The title says it all. The greatest tool I have in my “management box” is my VOICE.
Google’s definition of inflection is: “the modulation of intonation or pitch in the voice.” Some of my favorite comments from the students in my learning lab class at iFLT when asked about why they enjoyed learning with CI were, “your voice is happy”, “it is your voice, it just sounds like happy and excited, and that makes us excited”.
I have a background in theatre. I have been on stage my whole life and was the drama director at my last Middle School. I think that this has given me a huge advantage when learning to use inflection, however ANYONE can use it, and everyone should! You don’t need to have spent a DAY in the theatre to figure out how to use your voice. It is all about showing your kids how excited YOU are to be talking about THEM and the input (whatever it is) that you are giving them. If they believe YOU are interested and excited it makes them eager to listen to whatever it is that could possibly make you so elated!
For example: today, in one of my classes I was doing PQA to review and recycle quiere- s/he wants, vive- s/he lives, and tiene- s/he has. I had images of dragons, dinosaurs, and unicorns on the board. All of the various kiddos were telling me what fantastical creature they WANT. Nobody was talking about what they HAVE. Since these kids are new to me and new to the classroom, they don’t know that ANYTHING is possible in Spanish class. I still have to train them on that. So during the next brain break, when I thought that nobody was looking and too engaged in evolution, I whispered in one student’s ear and told her just to answer sí to the next question I asked her, whatever that may be. After the brain break, I went on circling stuff we had previously talked about and had them all laughing hard about one of the boys who wanted a purple dragon whose name would be (yes, we used the conditional tense) Fluffball, then I went silent. I went silent and paused. (This makes EVERY child go SUPER silent…. they are all just waiting for what I could possibly say next) I turned dramatically to this young lady and in a VERY serious tone, I said “clase, Maya TIENE un unicornio” (Maya HAS a unicorn). Everyone laughed. She, taking my somber, serious tone, as a clue, with a face that didn’t even hint at a smile, nodded and said, “¡Sí!”. Half of the class stopped laughing and looked totally boggled and the rest of the class looked between me and Maya with a cheeky, “I see what you did there” grin. AS SOON AS SHE SAID Sí, I SQUEALED with approval in a high pitched, loud, and ecstatic voice and said “¡Sí clase! Es un unicornio muy muy MUYYYYYY precioso”Classic. Then we spun into a discussion about how her unicorn is a tiny baby unicorn that lives in her bathroom cupboard. It is white and it is scared of her mom because her mom doesn’t want unicorns in the house. When we spoke about her mom not wanting unicorns in the house, my voice changed to show how SAD I thought that was. Again, a slowed down. Like magic, every student in the room (except for a few who were still looking at me like I was crazy) looked sad to hear it and they all turned towards Maya as if to empathize with her about her Momma not allowing her to have her baby unicorn. Regardless of whether the kids are empathising or looking at me as if I had lost all sense of reality, THEY.ARE.ENGAGED. That is why this methodology works for ALL kids, in ALL schools and from ALL walks of life.
The other thing that I love about inflection is its ability to SLOW ME DOWN. When I use my sad and serious voices, my speech slows down a lot. Kids are hanging on to my every word and rather than using my laser to point to have kids follow the words on the walls, I take the time to walk across the room and POINT to every……single……one. It is incredibly effective. As soon as I jump into a loud excited voice I jump up and down enthusiastically, and speed up! However, I find that it is still not so fast that the students can’t understand everything that I am saying. The change in speed, pitch, and emotion keeps EVERYONE on their toes. Once you figure out inflection, the next step is manipulating your facial expressions to match! THAT is really fun!
When you know how to correctly use your voice, you don’t need systems and tricks to keep kids engaged. Using inflection, along with LOTS of brain breaks will keep every mind engaged and begging for more input. YAY YAY YAY!
P.S. (I learned much of my inflection techniques from the great Mark Mallaney, he is a master!)
Until next time,
La Maestra Loca
This is one of those moments where I just get REALLY excited… it is just before speeding up and going high pitched!