Language Teacher Brings Conversation and Life into the Classroom

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Language Teacher Brings Conversation and Life into the Classroom

by Rachel McComiskey

by Rachel McComiskey

by Rachel McComiskey

by Rachel McComiskey


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by Rachel McComiskey

When the bell rings, the classroom chatter stops and the students turn to the front. The teacher, John Ruiz, greets the class and starts a brief lesson. After Ruiz has finished his lesson, students spend the rest of class in conversation; a new thing to a lot of students in his class. This is Ruiz’s first year working at Hudson High, and he’s putting an emphasis on conversation through Skype and in the classroom.

Ruiz likes to connect students’ interests with technology to engage students. In almost every class, he gives a brief lesson. Then, Ruiz has students create a conversation based off the prompt he gives them; which is always connected to something being done in the classroom. The prompts vary from open-ended questions for students to talk about, to describing a photo, and occasionally “debating” opinions. Ruiz gives students phrases and words that he would like them to use in their conversations as well. The students record their conversations on audio recorders in the classroom and then hand them back to Ruiz; then he listens to them and is able to give more accurate feedback to students.

Ninth grader Morgan Collins says she’s learning a lot more with Ruiz. In previous Spanish classes, Collins had a hard time having a conversation on the spot and conjugating verbs; two things Ruiz has been doing in his class.

“It’s because of his teaching style [that I’m learning more],” Collins says. “It just works better for me. He understands us. Teaching in a fun way works better with us, and he knows that. [Before this year] I only did recordings on the day of an assessment. I wasn’t that good at speaking. Now, I’ve improved a lot. I can speak faster and make sentences easier.”  

Ninth grader Alex McDonald thinks the things Ruiz is adding to the classroom are really helpful, especially an increase in conversational assignments each class.

“[We’re having] 2-3 recorded conversations every class,” she says. “I’ve only been [in class] for three weeks, and I feel I’ve improved a lot [because of the increase in conversations].”

Another new thing Ruiz has brought with him to Hudson is the Skype call program. He got the idea during a celebration at a previous school.

“We had different activities, and one of the activities I decided to do was Skype calls. It was a one time thing, [but] the kids reacted so positively and they learned a lot,” Ruiz shares. “[The Skype call gave me] a reason to explain to students why they were learning Spanish. The more the students learned in the classroom, the more they wanted to talk to foreigners through Skype.”

During the Skype calls, students spend half of the time speaking Spanish and the other half in English. During the first Skype call, Ruiz had noted that most students in both his class and the class in Colombia generally asked the same questions.

“I learned a lot [about] sentence structure, cultural differences, and the language barrier,” McDonald says about the call. “It wasn’t my favorite experience, but after I got over my nerves it was a lot of fun.”

McDonald is very excited to see what the rest of the year with Ruiz will be like. She has a strong feeling he is going to make the class a lot of fun, and she’s going to improve. Ruiz is confident he has a lot to offer to the school.

“I’m very relaxed and very happy here. [My students] have been responding positively to what I’m doing, which is very rewarding to me.”

Check out a video from a Skype call with Ruiz’s class.

 

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  1. Joshua Otlin on November 1st, 2016 12:42 am

    Well done, Rachel. Thanks for profiling the good work going on in Mr. Ruiz’s class in this well-written piece!

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