What we know about brain-friendly teaching, is that the brain likes experiences that connect to one another. As we plan lessons for our language learners, we should keep this idea in mind. How do the tasks or activities I’ve planned for students to practice the new content connect to one another?
As we consider the use of authentic resources in our classrooms, how can those interpretive tasks naturally connect to productive language experiences in the interpersonal mode? The authentic text, whether it be a video, an infographic, or a poem, gives students a context for their interpersonal interactions, in lieu of inventing isolated, unrelated scenarios.
The interpersonal mode of communication
In the interpersonal mode, students spontaneously share information and ideas with others. Learners interact and negotiate meaning with clarity and cultural sensitivity. Students are expected to begin, carry on, and end a conversation without a written script, relying on the knowledge of the language they have acquired and using skills to communicate even when they do not understand.
Scaffolds and supports for interpersonal tasks
To support students, especially struggling and reluctant learners, providing scaffolds and supports for them to persevere through an interpersonal task may be the key to building their confidence in their own communication skills. Some examples of scaffolds and supports might be
- modeling the interpersonal task before students try it themselves
- providing suggested sentence starters and frames
- pairing struggling students with students who are more confident in productive activities
- circulating in the room and giving positive feedback to students, especially those who typically struggle, for their efforts
Examples of interpersonal activities
There are many activities or strategies that teachers plan to give students interpersonal communication practice and experiences. Strategies provide a structure or framework for interpersonal interactions. Here are a few examples:
Sample Classroom Application:
For a novice level Spanish class, the teacher selects the infographic, “Qué significa cada emoticon” (What each emoticon means) to enrich the students’ language for describing how people are feeling. Each student is given a copy of the infographic or access to it online.
The teacher leads the class through highlighting the adjectives in the infographic. He encourages students to guess the meaning of words with which they are unfamiliar using target language examples, circumlocution, and visuals, etc. to reinforce their meaning. The teacher makes connections between the highlighted descriptors and the work they have recently been doing with gender and number of adjectives. He asks the students to draw conclusions about how the highlighted adjectives in the infographic change to describe various people. The teacher does a guided charting activity with the students.
The teacher displays a list of simple situations in the target language on the document camera, using known vocabulary and lots of cognates. (You just won the lottery!, Your team lost the soccer match. You got a perfect score on your math test.). Each student selects one situation and creates a web of feelings about that topic, using vocabulary from the infographic.
In small groups, students interview each other about how they would feel in each of the situations using the infographic and the web they created. Group members may use an expressions list provided by the teacher as support for this interpersonal activity.
- I would feel _____.
- I agree. I disagree.
- Me too./Not me.
- I don’t know.
- How does that make you feel?
- What do you think?
- I think that…
- I hate when that happens!
- No way!
- Of course!