Wow, it feels like the school year just started and now September is already over! I can’t believe it’s October, and even worse, we already have a ton of snow in Calgary! It is supposed to melt this week, so it probably won’t stick around, but it sure feels like winter is here in full force right now.
In all of my classes this year, I made the last minute decision to start with special person interviews like Bryce Hedstrom. Since I only see most students for three to four hours of Spanish class in an eight-day cycle, we have only interviewed about 10 students in each class so far. I have also been working it around our planned storytelling units, so it is slowing us down a lot, but I think it has been very worthwhile. This chart was really helpful to me in figuring out the process. In it, Bryce describes how he does his interviews, and he actually breaks it all down step by step. I also enjoyed reading his article on how to “Make Any Student the Most Interesting Person in the Room” as it had lots of great tips for making my interviews even better.
Why Start the Year with Interviews
After one month of these interviews, students are now starting to understand basic structures that they didn’t necessarily before, even at the higher grade levels. Our grade 8 students have had Spanish classes for the past 4 years, and until now, many still didn’t now how to say someone’s name, age, or where they live in Spanish. I have found that they are getting better and better at this every day, and their writing especially is improving.
My favourite part about doing these interviews is that I teach so many students (270 total), and it really helps me get to know a little bit about each student as an individual. It has also really helped to build more community in my classes. And I didn’t realize that I a lot of the students that I have taught in previous years are siblings of the students I teach now!
Since my students are in middle school, I found I needed to adjust the questions a bit from those that Bryce provides here, as they are more appropriate for older students. I took out the questions about driving and cars and added a couple of questions about siblings and animals. I also changed “Where are you from?” to “Where is your family from?” to better suit our students. About 85-90% of our students are immigrant families, and most students originally answered the question that they were from Canada because they were born here. It was pretty boring until I started asking where their parents and families are from. Now I have found out that some students’ parents are originally from India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Denmark, England, etc. and I had no idea before!
Here are my adapted questions for middle school students. I project them on the board as I interview each student, and I have provided it as a handout for them to keep in their binders as well. We haven’t gotten through all of these questions yet, but I am introducing them little by little as we interview new students. After we have interviewed students during one class, we take time the following class to write down the details. I have been using this PowerPoint file to project the notes on the screen as we review the details about each student. That way I ensure that everyone is seeing the correct spelling at least once!
Have you every tried Special Person Interviews in your language classes? Comment below if you have any questions or are thinking about trying it out.