Episode 24: Cultivating a Culture of Risk Taking - Part 3

building culture podcast Oct 18, 2022

This is the final episode in the three-part podcast series on cultivating a culture of risk taking in your world language classroom! I will be bringing it all together in this episode as we talk about teaching our students how to circumlocute! I am SO excited!

Here are the various links and resources I mentioned in this podcast:

Brain Breaks High Fives
Brain Breaks Brain Bursts
Circumlocution posters in Spanish from Teacher's Discovery
Circumlocution posters in French from Teacher's Discovery
One blog on teaching circumlocution
Second blog on teaching circumlocution

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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.

Episode 24 

Welcome to Episode 24 of teaching la vida loca, I'm so glad you're here with me today, or this evening or night, wherever you're listening, from your car, from your bed, from your kitchen from your garden. I'm so excited that you're here. Shout out to Moraine for sending me a selfie of her listening to this podcast in her garden picking butternut squash looked delicious. Thank you for continuing to support me and listen to this podcast. I'm so grateful for you. If it has been helpful, please go and leave a review. Wherever you listen. It helps me be more noticeable and hopefully more impactful for teachers like you and the students that y'all are teaching. I'm so grateful for you. And thank you, and I'm grateful and thanks. Okay, okay.

Part Three 

The first part talked all about praise as well as silent communicators, ways students can start communicating before they're ready to actually start speaking, praise selling communicators and rejoinders Part Two was all about not correcting our students anymore. Oh, gasps she said it. I did. And now part three, I hope ties it all together for you.


Okay, let's go on with this part three. So, the final piece to this three-part episode I've done on creating a culture of risk taking in your classroom. I hope that you've enjoyed the first two. To give a quick recap, in case you didn't listen to the first two, you should definitely go back and do that. But quick recap. Just to give you a reminder of what was included in the first two parts of this series.

Successful Communicators

And part three, is really the final piece to building and creating a culture of risk taking. And it's equipping your students with what they need to be successful communicators outside of your classroom. Y'all. I want to pose this question to you. What is your goal? For the students in your classroom? What is your goal? What do you want your students to be able to do? When they leave your classroom? My goal is to create successful and confident communicators in Spanish, that's what I want. I want my students to leave my room and to be able to confidently take those risks and speak in Spanish and communicate with individuals from here or all around the world and be able to do it staying in Spanish. That's what that's what I want to do for my students. That's what I want to gift them with is that confidence to communicate and to be like culturally competent too obviously but that is my goal. So, if that is my goal, I think it is essential that I'm equipping them with the tools they need to stay in the target language and to not pause and look something up real quick in their phone or say Hey, Siri, hey, Google, como se dice say ..., right, sure. Like how do you say, No, I don't want them to have to take the time to do that. I want them to have the tools they need to be able to circumvent the language that they don't know, with language that they do know. And that whole idea is circumlocution. If you've been following me for a while, you know that I am a big fan of circumlocution? I am I obsessed. The definition of circumlocution is an evasion of speech or using an unnecessarily large number of words to communicate about something simple.


And I would argue that it's not an unnecessary large number. It's a very necessary large number of words to communicate about one thing that you can't say. Children are expert circumlocutors and I'm talking about young kids, right? One of my favorite memories of Isla circumlocuting was when she was three, I was now almost nine which is just bananas to think about how does time fly so fast but when she was three years old, she came home for the weekends. We have 5050 custody of Isla with her mom and she was trying to tell us that she wanted a sound soother but she didn't know the words for sound soother. She didn't know what it was called. And so she said at dat, that's what she calls me at dat. Can we get one of those things? And I was like, what things sweetheart, you know one of those white things. And I'm like one of those white things what white thing you know when those white things and makes noise, those white things that make noise. Can you tell me a little bit more about? Oh, at datl that that is one of those things that has a thing and you put it in a wall, and you use it when you need go to sleep? And I was like oh o'clock? No at dat. You plug it in and it goes and it helps you go to sleep. Does that sound soother? She goes That's what I've been saying. Because in her mind, yes, obviously a sound soother. I have just circumlocuted for five minutes to get you to understand what I'm saying. But they are expert communicators, they are experts circumlocutors Because they know there is no other way. They have to be made sense, they have to communicate with you. And the only way to do that is to continue using language that they do know, to communicate about something that they cannot say about a word or a phrase that they do not yet have, right, but they've not yet acquired. So that is key. And it's the last piece that's essential to setting your students up for success outside of your classroom. Building a Culture of risk taking, while simultaneously building a culture of circumlocution, where students have what they need to be able to circumlocute and communicate about things that they cannot yet say things that they have not yet acquired.

