Noah Schilling is a third year Spanish teacher and has been using Special Person interviews with his students for about a year. Here are his observations and reflections:
The ¨Special Person Interview¨ activity has been a game-changer in my Spanish classroom. It is such a dynamic activity, that can really be used at any level. As I continue to practice it, the activity is proving to be a classroom culture builder that empowers students and provides comprehensible input in the target language.
The interview format mixed with check-ins with the whole class, allows for many repetitions in both the ¨I¨ form, and the ¨He/She/You Formal¨ forms. These repetitions are key for the students to acquire the language (and grammar structures).
Let´s take the Spanish Present Perfect tense for example – to HAVE done something. A great follow-up question to ¨What do you like to do?¨ is ¨How long have you done it?¨. You like to play basketball? How long have you played? Have you ever seen a professional basketball team play? Have you played any other sports? How long have you had your pets? etc…
This can work with other grammatical structures as well – interviewing someone about what they used to do (imperfect) when they lived in a different state/country, what they did this weekend (preterite), or what they plan to do in the summer (future).
Hearing these structures repeated over and over is great for acquiring language, and students will start to apply those structures to other situations. They will start producing language on their own because it ¨sounds right¨. While ¨listening¨ plays a key part in these interviews, one of the most important components (in my opinion) is that students are required to take notes on each person. This is good for several reasons.
First, it shows that we value what the student is saying. We are invested by taking notes on them. In the coming day(s) after the interview, there is a quiz. Students have to write sentences about the Special Person. In order to stay consistent with what students are expected to know, I have a higher level student type up her notes on the board for all to see while we are interviewing. This is done on a google doc that all students are able to access, which allows for absent students to still be held accountable for the quiz. Being able to see the higher-level students notes helps the lower-level students.
After the quiz, I project the google doc containing sentences about the Special Person, and students swap papers and self grade using the doc as a rubric. They pass them in and I put them right into the grade book!
This activity has helped to build positive class culture. I see so many positive benefits to using this in the classroom, and I am sure each teacher can modify it to fit their style. I have tried to follow it as closely as possible to the steps of the interview process. This activity can really brighten up your classroom!