Episode 40: Special Person Interviews and Extensions

brain breaks podcast resources Apr 04, 2023

It took me FOREVER to try using Special Person Interviews in my classes, and now I can't imagine NOT having them!

Here's all the links I mentioned in the episode! There's quite a few!

Special Person Interview Resource - Spanish

Special Person Interview Resource - English

Special Person Interview Resource - French

My TPT store

Brain Breaks Part 31: Quick Feet! Blog

Keith Toda Write and Discuss Blog

Stoplight Reading Activity Blog

Bryce Hedstrom

Sabrina Janczak

Connect with me:

My Blog

My YouTube

My Instagram

My Website 



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. Hey there, welcome to episode 40 of teaching la vida loca. So happy you're here. And I'm really excited to record this podcast for you this week. This week, I was told to go on vocal rest. What does that even mean as a teacher because I had laryngitis from straining my voice at school. So, if you didn't hear episode 39 was all about my top takeaways from SCOLT. And one of them I was able to implement already this week boom, and it was amazing. But then I had to find a way to not use my voice very much. And so, I had just done a special person interview. And I thought I should really share with folks how I do those, and how it took me so long to even try them.

Special Person Interviews

I first learned about special person interviews from Bryce Hedstrom and Sabrina Janczak and Nina Barber. Lots of my mentors in Colorado growing up in the Denver Public Schools use special person interviews regularly and told me that I would love them, especially because I always prioritized building a community first. And they insisted it was a really special part of it. And I just worried that I've realized now, my number one concern was not being prepared for the organic conversation, to lead me so far away from the target structures or the structures that we have been working on as a class that I would end up just speaking in English, and the interviewer wouldn't be able to stay in Spanish because I wouldn't know how to keep it comprehensible and not go out of bounds as I like to call it. Out of bounds is the phrase I learned when I was working under Diana Noonan's leadership for any words that are not high frequency, but perhaps are needed for the conversation you're talking about, right? So out of bounds isn't necessarily a bad thing out of bounds might be like you're doing a clip, you're watching a clip of Les Cholitas, the skateboarders and you need to use the word for skateboarding in your target language. Well, that's out of bounds. It's not necessarily high frequency, but it's absolutely what you need to be able to talk about this very compelling video, right? So, when it's not good is when you're out of bounds words surpass the amount of high frequency words you're using. So, if you're focusing on four or five high frequency words, three new ones and a couple of recycled ones, and all of a sudden, you're out of bounds words are like, you have got seven, eight. And we need to remember, everything the kids are listening to, is phonetically so different from their norm. It's all new sounds. So, we have to be going so slow. And targeting that high frequency language is so important, especially things that we can do gestures with our TPR to go with it right. But adding a ton of out of bounds, that's when we lose them. I was really scared of those organic student-led conversations. And I knew that that's what was going to happen if I started special person interviews. And that feeling was real and valid. But I think as I've grown as an educator, I've realized that I am totally capable of keeping the words scaffolded and structured and inbounds but allowing those students to really lead things. 

How to Do the Interviews

So let me talk to you about how I do student. Sorry, special person interviews. First of all, I pull up slides, and the slides I use are available on TPT if you're interested in lol This is the sponsor of this episode. This episode is brought to you by me, go check out my TPT store. You can find these in French, Spanish, and English special person interview and saying thank you for that brief commercial break now. I pull up the slides and then I also give students a handout where they're going to take notes. There are a lot of teachers who don't have kids take notes during special person interviews. I always have. I'd rather have them, you know, jotting things down. I also tell my students they can doodle as they listen, they can doodle what they're hearing, or they can just jot down little notes to help them remember. And then I just start interviewing the students with the support of the slides. The slides are like a guideline, and then we kind of like, bounce in different spots from there. For example, this week, we had an amazing interview with a student who is currently celebrating Ramadan with his family, and the entire interview, luckily, I had enough background knowledge and context from having had students who were Muslim and practicing Muslims and practicing or in celebrating Ramadan and fasting during that time. So, I had enough context that I could help keep it contextualized and comprehensible. But we had an amazing lesson where he taught the class all about Ramadan and talked about his favorite foods and about how special it is to get together with his family in his community every night and FaceTime with his family in Saudi Arabia. We had another student who we discovered was a lover of volleyball and all things volleyball and practices volleyball, frequently on the weekend. We had a student this week, just discovered, has 14 Bearded Dragons 40, four zero cats, and five dogs. I was like, what, and we also discovered he has a twin sister. And he is in. He has a split family. So, he lives with mom, dad lives in a town nearby. twin sister lives with dad, he lives with mom. And it was so amazing because he shared all of these things. And we've built this community where he feels like he can share. He has the scaffolded slides to help. He has me to help support him as well. I'm able to ask follow-up questions and write things on the whiteboard to make sure I'm understanding. I don't force them to only speak in Spanish. When they want to speak in English, they ask they say English? And I'm like, of course si. But they love the push to speak in Spanish. They love being in the spotlight, they get to sit in my fancy teacher chair. Now I've seen teachers with like full blown rocking chair situation like a magical lazy boy with the pullout legs and all sorts. My, I just let them sit in my swivel the teacher chair, I had one student just spin the whole entire interview, it was wildly distracting. But the kids thought it was entertaining. And everybody passed the exit quiz with flying colors at them. So they were all listening. But they also get to choose which unicorn they get to hold because remember, I have like 29 unicorns in my classroom. And they get to choose if they want to hold Donna or Gina or Savannah, whichever one they want to hold, they can hold and they get interviewed. And it's really special to be in the limelight. Now, the first time you do a special person interview, it's normal for only one or two kids to volunteer. But as the year goes on, you're going to have more and more and more volunteer. And eventually, your most quiet and shy student is going to come forward and say can I do it? Now if you're in a situation like me, the second time we have done person interviews was better than the first, especially out of my class. I said okay, classe who wants to be special person 90% of the hands went up. I quickly stood on all of those people up. And I had them play rock paper scissors. And if they lost, they were eliminated. They sat down until there were just two people left. They competed. And then boom, I had my special person. It took less than 30 seconds. It was a brain break there already used to. And it was very exciting and a fair way to find the person I suppose. Yeah. So just an idea thrown in there for you. By the way, we just said brain break. Do you think it's done? I do. I think it's that time for brain break.

