structuring your days

Because most of us teach in the context of schools, it is important to have structure. When we teach in a way that at times seems to resist or go against the traditional expectations of a school culture, it is even more important to contain the open-ended stuff we do, within a safe and predictable structure, so that we and students and administrators know what is happening, and where we are going with whatever we are doing to provide students with rich input and opportunities for communication in the target language. I want to suggest a few DAILY ROUTINES that will help things feel less open-ended, while still allowing for creativity and flexibility that a CI-based approach allows. Also, there is little to no prep required once the routines are established.
Having this kind of structure will also head off most of the classroom management challenges that CI language teachers often face.
(For information on setting up a WEEKLY SCHEDULE see this page)

1. Classroom rules and expectations. No more than 5 expectations, on a large poster in the room. You can decide whether or how much credit to give students for following these expectations (depending on school culture and expectations)

This may include a place for students to put their phones on the way in. I award points for each day a student leaves their phone with me (initial on a roster for easy tallying)

2. Weekly Packet: This generic template (or one like it) gives students something to do at the beginning and end of every class. For each day, there is a space for the date and weather, a warm-up written assignment, and then a lined space for notes or the Write and Discuss at the end of class. There is a daily expectation of silent pencil to paper, and a weekly expectation that they turn in the packet showing that they have kept track of the week’s materials, whether they were present or absent.

3. Warmup: written prompt, silent “bellringer activity” and/or FVR/SSR 2 or more times per week. The expectation on these days is that students enter class silently, get a book, and read for an allotted time. They can either keep a log, or write in their weekly packet (see above), at the end of reading time.

4. Greeting, roll, date, weather, and/or calendar talk.
Call and response greeting tells students that we are beginning the active part of class.

(see this page for a description of my Monday Routine)

5. Song of the week. I like using one song for the entire week. Each day for a few minutes, we practice singing the song, and may talk about particular lines, phrases, etc. On Friday, we “perform” the song (either with a karaoke track, or students playing instruments, a dance or gesture routine, etc.)

6. Activity time. This is the heart of the class, whether you are creating a story, or doing activities around a narrative or thematic unit, movie talk, textbook chapter, etc. This may overlap with the opening discussion or song, as long as you are providing understandable and interesting messages in the target language.

7. brain break. This could be as simple as “turn and talk to your neighbor for 2 minutes about X”, or it could be a more physical game (rock paper scissors, etc), to break things up.

8. Finish with Write and Discuss, and/or a quick quiz or end of class reflection. this happens in the Weekly Packet, and you have set the expectation that students finish with quiet focused work.

Choose one day per week for quizzes or tests, and stick to that day. I usually do Wednesday or Friday, because it is not a SSR day, and because if I give them on a Monday, it interrupts the weekend chat, and more than a few students are taken by surprise, no matter how many reminders I give.

It is helpful to see the various activities as optional, and not a “to do” list for a period or unit. This is because if you have positive energy and momentum, you should go with it, rather than switching to a new activity simply because you planned it.  But always have a backup plan for when the energy fades, or if students show a loss of focus. Also, these transitions are good opportunities for a brain break.