Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Tuesday's Torch Story

Change your thoughts and you change your world.
~Norman Vincent Peale

I'm preparing for the summer session of my ESL class and, as I mentioned last week, I'm planning to change things up. No more vocabulary flash cards or grammar lessons - the emphasis will be on conversation - just sitting around and talking - in English.

During the year, Spanish has been allowed in the classroom - sometimes I've explained things in Spanish and I've allowed my students to ask questions in Spanish. Now I think it's time to move forward and make my students (at least) try to communicate exclusively in English.

But I know that being in the same environment will trigger the same behaviors - feeling comfortable speaking in Spanish. I'd like to try to make the new rule obvious and provide a constant visual reminder that things have changed.

So, this weekend, instead of sewing (sigh...) I worked on a different kind of project. I made five large, sturdy street signs, to stand in strategic locations around the classroom.

I'm pretty pleased with both how they turned out and how inexpensive they were. For the base I bought dust pans from the dollar store. Single pieces of yellow and black cardstock, from the scrapbooking section at Michaels made the signs, reinforced with foam core cut from a science fair display board purchased at Walmarts. The most expensive bit was the pre-cut, sticky lettering - I probably could have done something with the computer, but this was quicker and easier...

The only unexpected issue was that the weight of the sign tended to topple the base, so I got some large decorative glass pebbles to serve as counterweights.

Of course, I know that I'll still have to remind my students. But I'm hoping that having these signs arranged around the room - and one strategically placed by the door as they enter the room - will signal that it's not the same old room with the same old rules. Things have changed!