Let’s start with my norms poster, here.
These are my always-in-draft class norms. I’ve used them in my Spanish class for a few years, laminated and posted on the board in English (since my students wouldn’t understand if the poster were in Spanish.)
First let me say that these norms were gleaned from many conferences, workshops and conversations, and that retired T/CI legend and mentor from Denver Public Schools, Ben Slavic, provided the content for a first draft. He has a longer list of classroom expectations, from which I extracted and massaged these nuggets. He has created so many key documents and written about so many issues we Comprehensible Input language teachers need to consider – I highly recommend you check out his website. He also has a great Professional Learning Community (PLC) blog!
OK, back to the norms. The document* is entitled, “!יש,” which Yael Even, an elementary Hebrew teacher in Israel tells me is the best Hebrew slang equivalent to “High Five!” Listed are 5 classroom norms:
- Not surprisingly, active listening with the intent to understand is a novice language learner’s most essential behavior. Next comes the tricky part. Students are requested to signal the teacher (I have established a fist pounding the palm action/noise signal) if meaning is not clear. I used to say, “Signal me if you don’t understand,” but really, folks, the onus is on us, the teachers, to make sure we are comprehensible, so I tweaked my poster language to reflect that reality. I walk over and fist bump the student who signals me (!יש), reinforcing my standard: “Thank you for letting me know I was not understandable! It’s my job to make sure everyone understands! We’re all here to understand Hebrew messages!” I translate the problematic word/phrase/utterance, gesture and re-check for comprehensibility. Alas, you should know that young learners often do not signal when they’ve fallen off the comprehension train, so eager are they to extract meaning that they forget. So we must redouble our efforts, frequently checking for comprehension: “What does ‘XYZ’ mean?” “What did I just say?” and constantly recycle and repeat, reviewing the facts of the story once again before adding on to it.
2. Paying attention to the speaker’s message is obvious enough however, norm #2 used to read, “Eyes on the speaker.” I have since learned that plenty of students can and do demonstrate comprehension without locking eyes, and that not all students are comfortable making eye contact. So while I prefer to see their eyes and confirm that they’re not distracted by their new shoes, the Lego in their pocket, or a scrap of paper on the rug, etc., I do regular and frequent comprehension checks to insure that all kids get it.
3. Body posture may sound trivial, but it’s part of the attention package. Since I jettisoned my students’ desks/tables and only have chairs, posture is less of an issue for me, plus I regularly get my students up and moving. (See my post, Let this groove get you to move). The older/less interested the student, the more of an issue posture may become. Posture is a form of nonverbal communication, and if/when there’s an infraction, I matter-of-factly explain this.
4. Norm #4 is about blurting and interruptions. Since I’m often inviting story details and suggestions from my students, our conversations aren’t always mediated by hand raising/permission-giving. This is natural, and it’s a good thing! However, sometimes excited classmates can’t resist the urge to blurt (They are SOOO engaged!!), often in English. Norm #4 is a reminder to engage in respectful conversational turn-taking in the Target Language.
5. Norm #5 encourages students to take the time to come up with cute and clever ideas during story-asking. Younger students often want the chance to offer an idea, any idea, to have their voice heard. I honor this and use it as an opportunity to get more repetitions, as in, “Class, Jorge says the dinosaur’s name is Billy Bob Joe. Adriana says the dinosaur’s name is Rainbow. What does Alexander say?” If I go around the whole class, I get LOTS of reps on ‘says’ and ‘name is.’ Good, hi-frequency storytelling language!
Finally, I do not ‘go through’ the 5 class norms at the beginning of the school year. I point to and briefly discuss one behavior at a time, as it naturally emerges, and go back and point to it when it inevitably comes up again.
*Print it on (long) legal size paper to get it on one sheet.