31st Brain Break

It's a rare occasion that I'm able to post a blog and podcast episode in the same week. But you are in luck because this is one of those weeks in blog number Well, I don't know what blog number it is, but in Brain Breaks part 31. So, it's the 31st brain breaks blog I've posted. I shared a new brain break that I got off Instagram well a friend sent it to me. And I call it quick feet. Now this was a brain break I tried years ago and didn't share with anybody because it resulted in literal concussions. And I was like, oh no, but keep listening. It's okay. This is a modified version. When my friend sent me this video on Instagram, I was like Nicole, that's not gonna work for my students. I've tried before, it resulted in concussions, and she said, what in the heck were you having them do that it resulted in concussions. She said watch the whole video. So, I watched it. And the instead of people reaching for things with their hands, they're quickly reaching with their foot. So, this has been gold and my class and everybody's obsessed. I actually played it at school this past weekend, and it was epic. Excuse me, my AC just turned on, I'm gonna go shut it off. There's no eliminating that background noise of the AC sound. So, it's gone now. And I'll get really hot in Louisiana for the rest of this episode. Okay, so I was super excited to find this modified version, I played it immediately. The next day, it's gold, it was epic. You don't have to play with plates. But I recommend getting a whole stack of paper plates or Styrofoam plates. Papers that are Styrofoam breaks easier. Place the plates in a single file row and have students stand in two rows on either side of that. So, they're facing inwards, looking at each other, and the plate is in the middle of them. So, they might be standing about three feet apart. And the plate is a foot and a half away from each of them right in the in between them. And then you just start rattling off commands dance run, jump, has, wants, like everything you have TPR for or a gesture for shout those out, you could shout body parts out shoulders, head, whatever you want in your target language. They're doing all those things. And then as soon as you yell plate, plateau, in your target language, they have to reach out with their foot and drag the plate in towards them before the other person does. It's brilliant. It's hysterical. Go read the blog that I wrote on it. And you can watch videos of adults doing it, kids doing it, you're gonna love it. You don't have to use plates; you can use other objects. I talked about it in the blog. But here's hot tip, you can also use this as a comprehension game. Don't call it a brain break, though. If you're using it as a game to provide more input for your students. It's not a brain break. It's a game. So, you could literally retell anything that you're doing from class. And I did this with a special person interview. After I did my special person interview at the end of class, rather than doing a boring old exit quiz. I had the students stand in a row I put the plates down. And then I said classe we'll call her Lemon Drop. I literally can't think of a name, we'll call her, Lemon Drop. I said the glass a lemon drop and pretend this is all in Spanish. Lemon Drop is a girl who goes to Morris Jeff, she's in the third grade and she lives in Lakeview, New Orleans. Lemon Drop as three dogs and two cats. And all of a sudden all of them drugged their foot in with the plate. Because she doesn't have two cats, she has three cats. And so, when they realized it was false, I quickly said okay, classe, and then they would shoot up their hands I would say the may tell me what's the problem. And then they would say no tiene tres gatos, tiene dos gatos, or whatever. So that's a way to turn it into a listening comprehension game. But again, you can just do it as brain break too.


