We are continuing to interview our way around each Spanish I classroom and the fun is accelerating. Students are becoming more and more comfortable with the process and with the language associated with it.  The are acquiring enough to be comfortable.  Today a girl was nearly at the level of telling jokes (and I love jokes! http://www.brycehedstrom.com/category/jokes    http://www.brycehedstrom.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/STORIES-WORTH-RE-TELLING-How-to-Teach-with-Jokes.pdf   http://www.brycehedstrom.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/FUNNY-PLACE-NAMES.pdf)

She not only knew that she could joke around with the material, but that the other students could also get the joke. As I asked her the standard questions in Spanish she started batting back one winner answer after another. This girl had not had Spanish in the middle school.  She has not said anything in class yet. Just listened and gave general choral responses with the rest of the class–no forced output. Here is the gist of the interview with her (translated to English here, but all in the TL in class):

Me:  “What is your name?”

Her:  “My name is Shanicula” (As far as I can tell, a made up name.)

Me:  “What?! Isn’t your name Madison?”

Her:  “No, my name is Shanicula.”

Me:  “Oh, OK, er… Where are you from, Shanicula?”

Her: “I am from Africa. I am from South Africa.” (She had put 2 + 2 together after hearing the word Sudamerica several times)

Me, to class:  “Class, this girl is called Shanicula, and she is from South Africa.”

Class:  “Oooohhhhh!”

Me:  “OK, Shanicula, How old are you?”

Her:  “I am fifty six years old.” (Again, this is 2 + 2: She had heard the word 50 in class several times and combined it with 6, although we are not focusing on numbers right now. I wrote out the words for 56 on the board and also wrote the number. I pointed to it whenever I used the number too because I realized that not every student in class could put things together like she was.)

Me:  “56 years old? Wow!” (I resisted the urge to make comments or ask more questions that were above her level of acquisition right now because the goal is comprehensible input and building confidence that they can do this Spanish stuff. The main that thing that too many students learn in Spanish classes is that Spanish is too hard for them. ¡No más! ¡No más! Not here, anyway.)

Her, proudly and smugly:  “Yes, I am 56 years old! I also have 10 kids.”

Me:  “10 kids?  10 kids!  Wow!  That is a lot of kids!  Well, I am happy that you are in school and that you are in our class!” (Again, I wrote the word for 10 on the board along with the number and touched it as I used it.  She had heard me use “also” several times, and it was on our “Nice-to-Know list of words. she used “I have” correctly because we had used it in a class story last week.  And she used a version of “kids” correctly because I always am calling my students “jitos”.  Again, I could have gone off on a tangent that would not have been comprehensible to the students in that class, so I guarded my comments and made them.)

Me, to the class:  “Class, Shanicula is 56 years old and she has 10 kids!”

Class:  “Ooooohhh!”

Me, acting more and more surprised and interested:  “Well, what grade are you in?”

Her:  “I am in grade 17.”  (She had heard a few students say they were 16 and 17, although she is only 14, I think.)

Me:  “Wow! and you are in our class and you are in our  school!  That is fantastic!  Shanicula, what do you like to do?

Her:  “I like to sing opera. I like the bow and arrow. And I like to wrestle.” (I think she really is a singer, but she added the opera bit. A couple of kids in her class had said that they liked archery and had hunted big game with it, so she added that too, which was cool. And wrestling had also been mentioned, but not a 56 year old female wrestler!)

Me, to class:  “Class, Shanicula likes to sing opera, she likes the bow and arrow, and she likes to wrestle.”

Class:  “Ooooohhh!”

I finished her interview by drawing a picture on the whiteboard of a girl with a big Viking helmet singing with a bow and arrow in her had. and saying:  “Class, I present to you, Shanicula!”

Class:  (applause and hooting)

I think scenarios like this are unfolding because I am backing off and relaxing.  I am not forcing output, I am just asking questions and listening; letting them answer as they see fit in the TL.  Talk about comprehensible input, high frequency vocabulary, compelling input, going slow, repetition. This had all of the classic elements of TPRS!

Mil gracias, Shanicula!