It Starts With A Unicorn 

So, I have a very nice la loca way of teaching this. At as you've probably already guessed, and it starts with a unicorn. Go figure. I literally have a little unicorn that I pull out of my pocket. And I do this when we're a good 10 to 12 weeks into the year and somebody says maestra como se de se mid-sentence. They're mid-sentence. And they're like Miani mal favo Ito as maestra como se dice bear. And I go no, in my head, these kids have the language that they need to communicate about bear without saying bear. So I take the opportunity, I pull out a little unicorn out of my pocket. And I say, owning Corniel como se dice, bear, and Espanol. And I say Classe, I'm not going to be a unicorn in your pocket for the rest of your life. I won't always be there when you need a word. I won't always be there when you need just some tiny little thing to complete a sentence or a complete a thought. What will be there as your brain and the language that you've already acquired. So, what we need to do is start practicing using all of the language we have to communicate about those one or two words that we don't know how to say to complete our thought.

Close Their Eyes 

So, our friend Avery has just asked, como se dice bear, let's all close our eyes. And this closing your eyes part is really important. Let's all close our eyes. And then you just wait. You wait until you have 100% Waiting on seven people to close their eyes, waiting on three people to close their eyes, waiting on one person to close their eyes. If they still don't do it. You say Ethan? Our eyes are closed. All right, classe, I want you to think of bears. What language do you already have in Spanish that can help you communicate that your favorite animal is a bear without saying bear in English. What could you do? When you have an idea silently put your hand up so that nobody around you can hear that you put your hand up. Take your time. How can you say bear? And I want you right now, the listener, this educator listening to this podcast. Think about it, how could you say bear as a novice student without saying bear? Okay, then I say put your hands down silently. Raise your hand if you'd like to share. And I have, I call on a few of the hands that I already saw up. And I call specifically on a student who is a barometer student, a low student, I call on a middle range student and I call on a high student.

Go In This Order 

I usually go in this order, middle, low, high. And my middle student might say I'm giving you a real example. This has happened three times in my career once was my first-year teaching. Once was five years ago when I was at, I guess it was five, maybe it was six years ago when I was at St. Martin's. And one was last year at Brick Lodge. Literally the word bear, which I love every time that it comes up, because it's such a great one to hear their variations. First student I called on was mid-range. And they said, "Es un anima grande Cafe y Negro, y dice, ah", I was like, Oh, that's so good. Huge. High fives huge praise. Yeah. Yeah. Love it. Love it. Love it. Awesome. Called on my lowest student, lowest student goes. Rarrrr. Gets the mix themselves really big. Gestures makes it look like they're a bear with giant bear claws. Huge. They say Rawr and then they go on ZZZZZ. She literally looks like they're sleeping. I thought it was brilliant. I praise, praise, praise, praise, praise, praise praise. Called on another student who was between middle range and low and they said Animal uhh Winnie the Pooh. And I was like, Oh my gosh, so good. That's so brilliant. Animal Winnie the Pooh. That's so good. Winnie the Pooh is a bear. That's brilliant. And then the last person called on one was a high student I ended up cutting them off and just praise praise praise. Because of course she goes es un anima grande, que vida Alaska. y. Come mucho pace y Wait, pescado y se.... and like, Okay, muy bien, excellente. And because she would have gone on forever. But perfect example of wow, I really don't know how to say bear, but I can I have a lot of language that I can use to communicate about and get the message across without saying it. Even if that is making my body really big and gesturing and growling. That is communicating. Like it or not, that is circumlocution. So, praise, praise, praise, praise, praise high fives all around. And I think it's now time for a brain break.

Brain Break 

Okay, so this brain break is the high fives brain break. And it's one that I literally haven't done in years. And I've only now started reintroducing to my students, because of COVID. I just stopped doing it for a while. But the high fives brain break the idea behind it is giving a second for kids to go around the room and high five each other just that positive connection, right. So when I first start this brain break, I might say go in high five, everybody with the same birth month as you go. And high five, everybody who loves the same color as you, go and have five anybody who is wearing the same color shoes as you, go and high five, anybody who likes the exact same chocolate as you, go in high five, anybody who you can do anything like the possibilities are endless. That's how I first introduced the brain break. Later to make it more novel, you could say hi five, eight people and sit back down. High five, six people that you haven't talked to sit yet today, and then down quick. They're very much like brain bursts just really fast brain breaks. I'll link my blog on brain bursts as well. I have a blog on high fives and a blog on brain bursts. I'll link both of them. But they're just really really quick ways to get kids to connect with each other build community and have that break in the rigor. Later in the year. Once you've built a really solid community of respect, and risk taking and all those things you can add in a compliment. So instead of just high fiving you can say hi five, three people and don't forget the compliment. And kids go around and say hey, I really liked that you took a risk and you say spoke in Spanish today about your baseball game. Hey, I really liked that you were able to answer that math problem earlier today. It really helped me out. Hey, I really love when you share details about your culture with class because I learned so much about it. It's just a really quick compliment. I'd try to encourage people to stay away from like, looks like just the outside stuff, but that's okay too if they do. But encourage them to recognize things that students are doing that are a big deal. That's really, really awesome. I like that you're always kind to other people. I love that you always go to hold the door for our class, those sorts of things. So, it gives them an opportunity to connect with others, but they're immediately feeling the satisfaction and pleasure of receiving that compliment. It's immediately filling them up. And we know that that does powerful things for kids. So, I hope you enjoyed this brain break. Let me know how it goes and I can't wait to hear

