Let’s Cool It With The Greetings

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22 thoughts on “Let’s Cool It With The Greetings”

  1. I agree with you, Ben, about the greetings during class time. This is how I do a “work-around” so I can say that I’m covering it.

    Each day and each period I stand just outside the door of my classroom, beginning on day 1 of school. As students come to the door, I stick out my hand, shake hands with them, and say, “Guten Morgen/Tag” (as appropriate). I may let it go at that or I may say something further, especially if I notice something. For beginning students (and anything complicated) I speak in English – we are, after all, outside the classroom. One of my students who graduated this year wrote me a very nice letter in which he told me how valuable that was, particularly his sophomore year; my class was the only time in the entire day that he was treated as a person.

    When the bell rings, I step inside the room and say, “Guten Morgen/Tag, alle! Wie geht’s?” (Hello, everyone. How’s it going?) Early on I teach students “Gut!” (indicated by thumbs up), “So-lala” (indicated by holding hand horizontal and “tipping” it from side to side), and “Schlecht” (indicated by thumbs down). Before very long I will add the day of the week and the date to my opening. (The latter are written on the board.) Then every class begins with the following, though not necessarily always in the same order. (Words in parentheses are optional)
    -Guten Morgen/Tag, alle!
    -Wie geht’s (euch/Ihnen)? (Geht’s gut? Geht’s schlecht? Geht’s so-lala?)
    -Welcher Tag ist heute? Heute ist …
    -Was ist das Datum?
    Then we proceed with whatever else is going to happen that day. Opening class becomes a sort of ritual. If there is school business that I must attend to, I will do all of that and then move to the beginning-of-class ritual. The ritual is one of the ways that I signal “no English”.

    I usually ask for names when I genuinely want to know. In context it’s then generally obvious what the question is. There is definitely no game of “gotcha” going on.

    At the end of class each day I will bid students farewell. Most often it is “Auf Wiedersehen!”, but I may instead say “Tschüß!” or “Bis morgen/Montag” or “Schönes Wochenende”. Eventually someone will ask what those mean.

    With all of that I manage to satisfy the requirement that I “teach” greetings, asking names, days of the week, dates, and farewells. Later on I will introduce students to other ways to greet each other, such as “Hallo”, “Grüß Gott” and “Servus”. Students inevitably ask how to say more ( e.g. great, awful, tired, sick). I tell them and then start incorporating those terms into the conversation. For me, all of this occurs over time and organically.

    1. Bernard Rizzotto

      Thank you Ben for the reminder and Robert for your insight! I am always amazed at the way you can reflect, dissect and clearly explain what you do. You use greetings purposefully and avoid drowning and boring the kids during those very crucial first days.
      When we get a little more into the year, I like to be playful with the students and at times throw some “bonjour/salut/au revoir… ma classe favorite” to which they echo “bonjour/salut/au revoir… mon professeur favori”. I just wait for the answer and they quickly figure it out. It’s fun and we all feel good.

    2. I do the same thing–only in Spanish, of course. When I have pressing items of business to inform the class (in English), I sometimes forget the greeting and at least a handful of students will remind me. I agree that the class ritual is meaningful to them.

    3. Robert, I am inspired by your opening routine. I am thinking starting the whole “handshake at the door thing,” but I am feeling uncomfortable with the idea of touching students. Maybe male teachers understand this better than females. Maybe not. What are thoughts on this? Any other male teachers great at the door with a handshake?

      1. James, I have never had any issue of the type that concerns you with the handshake. It’s a normal action, not considered intimate and very public. A few students have had issues with contact, so a fist bump substitutes; others have offered the sometimes convoluted handshakes they do with their friends or fellow athletes. Even students who have contact issues will wait at the door for me if I haven’t gotten there yet; that personal contact makes a difference for all of us.

        I usually keep a container of hand sanitizer by the door and use it after shaking hands. Students will also use it at times.

        1. I’ve noticed that when I am up visiting Bryce in his school he does the fist bump. He is always out there in the hallway when they come in. He explained to me that the alpha chimp is not the one who is the biggest or loudest, but the one who gets the most touches in the group.

          I admire those who can do the handshake thing. I’m usually busy working the hallways for kids with issues and trying to build trust with them. I’m convinced that the key to success in some schools lies in those sometimes very short contacts with kids outside of class. This is something that university professors don’t need to worry about, since their students have an entirely different motivation than some of our kids.

          1. James, maybe it’s weird for you because you didn’t grow up in a handshaking environment (I assume, you’re American, right?). After many years in this country, I still feel the urge to stick out my hand when I see people and more often than not, I get a bewildered look. So, if you like the idea of the handshake – go for it. On the other hand, maybe you want to practice with fist bumps first. ????

          2. Handshaking comes so naturally to me as well, Brigitte. Sometimes Americans react as if I am being too formal….so terribly British of me! ha!

          3. I also tell my students that I am introducing them to German culture, where people shake hands regularly. (This is true, btw.) What I don’t tell them is that I am also introducing them to polite adult American culture. Eventually this gets so engrained with them that students will shake hands with me at football games, concerts, in the store, etc. – and they initiate the handshake.

