What is Persona Especial?
I have been hearing about personal especial or 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. Basically, personal especial is having a star student of the day and interviewing them in Spanish.
How I Started with Special Person Interviews (not well)
Last year I tested the waters and did special person interviews 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 if 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 too 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.
How Persona Especial Became a Priority
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.
Then when I returned from maternity leave in November I basically started the year over. 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.
Using this Super 7 unit, we dove right into “persona especial” interviews as our main curriculum for week one. This time I was focused and went through specific questions using Kara Jacobs’s 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 used the slide show to review the previous day, and then start the questions over with a new person. We added a couple of new questions every day. See this blog post to learn more about the specifics of the persona especial unit > Super 7 Unit to Start Spanish 1
Persona Especial process
- Students immediately ask as they enter class if they can be the special person. A rock, paper, scissors off may be necessary to come up with who gets to be interviewed first.
- Then, the special person gets to sit on the special stool upfront.
- Next, 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 on 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.
My Special Person Takeaways
First, 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 too 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. 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!”
Finally, Using this Super 7 unit, made doing special person interviews infinitely better & I highly recommend it!
|Friday Feedback from a Freshman after week 1|
Also, I love that students worked 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 to persona especial? How does it work in your class?
For more updated posts on how I use persona especial check out these blog posts
- High-Frequency Verb Unit to Start Spanish 1
- Introducing past tense in Spanish class
- Present Tense in Spanish Class
- Preterite & Imperfect Spanish Class
- Teaching Future Tense in Spanish class
Persona especial was originally posted by Allison Wienhold on 11.17.16 & most recently updated 4.9.22