip that Transformed my Classroom

Sep 20, 2022
coaching tip

I was NOT at ALL excited about this "recommendation" that was given to me by my instructional coach a few years ago but it honestly did transform my classroom! I hope that you find it useful and that your students find it empowering!

My Instagram video on Pop-Up Theory

Instagram Slowing Down post

Kagan Cooperative Learning

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Welcome to Teaching la vida loca, a podcast for World Language Teachers seeking inspiration, unapologetic authenticity, and guidance in centering joy and facilitating language acquisition for the people who matter most: our students. I'm your host, Annabel. Most people call me la maestra loca, and I'm an educator just like you, and inspiring teachers is what I do. Hello, and welcome to episode 20. Whoop whoop! That's a big number! Episode 20 of teaching la vida loca, I'm so glad you're here. Today, I want to tell you about the number one tip I ever learned that truly transformed my classroom. 

My Coach

From a coach, my coach, the first year I taught at my last school was named Caitlin Mehan Draper, she was in the running for Louisiana Teacher of the Year, like overall Teacher of the Year in this state. A few years ago, and she was my coach, the first year that we both joined my last school. We- I was the Spanish teacher. And she was in charge of basically humanities, coaching the humanities department, and therefore was in charge of coaching me. And even though the thought might have overwhelmed her a little bit, she never showed it. She was fully invested in learning about why I taught the way I do. She was all in for the idea of comprehension-based teaching and facilitating acquisition. And I really lucked out in that aspect. But she also really challenged me because she was always watching from the lens of English language arts, because that's what she taught. And she would push me in ways that really sometimes didn't feel comfortable and ways that I was like, no, that just doesn't work for me. And this was one of those times. I flat out told her no, that won't work in my classroom, the strategy that she was trying to have me do. And she said, Well, why not? And I said, no, I You just don't understand. Like, it's too much output. And we, you know, it's too much English output. And I work too hard on keeping my classroom all in Spanish. And she said, No, I really want you to try it. Like this is my push for you this week. And it took all of me to, you know, I was just so frustrated because I really... it went against what I thought was best for me and for my students. And in reality, it completely transformed the way that I teach and the way my students acquire. And I want to share it with you today because it actually came up in a one-on-one coaching session, I was doing with somebody in my familia loca PLC. And she asked a question, and I said, oh, you should try… Are you ready for it? Are you ready for it? Turn and talks, turn and talks, turn and talk to your neighbor. And she said, Oh, tell me more about that. And I realized, I don't think I've ever blogged about this. And I certainly haven't done a podcast on it. And it really truly transformed my classroom.

Turn and Talk 

So let's dig in. Are you ready? I'm so excited to tell you more about how I use turn and talk as a very powerful tool in my classroom. The reason I was so resistant to it was I didn't want students to turn and talk to each other in English to clarify something real quick, and then turn back to me because it felt like too much time spent in English in a classroom where I was trying to set up, from the very beginning of the year, a solid understanding that we're going to spend as much time in Spanish as possible. But the reality is, Caitlin was observing that the same six white male students were answering the questions when I was asking for further input. For example, when we were building a story together, for example, and I would say, como se llamo... como se llamo la persona? What’s the person's name? And it was eliciting input or their suggestions. It was the same six boys raising their their hand, or when I'd say, let's say como se se, and I would tell them a sentence that I just said. And I wasn't asking a whole group response, it was the same six white males raising their hand to answer my question. And so I validated her observations and yeah, it is but you know, some kids are, I don't want to push them if they're not ready to answer a question from a whole group. I can teach their eyes and know when they're understanding me and know when they're not. And she said, Don't you want to have more accountability than that? Don't you want to hear from more voices? And I said, Yeah, I do. And that'll happen. That will happen over time. But she's right. And there are so many more students in my classroom who are ready to answer those questions and capable and have the right answer ready. But they're lacking in the confidence to do so. In something as simple as a quick turn and talk can give them that confidence, more than confidence, that reassurance and that affirmation that their answer is going to be right.

