Guest Author: Dawn Samples, WL Coordinator
Two big brown eyes sparkled up at me as I kissed him goodbye. “Mama, Buttons and Cocoa will be here when I get home today!! I can’t wait!” I smiled (weakly) and gave him a big hug. “Yes! I am sure they will be...so be good today! Learn lots! I love you!”
As he left for school my stomach tied in knots. Buttons and Cocoa are our elves. They had yet to make an appearance at our house because they were GONE. POOF! Nowhere to be found. For days Levi had been so excited that they would come any day now. All his friends’ elves had been watching them for days if not weeks already. Despite turning the house upside down, cleaning out the closets and the attic, they were just not there. What was I going to do??
That morning I shared my dilemma with Liza. Buttons would be easy to replace, he is an Elf on the Shelf elf that we adopted several years back. Cocoa however was another story. Cocoa was special. My mom gave me Cocoa years ago as a Christmas decoration. He was the cutest thing... very mischievous, AND...one of a kind. EEK. I had to get creative...fast.
As I ran to Target that afternoon to try to find another “Buttons” that looked the part, I noticed some cute elf ornaments in the Christmas section and an idea began to form. You know, the kind of ideas you get for a lesson at the eleventh hour that turn into the BEST lessons ever? I just had that feeling. This was going to work! Levi would love it! Santa would write the kids a letter explaining why Cocoa was not going to be in the Samples’ household this year….
The most magical thing in the world happened….both of my children spoke nothing but French the FOR THE REST OF THE NIGHT! I’m not even kidding. Not a word of English. Even to their dad! It was awesome. It made my heart sing! I KNOW they know a lot of language, not only because they are in immersion but because I often speak in French to them. But this was different. THIS was communication filled with a desire to truly communicate feelings, to teach, show and express wants and needs. There was a different level of motivation that was fed by a deep desire to truly be understood. Right before Levi drifted off to sleep that night he said to me, “I want to ask them - Est-ce que tu es content? Is my grammar right mama? I want to be sure they understand me, is this the right way to say this?” WOW. I was blown away. He’s never expressed such a DESIRE to be so correctly understood before. Granted, the stakes are high for him with this!
The next day when sharing with Liza what an amazing (unexpected) outcome we had, we were reflecting on the importance of personal interest and context on real communication. It drove home the importance of these factors and how they motivate our learners to have a true desire to communicate from the heart.
I hope you all have a very restful, peaceful holiday break with friends and family. I wish you all a wonderful New Year and I look forward to 2017 with you all!
As always, I thank you for all you do!
World Language Teacher Support Specialist (and Language Enthusiast)