Channeling Enthusiasm while Learning
Samantha Bremner, OFLA Early Language Learning Chair
I’ve been told many times that my classroom is the loudest. I get headaches; the kids get tired, my classroom is in a constant state of organized chaos. But, you know what? The kids are making memories while expressing themselves in Spanish. Is it insane to witness? Yes. Is it worth it? Definitely.
Picture this: children come into the room and find their seats based on cards. This cues a ruckus around who has the pez morado or the tigre azul. Who’s sitting where? The kids chatter as the classroom fills and it’s a moment before they settle down enough to listen to what’s happening today in class. Chaos? Check. Meaningful language practice? Check.
Moving on. Now we warm up with a song and some good ole TPR gestures that include noises and sound effects. Which table can sing in a high opera voice the best? Which table knows the signs to the story the fastest, eyes closed, standing on one foot? Consider the review portion of today’s class successful. Conventional? Nope. Engaging? You bet.
We have some new vocabulary to introduce today. So, I naturally take the first crack at making a fool of myself and repeat the word in a variety of voices and tones, all while using only my most ridiculous expressions. Once kids seem to get the idea of my word, we fine tune the class gesture and add it to our list of silliness to be remembered for later. Baila doesn’t only have to be accompanied by a half-done, sad cha-cha motion. Why not twirl like a ballerina or channel your inner Argentine and strike a tango pose? Bonus points are won for using a rose in your mouth.
Class is half over by now and we’ve got to get the kids working. Practicing their writing is one of their favorite activities. Start the music; let them dance at their seats, and get ready for answering a billion spelling questions. They illustrate alongside every work of literature that they create and that when we write, we don’t just write to finish. We write to remember. We write to tell stories. We write to share, laugh, and applaud our fellow writers of multiple languages. No matter how long or short the writing is.
After writing, we have sharing, editing, rewriting, sharing again, and finally we present. This may take one or multiple classes. It’s best to build suspense between stories or to find interesting links between them. Sometimes, kids work together and laugh at jokes that no one understands. Sometimes we all laugh so hard that the principal walks in to make sure I didn’t leave the room unattended because it’s so loud. And sometimes, we clap, snap, and whistle when that one shy student finally shares what they’ve been hiding all this time. That’s when the magic happens.
All of the laughter, little whines, stomping, dancing, voices, melodies, and chaos fade away. When students finally can show what they know, you know that you’ve done your part. My room may be noisy. My room may be chaotic, messy, and in a constant state of disarray. But, my room makes memories. How? I let my kids be noisy.