Trying It Out 

So, the week after her suggestion, I went ahead and tried it, and after saying como se de se, and then gave them a whole sentence... to clarify and check for comprehension that they were with me and tracking the story that we were telling. And instead of asking for a whole group response, I rose my own hand, in asking them for one person to answer, that's my signal to my students, whether I- most of the time I'm asking for a whole group. They know if they see my hand go up, that means I want one person to answer. And instead of popping my hand up, and immediately calling on somebody, I said, actually classe, wait and I put my hand down and I said, Turn to your neighbor of the tu vecino. Tu vecino, that means neighbor, and tell them what you would answer, If I called on you. Everybody turned and talked to their neighbor, they were used to doing this in other classes. And then I said, hola, hola. They said …, they came back to me looked at me, and then I put my hand up, my jaw dropped. My jaw dropped, because not only were the six males raising their hand, but I had 12 Other hands in the air, in a classroom of 33 kids. The next period, she [Caitlin] came in to observe, and I did it again with the same exact sentence, the same exact sequence. 18 kids hands went in the air, and a class of 32. You should have seen her smirk. You should have seen her smirk at the back of the room. Kids were raising their hands, and almost one person in every single pair was raising their hand. Like to share what they had said to their neighbor, or what they had heard from their neighbor, because they were confident. They felt like they knew the answer for sure, because what they shared was also what their neighbor had shared. And they were affirmed. They felt like, Oh, I've totally got this, I can totally answer this from the classroom and not feel nervous, that I'm gonna be ridiculed if I got it wrong, because I know I've got it right. It's so powerful. It's like a quick comprehension check with your neighbor before coming whole class to do it. It's, I cannot tell you how important it is. Also, at the beginning of the year, when you have so many kiddos, who are like, Oh my gosh, this is such a weird way of teaching and learning. I'm not entirely sure I'm following. Other kids are already speaking, I'm not speaking yet. And they're starting almost to get to the point where they're giving up. You never want to lose those kids. 

Slowing Down

First and foremost, slow down. Our theme of the month this month in La Familia Loca PLC is slow, because I just want people to focus on slowing their words. Michelle Whaley says, "the slower you speak, the faster they acquire". So first of all, don't lose those kids, slow down. Second of all, make sure that they're leaning into the ambiguity. And when you offer these think pair shares, or these quick turn and talks, you're going around and you're making sure that they are also sharing with their neighbor what they thought, and then you're praising them. Good job. That's exactly what I said, as you're passing them so that they know you're listening. I haven't had any issues with this so far in Elementary, every single kid is turning and talking to their neighbor. However, when I did this with middle schoolers, sometimes I would observe that, mmm, this partner thing, there's always one person allowing the other person to do the majority of the work. Rather than them having to share their thinking, they were just letting their neighbor share all of their thoughts until they heard the quick hola hola, … . Because that happens fast, y'all. I'm calling them back to me. In about five seconds. I'm giving them a quick, quick few seconds to talk to their neighbor to affirm what they thought was right to get that confidence boost and then share out. It's not taking long, right? One thing that I had to do for accountability with my middle schoolers, not in every class, but in many classes, is I would say okay, person with the longest hair goes first. When you hear me say …, switch. So I would literally say turn and talk to your neighbor. What does that mean? longest hair goes first go. … hola hola. …. To give you an idea of how long that was. That was really fast. It was like two seconds each of sharing. But the idea then is that everybody's voice is heard. There's equity of Voice, everybody is expected and accountable for sharing what they thought I said. And even if they're saying, Oh, I thought the exact same thing, the next person that shares, that's fine. But I'm not always saying longest hair goes first, sometimes I'm going to say shortest hair goes first, sometimes I'm going to say, person wearing the most black, person with the longest fingernails, person with the curliest hair, shares first, person who is tallest.

