When I go to conferences, I’m the type of person that loves to be able to plan out ahead of time what I sessions I want to go to, and the Central States Conference in Columbus, Ohio was no exception. I am so thankful that Fluency Matters had a listing of CI-friendly sessions! It made choosing which sessions to go to much easier! There were a TON of great sessions to choose from this year!
Two of the sessions I attended were great for promoting wellness for both teachers and students. Lynn Heil and Amy Rankin had a fabulous presentation on working less to achieve more. As you read this, I’m sure that you are already thinking about what happened in class yesterday and what you need to do today, who you need to contact, etc. We are so busy all the time, and if you’re anything like me, you might feel like you have to do all the things all the time. It’s stressful!
Lynn and Amy talked about delegating class jobs and making students take more ownership about what happens in the class while also building class community. They referenced class jobs along with other strategies that teachers can use to lessen the workload. I already use class jobs in my room, and it is a lifesaver! I took away a new job that I want to incorporate the next time I’m away at a conference: Class Host/Hostess. This position is GENIUS. A student can either volunteer or be assigned a class job, and this specific job ensures that the sub knows exactly what you would expect in your classroom. They let the sub know all of the routines and make them feel welcomed as special guests! How cool is that?!
Another job that I want to utilize is a Chapter Expert. This student is one who got at least a 90% on the unit/chapter assessment and is invited to be a peer tutor. This person is connected with any student who would like to retake any assessment and they help to ensure comprehension and allow for additional one-on-one help for students who need or request it. I’ve always said that students can sometimes learn far better than their peers, and I want the students who are doing well to have the opportunity to help their peers.
A session that totally zenned me out was Justin Slocum Bailey’s presentation on mindfulness. Mindfulness is defined as the focus on the here and now and not allowing outside factors distract. One word comes to mind when I think of Justin’s session: BREATHE. That’s what we did while we focused on some far away place and used our imagination. We have so many things on our minds, and our students are also dealing with outside factors that may keep them from focusing on the here and now while in our classes. However, by using the methods that Justin discussed we can help our students focus allowing them to just relax while thinking about what they are doing in the target language.
Justin had us close our eyes and focus on our breathing. I had been feeling a little anxious that morning, and this really helped calm me down. I couldn’t help but think of all of the things that my students go through at home or even just within a passing period between classes. I know that a simple exercise like this would be great at the beginning of my class. Justin reminded us that in order to be open to learning, students need to lessen their stress and anxiety in order to increase their working memory.
He also had a great take on story-asking. Instead of telling a story about some unknown character, he makes the students the character in a second-person, choose-your-own-adventure type story. The idea is to have students close their eyes and imagined where they could be. You can pick a setting or have students choose between two options. What do they see? You can make this work for any type of vocabulary set you are focusing on. Justin gave us the example of having students describe the imaginary people that they have in their scene, but he also suggested asking what types of activities were they doing. My plan is to try this with the next unit with my Spanish 1 students in our next unit!
I really liked these two sessions because they really focused on how I can create an environment with less stress that involves all of my students. Sometimes, I go to sessions that are great, but they make me feel like I want to make drastic changes to my curriculum Monday morning because they are just that cool! Sessions about teacher wellness, student jobs and mindfulness remind me and other teachers that even the smallest changes can make the biggest impacts on both mind and soul.
by Melisa Lopez
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