Persona Especial - Mis Clases Locas

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Teaching with Novels

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Meet Sra. Wienhold

Persona Especial

Persona Especial 
Where students ARE the curriculum in language class

I have been hearing about special person interviews for a while now. The original idea came from Bryce Hedstrom and has been adopted by many people who use personalized comprehensible input in their classes. Last year I tested the waters and did them sporadically, mostly in Spanish 1 and Exploratory Spanish. The issue was I never made them a priority at the start of class. Students would ask is they could be the "persona especial" at the start of class, but I would often say "if we have time at the end of class." Did it usually end up happening? No. I usually forgot and got to wrapped up in whatever else we were doing to focus on the most important part of my class, the students. Also, I did not have a great plan. I would ask basic questions, but did not keep track of what I asked and never made it to anything deeper. 

At the amazing inaugural Comprehensible Iowa Conference this summer, I was reminded by the great keynote speaker Grant Boulanger that the best personalized curriculum for novice students is using YOUR STUDENTS. I made the decision that when I returned to school, I would make special person interviews a priority. 

Last week I returned from maternity leave. Considering that my substitute got the textbooks out of storage instead of using the CI plans and materials I left, I knew it would be like the first day of school all over again with the return of comprehensible input. We dove right in to "persona especial" interviews as our main curriculum for week one. This time I was focused and went through specific questions using Kara Jacobs idea of a slide show too. I think this really helps the visual learners as well, and allows me to be able to use the words to point, pause and circle. Each day we can flip through the slide show to review the previous day, and then start over with a new person. We have been building and adding a couple new questions every day. 

Our Persona Especial process
  • Students immediately ask as they enter class if they can be the special person. A rock, paper, scissor off may be necessary to come up with who gets to be interviewed first.
  • The special person gets to sit on the special stool up front.  
  • I ask the special person questions, and help them answer in the "I form." I then ask the class the answer and they respond in the "he/she form."
  • I circle this question to get as many repetitions in as possible. This includes yes/no questions, either or questions and interrogatives. To see more information check out How to Circle - by Martina Bex.
  • I move on to the next question when I see the class is ready. 
  • During all of these I am circulating in the room, using big gestures and getting in those active minutes on my fitbit :)
  • We repeat the process as long as high interest continues, flipping to a new slide with each new question. 
  • We do a quick review, covering all new information 
  • If high interest is still there we repeat the process with another student. If needed everyone gets up for a brain break first. 
At the end of the first week we did a very basic quiz over the special people. I did it as an open writing quiz, because I also wanted to see what the students learned while I was gone. This was the first time I saw their writing performance for the year. Here is the quiz I used for week 1. 

My Takeaways
Some students blew me away with what they could produce. They remembered little details from the interviews and did a great job parroting back what was said. Other students said it was way to hard and were mad at me for making them actually write. (They were used to just fill in the correct blank in the workbook). It made me realize that some were not ready for the output stage. For the next quiz I am going to give them more input to work with. I have a list of students from class, and a list of statements for them to match. This will allow them to show their comprehension, without requiring the output. here is the second quiz. My favorite feedback from the week is below. It says "I really liked learning more about my classmates! Since Abbi is still newer, I liked learning more about her!" 

Friday Feedback from a Freshman after week 1

I love that students are working on building our positive Spanish community. Not only are the students learning about each other, but I am learning about them, while all staying in Spanish. It is so fun to find out who has a hedgehog, listens to gospel music, works 30 hours per week, or hunts and skins deer on the weekend. I look forward to continuing to learn about all of my special people. 

Do you do something similar? How does it work in your class?


  1. I too have been making PE a bigger priority this year! I used Kara Jacobs slide show, embellishing upon it a bit to give kids more prompts to choose from. As we do the interviews, I have the kids jot down a sentence for each details on a page dedicated to each student starting from the backside of their spiral. This way it becomes sort of a grafted writing assignment since the prompt in 3rd person form is on the slide for them to be able to write it accurately. I was originally going through the questions orally first without having them write anything so they would listen, and then going back through and having them right the recap statements afterwards, but that seemed to be taking up a lot of time. I also think that having them write it as we go along holds them a little more accountable and attentive to every Q&A. The kids then have a short bio for each classmate it the back of their spiral sort of becomes their text book for later discussions and story creation. They love reviewing details from PE playing "trashquetbol" (Bryce Hedstrom). =)

    1. Do you use a template for them to follow/have structure when writing the sentences/details OR do they write on a blank piece of paper, whatever details they are comprehending? I love this idea though!! I started this unit today and it's my first day using CI and I quickly realized they needed to be jotting down something, but a lot of my students need a lot of support and structure. For instance, I use to do a lot of guided notes with the traditional style of teaching Spanish.

  2. Hello! I love this idea! Before you bring the student to the front of the room, do they know the questions you'll ask ahead of time? Do you provide them with a list the questions beforehand? Do they answer off the top of their head or do they look at the paper where they answered? Thank you! I hope you have a great school year!


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