Give Them Opportunities  

You know, I try and actually stay away from physical characteristics when I'm doing that. But that's the strategy I learned from Kagan cooperative learning strategies. And there's a million different gems I can share up that I use in my classroom based on Kagan but the idea is, it gives everybody a quick second to check in with their neighbor with their idea. It's also really cool to do this during write and discuss or during those classrooms stories that you build. Rather than just saying, Okay, what's the next sentence I can write, raise your hand. Instead, say, what would you write as your next sentence, turn until your neighbor, shortest hair goes first. And then they can look at the whiteboard and go, Hmm, based on the writing, because right now, I guess, the next sentence I would write is, and they can tell their neighbor, they wait till I say …, then it's next person's turn to talk. Equal amount of seconds, and they come back to me, then I raise my hand. And again, I see way more hands in the air to share their sentence. Because one, they've had the opportunity to say it out loud, once before, when the room was loud, and everybody's talking at the same time. So, it wasn't overwhelming or stressful. And their affective filter was down. Two, they were affirmed by their neighbor, who agreed with their sentence or said, Oh, that's a great idea. Or said, oh! That's what I was gonna say, too. And it builds their confidence. So now I see more hands in the air than if I had just said, what sentence would you write next? Raise your hands.

Tell Your Neighbor

This is also great. Like I said, during story building, if you say what would you name the character, tell your neighbor, everybody gets an opportunity to say their name that they wouldn't even the character. I can also walk around and say, you know, I heard this that this. I heard journey, I heard …, I heard Periwinkle, and I heard closet, it's an interesting name, but I'm going with it. Closet is the name of the person. It’s giving the opportunity for students who don't always have their voice heard, be heard, and they grin from ear to ear, it's really, really, really special. It's an opportunity for everybody to share. It's an opportunity for everybody to be affirmed in what they were thinking. And it will help those students who are close to feeling totally overwhelmed, because they're hearing your top student, who of course, they're going to be already speaking Spanish or French or whatever. It's an opportunity for those students to go, oh, I'm doing great. I'm just not outputting as fast as other people. And that's where pop up theory comes in. Again, y'all.

Pop-Up Theory 

I talked about pop up theory a few weeks ago on my Instagram, I'm going to link the video, I talked about how I talked to students about language acquisition, I do it using a sponge. And I talked about that idea of pop-up theory. Take a second to say Classe, do we- did you all start speaking at the exact same time on the exact same day? When you were exactly 18 months old? Do you know? Okay, if you don't know, think about siblings or cousins? Did some of your cousins start speaking earlier than others? Yeah, everybody speaks at a different time, you're going to be speaking the Spanish that you're acquiring at a different time from the person next to you. The person the next you might speak a lot in class. And it might take you a whole year before you start speaking that much. And that's okay, because everybody's going to output, what's called output, which is the speaking or the writing, at a different time. And that's okay. So validating that with quick pop up theory. I'll link to the other video in my show notes. But I hope this helps you. I was really grateful for this tip. And it really truly did transform my- my classroom and gave my students the confidence that they definitely needed and the affirming that they definitely needed. So, take the time, allow that English, allow it them to affirm each other. And again, what does this further do? it builds more community, which is just so important.

Sending Love 

I love you, teacher. I hope you're doing well. If this was an awesome episode, and it was helpful to you, please go ahead and screenshot it and post it to your stories on social media. Make sure to tag me at La Maestra loca. I'd love to hear what you loved about the episode. If you don't want to screenshot it, maybe take a selfie of yourself listening to it. Maybe you're driving or you're walking, running. Take a selfie of you listening to the episode and tag me in your stories, I would love to hear about it. And then don't forget to share it with somebody who would also love to hear it. I'm so grateful for you listening and for supporting me. It means the world to me when you share about my podcast, or you talk about it with other people because it helps me impact and help other teachers and therefore other students. I'm so grateful for you and until next time, I'll be teaching la vida loca and I'm sure you will be too! Take care!

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