I hope you love that one, I'll make sure and link the blog to the show notes. So go and check out those videos because that's an important piece of it. And you'll understand it better. I call that one quick feet because sometimes I'm not gonna play with plates, and I'll play with a cup or a marker or whatever. So, yes, special person interviews are fab, I wanted to give you some follow up activities that I always do with special person interviews. And the first is a write and discuss, if you're not familiar with what write and discuss is my friend Keith Toda did a blog recently on it, so I'll link it, but I'm writing this because it's a fabulous way for students to immediately connect the literacy of what they've been listening to all class to the sorry, the auditory of what they've been listening to, to the literacy. So, it basically what you do is let's say you did a special person interview like I did. At the end of class, you pull up a Word document, you can type it, you can pull up a doc camera and you can write it you can write it on your whiteboard, take your pick, and I personally now that I'm teaching elementary don't have them write with me every time, but I was teaching middle school. I had them write with me every single time we did a writing discuss, and they just write as I write, and as I'm writing, I ask questions to clarify, I say. We'll call this person Syntel. Does Syntel have 50? Bearded Dragons, now Syntel as 14 Bearded Dragons, oh, okay, good. And then boom, I'm spelling as I'm writing. So, they're seeing me writing, they're hearing the letters. That's how they learn letters. That's how they acquire the letter names, and their writing along with me. Now, sometimes I do have my third graders and fourth graders write with me, but I have to write a whole lot less. Or alternatively, I have them write with me, and they know anytime anything is highlighted. Or in my class, where I have colorblind kiddos, anytime anything is italicized, then they don't have to write with me, they're just watching. So, if it's slanty, they just watch and listen, if it's regular text than they write. I also modify my writing discusses for my, many of my students with IEPs, I, the words that I underline are the only words they're responsible for writing. So that's one of the modifications I do. So just to make it more accommodating. Okay, what's next? Okay, so that's one extension. 


Once you have those write and discusses, it's a really fun way to like, bring that back later in the year or compare it to another student later in the year, you can have them sequenced the two. Another extension that I love doing is having them compared to another student, similar to what I was just talking about. But it doesn't have to be another student, a random student, you can literally use the story from another class. Right? So, if you're doing the write and discusses for all seven of your classes, in my case, I printed them all. And then I got kids in groups of three on Thursday. And I gave them three different stories, it might have been the story of the person in their class. In fact, in my lower groups, I made sure that was one of the stories and then a story of somebody in seventh period, and then a story of somebody in fifth period. And then they had to go through. And they did the stoplight reading activity, which I'm not going to talk about in this episode. But if you're interested, I have a blog on it. They highlight what they understand in green, what they think they understand and yellow, they don't understand in pink. And then they found connections and comparisons between them. And then they filled out a double bubble, which is like a Venn diagram, it just allows you to do it in a different way. And that was a way for me to rest my voice, but then still get lots of input with them to be collaborating to check for comprehension amongst each other. And to support each other through that reading. It was amazing. It was awesome. You can also do look it's with students related to that student, right? Two way more fun ways than just like a handwritten exit quiz. Not saying that the handwritten exit quiz isn't a bad idea isn't a good idea. It's a great idea. 

Taking Notes

I also love collecting their little notes pages, some of them who doodle it's really fun to put those up in the hall. And just kind of showcase the student of the week for all the different classes. So, if you have a bulletin board outside your classroom, that's a great use of that. But yeah, I'm really, I'm really glad that I finally gave in and tried a special person interview. Again, it was something that I really wasn't sure whether I felt comfortable doing and I was worried about not getting to everybody in class. And I'm still that's a very real thing. Like I would need to be doing these every day for the rest of the year in order to get every child and I won't be able to do that. And that just has to be okay. Because they're still really engaged. And we learn something new about each other every time. And even best friends are like what you never told me that. And it's really, really special. And it's special that kids are being vulnerable and sharing so much about who they are and what makes them unique. And yeah, anyways, it's special. I hope you try it. Huge community builder. If you already do special person interviews and you have an extension that you'd like to share, or maybe a question that you love to ask in your special person interviews, I'd love to hear it. Mine. I, pets are always huge subjects in school, like favorite subject, least favorite subject. What do you want to be when you grow up? I love that special person interviews you can also be modified if you're teaching upper levels like if you could have lunch with one person in the world who would it be and why? And those go into C clauses. So cool, so cool. Anyways, I love them, I hope that you will give them a try. If you want support and a resource for that go head over to my TPT and look for the special person interview again, those are in English, Spanish, and French. And that's it. Until next time, I'll be teaching la vida loca and I am sure you will be too. Take care teacher.

Thank You!

Oh hey, there teach, teacher Hey, my friend. Thank you so much for supporting this podcast. Please continue to share it with friends. In fact, take a screenshot right now post it to your social media tag me let people know you're what you're listening to on your way to work or while you're gardening or while you're exercising in the gym. I'm so grateful for you. I wanted to read a review from a listener, and it meant so much to me. I love when I get to sit down and read some of your reviews here goes. Chiara who is an Italian teacher and an incredibly human actually part of my familia Luca PLC said "Teaching la vida loca is the best podcast for active world language teachers. La Maestra loca aka Annabelle brightens up my day with her enthusiasm and authentic self. I listen to her anytime I need a good idea or a pick me up. I recommend her podcast to all the world language and as a matter of fact, non-world language teachers woo hoo that are and want to be more energetic and fun in their classroom". Thank you, Chiara. And thank you to all of you who have taken the time to rate the podcast, share the podcast, post on social it means so much to me. Really, you have no idea how much it means, and I look forward to talking to you again next week. Take care. Bye bye.

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