Episode 22: Cultivating a Culture of Risk Taking - Part 1

brain breaks building culture Oct 04, 2022

I am super stoked to bring you this three part podcast series on how to cultivate a culture of risk taking in your classroom! It is going to be awesome!

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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, Annabelle. 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 22 of teaching la vida loca. I'm recording this in a hotel room in Dallas, I just did a wonderful workshop yesterday for educators in the Dallas area. And some people traveled pretty far to drive to be there. And I was so grateful. 

Building Culture  

We talked a lot about building a culture of risk taking in your classroom and inspired me to record this for you today. This will be the first episode in a three-part series on how to build a culture of risk taking in your classroom. And I hope that you love it, I'm really excited to bring it to you. I think that the number one thing that I do to start building that culture of risk taking where students feel empowered and inspired to start using the target language in my classroom, obviously, I teach Spanish. So, it would be the first thing that I do to encourage them to use more Spanish is to praise them. Like a crazy person, obviously La Maestra loca , right. But praise them like crazy when I start hearing them speak.

Student Praise 

Because I just want to encourage more of that. Right. And I think first and foremost, it's really important to acknowledge and recognize that it is so messy, when kids start to speak their second language or their third language, it's a hot mess. My son Memphis is a total mess with his language half the time he doesn't say i He says my my love it, my want to eat my want to snack, please, I know that he's not going to continue saying my when he's in kindergarten, so wasting my time trying to correct him as you know, futile. But it is oh messy. And it's wonderful and beautiful. And it's the same thing in my Spanish class. When my novices start to speak, it's messy and full of errors. But it is glorious. And it's a beautiful thing to witness, because they're feeling so motivated and inspired to do so. So, the second I start to hear students output or speak any Spanish, I go crazy, I award the class tons of class points, I'll link that blog, it's part of my management system in case you're curious, like give them tons of class points, I run over and high five them or do knuckles, just to praise them and celebrate them for taking that risk. What that's doing, what that praise is doing is it's also showing the other students around them that I am celebrating that risk taking, I don't need perfection. In fact, kids don't even know if it's perfect or not. In their mind, of course, it's perfect. Would they have said it if they didn't think it was perfect? They're communicating. If they knew there was a better way, they would have said it that way. Or they wouldn't have if they were focused on grammar and rules. Because they would have known oh, gosh, there's a perfect way to say this, I don't want to. So in their mind, they're communicating. And that's exactly what they're doing. So, I'm praising them for doing so. And I think that this is the first essential step to building a culture of risk taking.  

Showing Feelings  

If my more timid and shy and introverted neighbors sitting next to me, sees maestra celebrate and be so positive and excited about output. They're far more likely to in the future, do that than if I, you know, don't even make a big deal, and don't even acknowledge what a huge risk it is to speak in your second or third language in front of a whole classroom of peers, friends and not friends. It's a huge risk. It's a huge risk. So, I think the first step is really praise to building that that culture. Now, I also think it's powerful and important to give students ways to communicate before they're ready to verbally communicate. And you might say, well, what do you mean by that? And what I mean is silent communicators. I introduced silent communicators. The very first day I started speaking Spanish in my classroom. What I mean by a silent communicator is a way for students to show me that one there with me, they're understanding the words that I'm saying. And two, they can express or show that they feel the same way as somebody else, or they agree with somebody, what somebody is saying, with just a quick movement. So, I will post a blog on this in the chat, but the idea is, let's say one of my more bold students raises their hand and says, me la gustar choco latte. Yes, I know that's incorrect. We just talked about it being beautiful and messy. If student yells, me me gusta, or la gusta choco latte. I'm like, Oh, okay. fantastico. I mean, tambien megusta, tambien. Me Fabrito es Reeces, so I'm immediately talking about myself. Because we always should talk about ourselves. That's the only way students are going to get that first person, right.

Asking Questions  

So, I talk about myself, and then I asked them a follow up question, do you prefer Reeces or KitKat. And the kid is gonna say, maybe KitKat. I then can scan the room. After I've given my students, these silent communicators, I can scan the room and see any other people that prefer KitKat to Reeces. Because they are, they have three fingers down of Pinky and thumb out. And they're doing this motion back and forth, close to their heart, saying me too, is their way of saying a mi tambien without saying it out loud. They can add the words if they want to later, but they're just gesturing that they like it too. I also simultaneously can see the kids who prefer Reeces to KitKat. Because those kids have a flat palm finger closed up in the air and they're rotating it back and forth, almost like the Queen's wave, right? They're rotating back and forth saying Oh, no, not me. I definitely prefer Reeces. Again, it's not requiring any speech. We're not breaking the Spanish that I'm speaking we're not breaking that environment. They're not bursting in the English. They're just letting me know with a simple gesture. Oh, I prefer KitKat. I prefer Reeces. 

Grant Boulanger  

This simultaneously is building community. Because I'm seeing the kids and I'm able to call it out. Oh, classe diez personas, 10 people prefer Reeces. Wow! Connectiones. I learned that from Grant Boulanger, connections. And I'm intentionally pointing out to kids, that there are other people who feel the same way, who have the same likes and same dislikes as them. And it's all through these silent communicators is what I call them. Again, I'll link the blog so you can see more there's also like a build on one and excitement one. And these are all things that my students can use to communicate without speaking to me. This does build that culture of risk taking though, because the more confident they get in expressing those feelings. The sooner they can start adding in a mi tambien or a mi no, meaning, Yep, me too, or not me. And it's really empowering. It's allowing them to communicate without having to take that huge of a risk yet. You ready for a brain break? Let's do it. Let's do a brain break.

