Marko Sanden wrote this as a comment here on the PLC last week. It contains good insights into the details of online language instruction:
“I remind them regularly that my assumption is that they WILL demonstrate interpersonal communication skills and that I’ve already given them those points each class and only they can lose them.
For example, all cameras are to be turned on at the start of class. I do allow for special circumstances such as others in the room or other personal reasons, but if any one student tries to repeatedly keep their camera off, I have a chat with them after 3 or 4 classes. However, at this point in the year, they must enter into the chat (privately to me only) the reason that they have to have their camera off.
I also SPOTLIGHT myself so that I’m the biggest image for students while I then set my Zoom to Gallery view for monitoring students. I have a 27-inch screen so I can get a good read on most students’ interactions with me. Of course, I focus in on some of the “regulars” that need extra encouragement.
I even quickly type “HOLA” if they are seemingly distracted. It most often gets the desired result. We likewise have a fun time admitting the difference between “almost all” and “all” when it comes to interpersonal communication and student participation.
I also find that the comprehension checks are needed and if I vary them up often, I can keep them on their toes: “secret,” “Do you understand? (Students give me the thumbs up or down) “writing answers and ideas in the chat” I also have them “mouth/lip sync” during chants and or for responding to answers. (because most of the time students are on mute) I do this also for the silent reading. That is when you can really see if students are performing that task.
I also have them put in the private chat at the end of class a number from 1 to 10 rating their overall understanding. (I’m almost always in the 8-10 and I’m great with that!)
These are just some ideas and practices I’m employing but I’ll return to what Ben Slavic made clear over the summer. It’s first about building community. When students know that all I’m doing is communicating with them what they create, they want to push me to communicate more. What else could I ever want than that. It’s amazing! Every class, I try and meet my goal of being comprehensible while I stay in the target language at least 90% of the class. (Many times I’m well over that 90%.)
I cannot help but share what I got from my principal today. It reinforced that the STAR has so much to offer. I like your saying, “in the pocket” That’s how I feel most every class.
I will admit that I have started to branch out from strictly following the QL1-4. It started to get predictable and I want to keep it “new” so to speak so that kids never know what’s coming. It only happened starting last week (we are eleven weeks in) but now that they know the classroom rules and procedures, I vary or omit to keep it real. I will say that I pretty much stick with the remaining four phases as they provide a level of commitment from students as well as a sense of accomplishment. I sense they truly want the dictee because it proves (to them) they are understanding and can read and write. They want to do well!
Anyway, here’s what my principal sent me today:
…I just met with [a mom] and she absolutely loves your style of teaching and demeanor as a human being with the students. I thought you would like to know, especially during this pandemic that all your hard work is noticed and is paying off. Made me feel good to hear that as a member of AMA. Very uplifting and thanks….