Find Your Own Way 

So, once you've introduced this idea of circumlocution, and you've given them that activity of okay, how can we say bear without saying bear, find more opportunities to do that? When you hear that, como se dice? Can you take that time to pause and go clase? I remember one of my favorite memories. I was being observed by my principal when I was teaching kindergarten years ago, eight years or something nine years ago. And he came into the class and I said, classe Oh, no soy un circum lo queo. Literally said, I'm not a unicorn. circum lo que, because one of my kindergarteners had asked, como se dice. This was late in the year, I had seen my kindergarteners, lots I knew they had language to be able to circle cute. And I wanted to build that, that early for them, that early. Because even though most of them were circumlocuting with gestures combined with just a couple words that they knew, I knew they were capable of doing it. Right. So, I said that and then the principal went to it a student close by and said What does that mean? What is she saying? And you said we're doing circumlocution? Because the kids know that that's what it's called, we are doing circumlocution. It means we; we can't ask her how to say it. We have to find our own way to say it using just the language that we know. So, freaking cute, so special. And I was like, oh proud teacher moment like this child just explained what circumlocution was to an adult. So proud. So you start it and you find opportunities wherever you can.

Create Posters 

Another thing you can do is you can create posters. I have, I'll link the French and Spanish posters that I collaborated with teachers discovery to make their circumlocution posters and if you're interested in looking at those or you can make your own the idea is you give students sentence stems to help them start to circumvent cute for example, es una cosa que it's a thing that as soon as persona que it's a person that eso lugar donde it's a place where, right so sentence stems, that helps students start to circumlocute, with really important language like thing, place, person, job, material object, right? Where they can use those words to start communicating about something that they just don't know the word for yet.

Culture Of Risk Taking 

And that I think is the really important last piece to creating that culture of risk-taking building in time all the time to circum Oh, cute to practice that art of circumlocution? Because I know your next question is, well, then you give them the word bear. Well, yeah. But after they've done the work, to circumlocute at first, because then that word is so much more sticky as well. And it proves in the power of high frequency words and language acquisition over studying and learning. Because even if my students don't know how to say, bear, they can communicate exactly what they mean to say without saying it. Because a native speaker, if they did, all those things would then say, oso, like, is that the word you're looking for? Oso, and that's what I do. I write up the word on the board Oso. And now it's so much more sticky for them because they've done the work in advance of trying to express that without explicitly saying that word.

Your Goal 

I hope this is helpful for you. I'm really excited to hear how circumlocution is impacting your class. I think once you build this culture, you're also going to see it in their writing. It's so special when you start to see students for like, ice cream, right, ley che frio? Like, how powerful is that the student is not taking a second to write ice cream in English, they're circumlocuting it, they're writing ley che frio. And if that bothers you if you're like, oh my god, that's so cringy. And so annoying. Take a second and pause and take a breath. Because what that child is doing is really phenomenal with language. And now if that frustrates you, I need you to really pause again and think about what your goal is, ultimately, is your goal communication because I guarantee the students in your classroom are not there because they want to be grammatically perfect in every piece of their speech, guarantee, most of them are there, because they want to become successful communicators. Most of them are there because they want to be able to go into a store in their local town and understand the Spanish that's being spoken around them. Most of them are there because they want to connect with other peoples and other cultures and do so in a language that is not their own. And the only way we are going to get the numbers in our AP our three, four AP programs to match the numbers in our levels one and two programs, is if we are building an encouraging a culture of risk taking in our classrooms, where students are celebrated, and success is inevitable for every child. That's what my friend John Bracy says, and I think it's so powerful. We want success to be inevitable. And building a culture of risk taking in your classes, where any kind of attempt to speak in the target language is celebrated and praised. That's how we do it. That's how we ensure that students stay in our language programs for longer and also take other languages because they are passionate about acquiring languages and they feel empowered. And they feel like they can, they because they're successful. Right. 

Thank You!

So, okay, that was a little rant at the end, I adore you, Teacher, and I'm so grateful that you are listening. Thank you for listening. And thank you for supporting me, thank you for doing what you do day after day with your students. I can't wait to hear how this is impacting you. Please send this to a teacher who would love to hear it, who needs to hear it, please send it to them so that they can start implementing these ideas with their students and can start reaping the rewards of doing so. I'll talk to you next week. Thank you for listening. Until then, I will be teaching la vida loca and I am sure you will be too.

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