Brain Break 

Okay, so the brain break I want to share with you today is a variation on one I've already shared in my podcast. Y'all know how much I love Hachi Pachi? Well, yesterday in this workshop, a teacher named Emily Meador. She's a elementary Spanish teacher at St. Andrews. In Texas. Ooh, I don't know that it's Dallas. But in St. Andrews, and she was so brilliant. We were in the circle. We were playing Hachi Pachi familia loca, I remember Jacob Harris was in the middle. He was a detective trying to find who Hachi Pachi was. And he ended up finding them in about four or five guesses. And then Emily rose her hand and said, have you done the variation where they use their TPR and their gestures? And I was like, oh, no, tell me about it. She has her students for Hachi Pachi. Hachi Pachi rather than choosing a random motion, chooses a gesture does the gesture and the whole class at a level one chants the word that goes with the gesture or with the TPR. I thought this was freaking brilliant. I'm so obsessed. I asked her like, Okay, do you encourage the level one so that you can't tell who's starting? Because obviously, if a kid is doing tiene with the gesture for has, then they switch to quera, right? It's going to be able to be heard, right? Like, somebody's going to hear that and know exactly who he is. And she said, Well, yes, that's one of the reasons they're at a level one. Remember, level one is whispering, she said, but more. So, it's because I teach elementary and they tend to shout, like this. So Real. So basically, the Hachi Pachi starts a gesture, it could be correr , like running in place, and everybody chants correr, correr, right? Correr, correr. And then if they switch to caminar, caminar, caminar, they're walking and then salto, salto, salto. They're jumping, like I thought it was absolutely brilliant. I love this idea. And it's one of those brain breaks that still very much a brain break. Kids absolutely love it. But it's still incorporating some target language in a safe, fun, low affective filter way that's still giving them a break in the rigor. So, I wanted to share that, and I'm super grateful to Emily for teaching me about it. I hope you and your students love this.


Okay, so the last piece of this first episode, in this series on creating a culture of risk taking is going to be rejoinders. The very first time I learned about rejoinders was from Grant Boulanger. He's really I think, the the first person people think of when it comes to rejoinders, he has a ton on his website for sale. I'll link his site so you can check them out. But the idea about a rejoinder is it's a way for students to start using the target language in a very low risk, highly fun, highly engaging way. So a rejoinder is anything like an expression okay, que lastima, What a shame. que interesante, how exciting, Que asqueroso, how disgusting, right? So different expressions that kids can yell out at any point in the class that it feels appropriate to do so that I always tell my kids as long as it's in context, I don't care, like yell it out. Another one, like that's really fun that I've seen grant uses no importa. Like, I don't care, no more important than not important. So, there's a ton and ton of these that you can use. I'll also link my TPT resources. I have them in English, French, and Spanish that you can use, but they're really fantastic ways to motivate students to just start yelling at the target language. If you're a person who doesn't want to encourage yelling, you can still use these you just ask them not to yell them out, right level two. 

Introducing Rejoinders  

There are lots of different ways to introduce rejoinders. You can print out three posters in a day and give them to three students in the class. And whenever it's appropriate to yell that specific one, they hop up with the poster and say that expression whether it's Que asqueroso or que interesante or No interesada. You can also introduce gestures with the details or with the sorry with the rejoinders. This is something else from Grant Boulanger that Andrea Schweitzer actually introduced to me yesterday. It's interesting because I do already do gestures with some of my rejoinders, but I've never thought about, hey, I could do literally a rejoinder with or gesture with every single rejoinder, which I think is brilliant. On top of that, then I can use them in that Hachi Pachi game I just told you so we could say no me digas, no me digas because all with a gesture, right? Que lastima, que lastima, all with my snapping gesture. I do like a snapping own darn kind of gesture with that one. So that's really, really cool. 

Quick Motivation  

But rejoinders really motivate students because they are a way for them to interact and show their understanding what is going on in class show, they're comprehending the Spanish that you're speaking or the French that you're speaking in a really non-threatening way, because it's just one or two words. They can real quick, you know, say it fast. And it's also highly entertaining for the rest of the class. So, it's great input for the rest of the class. That's what I have for you in this first episode on creating a culture of risk taking. I hope that you can use some of these ideas and start implementing them immediately. I'd love to hear about it. Please go ahead. and tag me and let me know how it's going. And I can't wait to connect with you again next week in part two. Thanks for listening teacher. And until next time, I'll be teaching la vida loca. And I'm sure you will be too. Take care.

Thank you! 

Hey, you if you're still listening, that means you must be a superfan. Either that or you're just listening in your car and it's wrapping up this episode. But either way, I want to tell you, thank you so much for listening. I'm so grateful. Thank you for supporting me and supporting this podcast teaching la vida loca. If you've enjoyed this episode, please take a second to go and leave me a review. Whether you're listening on Apple podcasts or on Spotify or on Google, wherever you are, please go and leave me a review. It helps me be more visible on for Google to share with more educators and hopefully impact more students. I'm so grateful for your time. Thank you for listening. Thank you for letting me support you. And I'll talk to you next time. See you!

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