iFLT17: Grant Boulanger

iFLT, the International Forum on Language Teaching, was held in Denver this year. What sets iFLT apart from other conferences is that it hosts language labs of REAL kids in a week-long class with master teachers. I am so grateful for the opportunity to attend and learn from so many talented teachers.

After dropping into Grant Boulanger’s class for a bit, it is no wonder he is was named the 2016 Central States Teacher of the Year and 2017 ACTFL TOY Finalist.

(BLATANT ADVERTISEMENT: Grant will be the Keynote Speaker at CCFLT’s Fall Conference, October 7th in Colorado Springs! See our promo video here )

Here are my takeaways from his presentation:

Creating a Welcoming Community

Grant’s kindness and care blankets the room in a calming comfort, a comfort that says “It’s OK to be who you are.” This is no accident. It is very purposeful. Grant emphasizes this point throughout his lessons.

  • Before asking students about their parents, Grant starts with “¿Quién vive en tu casa?” (Who lives in your house?) What a simple, beautiful way to show students that there is no typical family structure. As he was storyasking, Grant whispered to a student to lie to him. Grant then asked the student “How many moms do you have?” and “How many Dads do you have?” The student told Grant that she has two moms and four dads. Grant earnestly told the class “La familia se define por el amor (Families are defined by love)” Through this invented story, Grant reinforced the norm in the class that all families are accepted.
  • Girls are funny! Grant consistently pulled up girls to act in his story, including a story where the character had a beard and the girl LOVED wearing the beard. In my classroom, it is easy for me to let the boy be the star, maybe because he is a little hyperactive or a little more outgoing. But I need to foster the comedic side in my girls too, because they are some of the FUNNIEST people in class.
  • Personalize, personalize, personalize. Grant only had his students for one week of classes. But it seemed like he had really gotten to know them. He did this through a lot of PQA, starting his first class off by discussing their vacations. He also did this by creating class characters. Creating characters is such a powerful community-builder. It is something the class made together, it is humorous (so the class bonds through laughter!) and it becomes part of the class culture.

Rejoinders:

  • Set-up: Have a wall of rejoinders that are detachable, perhaps with Velcro. (You can buy them from Grant here) When you want to highlight a certain rejoinder, take it down from wall and place it in a central location on the board. Once students have a grasp on that expression, move it to location 2 on the board (less centrally located.) When students are using it freely, place it back on the big board of rejoinders.
  • Teach each rejoinder expression with a gesture (ex. Imagínate or Olvídalo). Honestly, why didn’t I think of this??
  • Students practice hearing and saying it in rhythm: Snap or clap a slow beat and say it in rhythm, students repeat in rhythm. Gradually increase the pace. Then give a student the job of snapping the rhythm. Grant would tell the student to create the beat “muyy lento” very slow.. “más lento” slower.
  • Students earn the rejoinder if they use it in context correctly, or if it just fits with their personality. They become the figurative “keeper” of that rejoinder and can try to fit it in wherever appropriate in class.
  • Practice the rejoinder gestures as a movement break. Throw in the rejoinders with the rest of the words you have been working on.

Kind and Firm Classroom Management:

Grant’s classroom management is kind because because it is direct. He treats the students like adults. He explains what he expects and why he expects it. He clearly restated his expectations when they are not complying. He does not try to shame students or make them feel sad. He just tells it like it is. Here are some of the re-directs I heard.

  • A student who continually gives too many suggestions: Grant, with a smile, “You’re trying to hijack my story. That’s not gonna happen.”
  • After not getting a solid choral response, Grant says, “I didn’t get a strong response from you.”
  • Grant, in a loud whisper, with a twinkle in his eye “I can tell that some of you don’t get it by looking at your eyes.”
  • Student actor starts deciding details, like her mom is a dog, Grant takes back control of the story. “No, your mom is not a dog.”
  • Grant asks student A a question and they don’t understand. Student B whispers the translation. Grant says “You’re doing a great thing by helping your buddy, but I need to make sure he can ask for clarification.”

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(Me and my new BFF, Grant)

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