Here is a question about encouraging students to use rejoinders in the classroom by a colleague that has begun using them this year.  It is a good one, because we all lose steam every so often and because he seems to sense that using rejoinders is important for building confidence and classroom camaraderie.  Rejoinders can form the foundation of the classroom banter that gets going once kids know they are free to speak up in class and have the tools to do so.

Q:  I’ve lost some steam with rejoinders, so a key question.  Do you encourage their use on a daily basis or only when you’re telling stories?

A:  I encourage students to use rejoinders all of the time.  It gives the kids (particularly those in lower level classes) a release to express themselves since I do generally not allow English.  As a model for the students, I use rejoinders frequently and I limit myself to the lists on the walls to keep it comprehensible. That is key right there–if we begin using incomprehensible language, we begin to give them permission not to pay attention to us.

I think that the consistent modeling and comprehension checks are the key to getting them to speak up confidently and use rejoinders appropriately.

One of our classroom jobs is “Rejoinder Counter.”  That student counts the rejoinders he/she hears throughout each day in class and reports at the end of the period.  The class gets PAT points for  meeting or exceeding the goal for their level.  If the counter forgets to report or reports inaccurately, the class does not get the points, so the job of Rejoinder Counter is obviously a responsible and powerful position in my classroom.  That student keeps the job unless they get “fired” for not paying  attention or reporting the tally incorrectly.

In Spanish I classes the rejoinder goal for each period is 30.  When they meet that goal, they get two PAT points.  It took some consistent encouragement, modeling and explaining, but by the second month of school almost every class is exceeding this goal every day, often by double.