The 50% Rule 2

I got this from a blog member:
I have a question about your rules, for the “Do your 50%” rule, how do you explain that to students when you explain your rules?  I”ve read some posts you wrote about that rule but I’m still shaky on understanding it completely.
My response:
I tell the kids that we are going to work together this year. So, they must do their half and I will  do my half. Since I am the only one who speaks the language, their half is listening and mine is speaking. They have the hard job, because listening with the intent to understand (that is rule #1) is far harder than speaking. But they have to do it. If they don’t they will fail the class. I tell them that that will change in French 2 and beyond. Then they will speak more. But not now. I tell them that the option is the book and big tests and notebooks and homework and not hearing the language in the classroom. I ask them how they learned their langauge – most of the kids in my school are fluent in Spanish. I remind them it was mommy and daddy and grandma and grandpa speaking to them over and over and they just learned it. They usually choose to hear it. I laser point to the 50% rule and tell them to show up for me this year. I enforce this with my eyes on theirs all the time in class, walking around from kid to kid, making notes about whether I need to contact admin or parents here in this critical two week phase many of us are now beginning. I make seating charts that will maximize the effectiveness of the rules and what I observe in the Circling with Balls/One Word Image work we are doing now. I kindly offer kids who want to memorize and take notes like they did in middle school a choice to get into another class. I reward the kids who show me that they are willing to listen with the intent to understand and do their half. I tell those kids stuff like “You are doing so well with what I am asking you to do right now that you don’t have to take the first quiz next Tuesday. Just put a +10 at the top of your scantron sheet. I can tell that, the way you listen, you would get a 10 on the quiz anyway. If you keep doing what you are doing right now, the way you are listening to me, I will make sure that you get an A in this class no matter what. Thanks!” And then I go back and scan the rest of them, punctuating the message I just delivered to the class via that one model kid. That’s what I do now at the beginning of the year. I have no desire to teach French for at least two weeks. Of course I do it, but it is incidental. What I am really doing is norming the class and personalizing it. If I set the rules and personalize first, I find that, in my experience, the rest of the year flows quite nicely. Now is the time to work my butt off in class. Later, I can relax and just enjoy talking with the kids about stuff in French. That happens after they understand how my class works, not before.
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4 thoughts on “The 50% Rule 2”

  1. Last year I stumbled on a way to explain the 50% rule. It fits in well with circling with balls too.
    I take whichever ball we are working with. I pick the student we are talking about. I toss the ball. I tell them that in order to play pass we both need to do our 50%. Once one of us stops – I hold the ball – I ask what happens. Someone will inevitably say “the game is over” and I pounce and say “Exactly” and in CI if you do not do your 50% the game, the learning, the …… is OVER. Of course I explain what their 50% is and make sure that that is clear but the concept of 50% is illustrated by the passing back and forth of the ball.
    for what it’s worth

    1. I have just read all the articles about the 50% rule. This is the first year that I am using these rules so I wanted to make sure that I could explain it well to the students. I love the idea of playing catch. Thank you Ben and Skip for helping me explain to my students.

    2. At NTPRS someone else used the ball analogy and took it a bit further:
      1. Have a student close his eyes and then toss the ball
      2. When the student tosses the ball, don’t react but let the ball fall to the ground
      3. Have the student turn around and talk to someone else for a moment and then toss the ball
      These are other ways in which the learning and interaction cease: not focusing on whoever has the conversational ball, not responding (with an appropriate answer or gesture of not understanding), carrying on that side conversation.

      1. A coworker of mine who teaches Spanish said this is what she’s been doing this week to help returning, inveterately talkative groups get it in their bodies that they are not attentive as a pattern of behavior, and how that causes problems:
        She uses several same-size koosh balls (rubbery with little fronds coming out all over, if you know these) and has the kids line up in two rows. She begins tossing one koosh to the first student, who needs silently to pass to the student in the next row, and so on. Meanwhile, the teacher adds another koosh so students are asked to stay highly engaged. After a few standard-sized koosh, she throws in an odd-shaped ball, a bigger koosh, etc. until there are 10 items in the line up. The idea is that they’ll go until they can get all 10 items tossed and caught without dropping them.
        It caused a reflective conversation about how distractions affected them (they dropped the ball) or zoning out made them mess up. It sounded like a very helpful activity — not a lecture on “pay attention,” but an experience of “whoa, I really had a hard time focusing”.

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