For hands-on training and demonstrations, ask Bryce about his new Special Person Workshop, with a free accompanying handbook for all participants. Remote or in-person training is available.

Read this article to see how Special Person interviews work in upper-level classes with focus on grammatical aspects that students at that level need to know:  QUESTION-DRIVEN GRAMMAR IN SPECIAL PERSON INTERVIEWS 

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Steps of the Process Chart for Special Person Interviews

 

The Steps

  • 1. Ask a Question… and then Follow-Up. If the student shows any enthusiasm in the answer, continue to ask a series of follow-up questions.
  • 2. “Report Back” to the Class (Repeat steps 1 & 2 as long as the interest lasts. Mojo is king.)
  • 3. Verify Information with the interviewee: “So you’re saying that…”
  • 4. Check for Understanding with the class: “What do we know about this person, class?”
  • 5.  Students Write Notes about the interview for themselves. Pairing with another student helps.
  • 6. Quiz: Students write sentences in the target language about the interview (no notes).

 

Teaching World Language like Socrates   This is a chapter from my forthcoming book on how to do Special Person/Persona Especial student interviews.

 

Here are the results of Persona Especial Interviews after less than 2 months in a Spanish 1 class. Students were able to manipulate the language and confidently engage in conversation for almost an hour with the student teacher:  STUDENTS INTERVIEW THE STUDENT TEACHER

Here’s what we’re trying to accomplish:  Real connections and deep, lasting attitude & behavior changes while acquiring useful interpersonal language.

Real Students + Real Language + Real Interest =  Real Acquisition

STUDENT-CENTERED LEARNING

“Special Person” student interviews are the very definition of student-centered learning. In this ongoing classroom interview activity/method, we focus on the students and ask them questions about their lives, their interests and their goals. And it works with ALL levels.

A  common definition of student-centered learning is that it “… puts students’ interests first. It acknowledges student voice as central to the learning experience and allows students to choose what they will learn, how they will learn, and how they will assess their own learning.”

This is precisely what we do with personal interviews: We interview each student in the target language and the interviews grow in depth and complexity as the students grow in language ability. Students choose what they will share and the direction of the interview by their responses. We also quiz the students regularly on what they know about their classmates to help them maintain focus and raise their level of concern just a bit.

 

Question Posters in 10 World Languages:

“Special Person” posters with student interview questions and sentence starter answers are available in several languages below. These questions can help provide a format to help you to begin this fantastically engaging activity/method with your students.

Mandarin Chinese: 
Chinese Special Person CLASSROOM POSTER 1  
Chinese Special Person CLASSROOM POSTER 2
Thanks to Jian Li, of Dallas, Texas for these translations.

Dutch:
LA-PERSONA-ESPECIAL-CLASSROOM-POSTER-DUTCH
Thanks to Kristin Plante for translating and sharing these posters in Dutch.

French:
LA PERSONNE PRECIEUSE CLASSROOM POSTER IN FRENCH
Thanks to Carrie Ely from Lee, Massachusetts and Anna Gilcher in Cameroon for these.

German:
Superstar – Eine spezielle Person German PowerPoint
Superstar Interviewfragen-1 German
Thanks to Ulrike “Ulla” Seckler for creating and sharing these German Special Person Interview materials.

Hebrew:
שאלות לראיון תלמידים Special Person in Hebrew
Thanks to Howard Handler for putting in the work and time to create this poster of the Special Person Questions in Hebrew.

Ho-Chunk:

Ho Chunk Special Person

Thanks to Shena Munden, of the Ho-Chunk nation in Wisconsin for the translation of the question and adaptation to Ho-Chunk culture. This is worth looking at even if you don’t speak Ho-Chunk.

Japanese:
SPECIAL PERSON QUESTIONS IN JAPANESE
Thanks to Betsy Paskvan from Anchorage, Alaska for these!

Latin:
Here is a link to the questions in Latin, the DISCIPVLVS ILLVSTRIS.
Thanks to Lance Piantaggini for the work here. Visit his website, magisterp.com, for more Latin C.I.

Russian:
“OUR STAR” PERSONAL INTERVIEW IN RUSSIAN
Thanks to Michele Whaley for the language, and Don Read for the formatting on this labor-intensive PowerPoint for the Russian classroom. Follow Michele’s outstanding Comprehensible Input blog here.

Spanish:
LA PERSONA ESPECIAL CLASSROOM POSTER p1

LA PERSONA ESPECIAL CLASSROOM POSTER 2

Here are student interview posters with graphics in Spanish for young students: Persona Especial Posters for Elementary Students  by Amy Roe of The Storyteller’s Corner.

 

MORE ARTICLES AND EXAMPLES

Focusing on a student and asking the right kind of questions to bring out her personality and make her shine like never before is a skill that can be developed. This article, I explain how to put the focus on the students and make them the star as you do personal interviews in your classroom: Make Any Student The Most Interesting Person in The Room

RECENT USEFUL WORDS–POSTERS   Some teachers find it useful to record the words used in interviews. This is a list I used one year. One interesting thing about it is that the list is finite. The upper limit of core daily vocabulary in most communities is usually no more than 300 or so words. With that amount of vocabulary, students can talk about almost any aspect of their lives on up to the Intermediate-Mid level of proficiency. But writing a list like this is not necessary. These words come up often enough in interviews that most students will get them.

Here is a format for a Special Person Quiz. They can write as many sentences as they like, but the grade is cut off at 25 sentences. No one can get more than 100%, because too many students were getting 200% (not the worst problem to have for a teacher1). Special Person Quiz Form

Engaging Students With LA PERSONA ESPECIAL. Special Person is a popular and successful  activity in my classes that starts on day 1 of level 1 and continues for the rest of the year, and even to succeeding years in upper levels. It is a structured way of getting to know one anther in the target language. It’s using real language and real interest in real people. And the result is real acquisition.

Here are some examples of using Special Person interviews with the present perfect verb form–sometimes thought of as grammar for a higher level class. If it is comprehensible and interesting it can work: Special Person with Traditional Upper Levels

Little Pig  Some Pig!  This is a summary of a Person Especial interview that generated enormous engagement with students. A shy girl got to talking about her pet pig. We had no idea…

 

 

WHAT DID YOU DO THIS WEEKEND? POSTER (SPANISH)

WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO THIS WEEKEND? POSTER (SPANISH)