Getting it wrong

This has been a tough week; it was just one of those weeks that takes everything out of you. And it was a short week because we have a district-wide PD day tomorrow.

One of the things that went really well, though, was what I’m going to call, “Getting it wrong.”

I circled with the students, asking “¿Cómo estás?” (How are you?). At the very beginning of the year (and every year since these kids were in first grade), we sing a ¿Cómo estás? song with all kinds of interesting answers (more than just, “estoy bien”/”I’m doing well”). The kids all make faces and act out the feelings until they are ready to say them out loud, I try not to force them to speak-when I ask them how they are, they can either act out the feeling or say it, if they are comfortable doing so.

Anyway, at this point in the year, they are ready to be saying the words when I answer. I have been starting every class by asking them, “¿Cómo estás?” individually. When they answer, I am very excited about their answers:  I cheer when they are happy; I pretend to cry when they are sad; when they say they’re tired, I sing lullabies and tell the rest of the class to be quiet so they don’t wake them up; and their favorite is when they say that they’re angry, I growl and yell–they love it. After I ask one student, I make a big fuss and then move on to another student and another. As soon as I have 3 or 4 students who have said different things, I start to circle back and ask about how each of them is, “Clase, ¡JJ está feliz!  JJ está feliz y Clara está triste, boo hoo.” The only thing is, those are not the answers they originally told me. I intentionally say the wrong thing and the kids correct me. The first few times I did it, I think the kids thought that I was actually getting confused and the students looked a little bit puzzled and only a few tried to correct me. When I continued and asked more students and circled back with more wrong answers, the students started to figure out my pattern and started correcting me. I started to do a whole, “Oh, that’s right, so-and-so was happy, not sad” (in Spanish).

Getting it wrong got some of the highest engagement that I’ve ever had in the class activity. I think that it was because it put the accuracy into their hands rather than mine. They were the ones in the room who were the experts and who knew all the answers. In the early grades, I’m not sure how much they get to feel that way during class. I’m happy to be the fool in the classroom, as long as the students are engaged and hearing lots of the TL. After about 5 or 6 minutes of this, I moved on to the day’s story (the one that I posted yesterday, see previous blog post) and they were into it, but nearly as much as they were for the Getting it wrong activity (although they did like all the different places the character went to find coffee).

I don’t know how well this will work for older grades (middle school or higher), they might think it’s a little corny. For 1st – 5th grade, though, it was a blast and they were speaking as much as they could in Spanish.


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