Jody Noble – The Special Chair/La Silla Especial

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7 thoughts on “Jody Noble – The Special Chair/La Silla Especial”

  1. I just LOVE this idea! I can’t take a personal chair into the classroom, but I can carry decorations with me to transform the teacher’s chair into a throne… a fancy pillow, a throw and a crown I kept from my visit to the USA when the kids ate at Burger King…
    I think this will work great with my jhs kids. They are always looking for feeling special. But has this ever gone to the head of some of your students? Do they sometimes carry the role over into classroom life?
    I realize you can revoke a person’s right to sit in the chair if they cross the boundaries, but I have 2-3 boys who are psychologically ‘stressed’ I’ll say and in skeleton stories always talk about violence, murder and death. I have never used their ideas and have even informed the school pscyhologist… I guess it’s best to make up a poster with the rules perhaps, no violence, no insults, etc. I already have these rules for the classroom but sometimes the boys can’t resist. I imagine this is where practice comes in. Can you share more on how you go about practicing please? Do you have them stop and redo the behaviour correctly?
    Thanks!

  2. Carol-I have a few “big-headed” kids, but I don’t believe that is related to the chair. They came in that way.
    I just came across a lovely quote which brings me to your second question about modeling: Children need models rather than critics.- Joseph Joubert
    I often begin the story (after the child is seated) going over the expectations and reminding the class how brave a student has to be to come up in front of their classmates to be in a story that hasn’t even been created yet.
    When a child (for all of their bravado and inappropriate remarks) is in the chair, they are still vulnerable. All eyes and ears are on them. They have a lot to win or lose in front of their peers. All kids make mistakes–it is what children do. They also say things that horrify me sometimes.
    I learned something from Susan Gross that is very effective: the private whisper.
    When a student in the chair speaks in English, says something awful for effect, etc., I stop for a moment, crouch down a bit, and whisper in their ear. It usually goes something like this: “I notice that you are blurting out in English (or I notice you said something about killing someone). Did you notice? (Sometimes, they actually haven’t, but I don’t argue with them.) I really want you to be in the chair today because you are such a good actor and you really make it fun for the class. It would be a terrible shame if you lost that privilege and had to go back to your seat. Do you think you can control the blurting out?” They always tell me that they believe they can control the outbursts. And they usually do. If not, I follow through. Softly, quietly, swiftly.
    No one knows what we talked about. They get a chance to “fix it” (terribly important in life). They know I am in charge of the class. They know they are in charge of themselves.
    I don’t let too much time pass before I notice that they are controlling themselves. I give them a thank you whisper with some specific feedback about what they are doing that is making the story work well. As Susie says, “After you make a withdrawal from the love bank, you will need to make several deposits.”
    The “replay” is just that. I notice an off tone or inappropriate remark. I call it out and say, “Let’s try that again.” We just play the scene again–this time in a more positive way. I often “show” them/”tell” them exactly what I had in mind. I am not convinced that all of these kids really get it. They are so used to making and receiving unkind remarks from peers which are immediately followed by, “just kidding”. Anyway, this is just my take on things. Every situation and child is different for sure.
    What I have noticed over the years is that little by little, they get the message: In this classroom, each one of us is the very best, the most intelligent, the most beautiful being that exists. (I can’t make them believe it; I can just make them practice it. It starts to work.) It has made me a better person, too.

  3. You posted this after I visited and commented on the chairs. I appreciate the idea all the more now. It should perhaps be noted that there are in fact 3 chairs, 2 in addition to la silla especial. The students seem almost as happy to be called to a regular chair. I’ve tried it with my 4/5th classes…as a traveling teacher with two half-hour classes per week. It’s working way better than it ever did with the kids standing around waiting for the “action.” My first story has dragged out over 4 class periods and I think it’s finally done. NOW WHAT DO I DO??? I’m thinking of trying one of Diane’s “embedded readings” of it.
    PS Do your students ever actually leave the chairs and act or pantomime action? Mine haven’t. They haven’t complained about it, but when you ask for ACTORS, they expect to ACT, don’t they?
    PPS I did use your “acting lesson” idea right away with my first actress who wasn’t acting sad enough (in the chair). Two students showed her how much better it could be done, and after that she improved her performance. I think this is another stroke of your genius. (unless learned from another master!)
    PPPS Oh, and today I realized I had use for your Spanish “eenie meenie miney moh” rhyme when selecting from several ideas volunteered for what the poor kindergartner had left at home because her older brother had hidden it on share day (oh what a calamity–of course she was sad). I pretended to be doing it (because I couldn’t remember it) as I selected the Justin Bieber figure from the list and promised to teach it to them next time. I hope it works as well for me as an echo quiet signal as it does for you!–If you haven’t already, you might want to share that one, too. Thanks, again.

  4. It’s great to hear that people try new stuff! Yay!
    Yes, Kim, kids do leave the chair to do acting–but they always come back. Circling, review, and summarizing all happen better when actors are seated–less fidgeting, more focus.
    The parallel stories have less physical acting and tend to be more “interview” like in my classroom. However, the interview includes anyone/all in the classroom. The kids know that we are re-iterating “structures” that appeared in the reading or that we are riffing on “profesora-chosen” structures from the previous oral story. Students feel good about doing them again in a new context, but feeling more confident as the structures are not completely new.
    Thank you for your emails, Kim. You are brave and wise to just DO IT. Changing up at this time of the year can seem intimidating, but you did it anyway. Brava!

  5. Oh my goodness! This is awesome. Students always fight to sit in my stool and it is a crappy, nothing-out-of-the-ordinary stool. I am going to start using this!!

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