            I have also read that about the alpha chimp being the one that gets the most touches. As I mentioned, the practice changes the dynamic between me and students. We both know that tomorrow we will greet each other and actually touch; it’s a bit harder to maintain an impersonal, distanced stance when that happens every day.

          4. Some follow-up. I did the handshake thing with all my classes today. It all felt very natural and the students seemed to dig it. On my end it was nice that they had to regard my presence. Something they want to go the whole period without doing so. Thanks all. I think this will be a positive addition to my relationship with my students.

          5. I loved reading that. Really. It seems like it is such a simple act. But… it is very personal and very meaningful. Thank you for doing it.

            with love,

      2. I started the handshake at the door. Then Students switched it up on me! So there was a mix of fistbumps and handshakes. Some of my students are very “mannerly” and enjoy doing this in French. No issues at all being a male teacher.

  2. …it’s fun and we all feel good….

    Ah we’ve come a long way afield from that fool Plato….

    Great to hear from you Bernard and I’m sorry I missed you in TX. Honestly, you are so good with Face 2 that I know this is going to be a banner year! Maybe see you next year!


  3. “Some teachers, the tricksters, even sneak in things like “What is your name” (which sounds a lot like “How are you” in French) and then, when the kid answers that, the teacher says, in English, “Ha ha! I tricked you! I asked you your name, not how you are!” ”

    Nail. On. The. Head. I was that guy, even last year as a CIer.

    1. Tricks ALWAYS backfire in the long run. Ppl hate being fooled. Which leads us to one of the great founding dictae of the CI classroom: All Above Board. We don’t trick people with our cleverness/language mastery, or get them to swallow a bitter grammar pill disguised as a game, or indeed do anything at all that they don’t understand If it’s in TL, we make it comprehensible, and if it’s anything else– routine, activity, hwk, whatever– we EXPLAIN both HOW to do it and WHY this activity is useful. Hidden agendas suck.

      1. I agree

        Let me add though, my reasons for trickery have nothing to do with showing my students how great I am at Spanish. It was really just because trickery lies at the core of my sense of humor. I’m a huge fan of Tom Green, Borat, etc. I just like messing with people. But I won’t be adding that type of trickery into the classroom anymore.

  4. Last year with my low-performing, true beginners I started off with Hola. The students need to hear it said slowly, with the mid-open “o” and the open “a.” We do not use an open “a” with unstressed syllables in English. They need to hear it and watch the shape of the mouth change. There will be plenty of time to phase in “Good morning” (Buenos días) and “Good afternoon” (Buenas tardes).

    Along with “Hola,” I began with “Soy Señor Hardt” (I am Mr. Hardt). Later we phased into “Mi nombre es Sr. H” (My name is Mr. H). Only after they were comfortable with those did we use “Me llamo Sr. H” (I call myself Mr. H). This came after 1) following a Greek course which used this format for introduction, and 2) this blog which challenged the amount of time traditionally devoted to learning to say Hello. These kids did great with this format and did not fall into the traditional trap of “Me llamo es Sr. H” (I call myself is Mr. H).

    In terms of proficiency, the greetings lesson is truly Novice Low. What a low target to set. It is so much better to aim for Novice High using “is” and “am” for OWI and CWB.

    Less is more. Fewer HF structures result in more comprehension/language. With regard to greetings, I remind myself of the use of the greeting as a wake-up call…Hellooo-ooo!

    Perfect timing, Ben.

  5. In my experience names are hugely important for elementary kids. And (for the ages I teach) I firmly believe it helps create L2 atmosphere! Elementary kids don’t know to be embarrassed by these new monikers – they are delighted by them!

    Everyone gets a Spanish name in first grade. There is great fanfare as they hear/see their Spanish name, which is written in big block letters on an index card, (with their full English name and class section on the back – for me). I even refer to them by their Spanish name on their report card.
    Can you imagine how his lil 6 yr old face lights up when William hears “Guillo’ for the first time? They are anxious to go home and share those names. They come back next class concerned that they forgot how to say it. I assure them that they’re going to hear it a ton, and by the end of September they may even hear it in their sleep!

    It’s part of the “magic of Spanish class.” Within a coupla classes (in first grade – maybe 2nd if they request it), we are playing a roll the ball game at the rug, with a simple lil melody that translates, “My name is, My name is Guillo, What is your name?” The kid receiving the rolled ball only fills in his/her name. We all sing the rest together. This is major excitement for little kids and can go on for like 20 minutes! I am NOT KIDDING! Lotsa modeling first, then boys roll to girls and vice versa…

    Usually the names are similar to English or start with the same letter…Taylor could be Tierra or Trinidad; or Tadeo or Teo for a boy…
    I look at an internet Spanish Baby names site that’s alphabetized…If they decide they HATE their name (this has happened a handful of times in my almost 25 years here) I will offer two add’l options to choose from.

    My point is the age/level allows for tons of reps on something they truly find interesting and filter-lowering – kinda like how Tina uses the calendar during opening weeks. Soothing, magical, do-able…with some ownership. Is it intrinsically interesting? Not really (to me). But the whole name thing I think, is filled with the promise of more personalized, doable and repetitive (so don’t worry – it’ll come around again) CI….
    Though they hear “My name is…” and, “What is your name?” a zillion times in the context of the song/game, they don’t necessarily retain it; still it serves to start building that L2 foundation in a playful way…

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