26 March 2012

Another change: Survey says...

The "I CAN" goals in elementary are going well, so it's time to keep up the lessons learned from Central States and change something else.

One session I went to (a best-of-some-state) was about designing an entire year's curriculum around a theme. This teacher planned her whole year around the idea that her class was moving to Madrid. All the grammar and chapters and assessments, everything had to do with that. They were getting on an airplane, finding a roommate, finding an apartment, touring El Prado, etc. I enjoyed hearing about the activities they did (though wow-what a lot of work!). But I thought, what if my students don't ever live in Madrid? I've only taught 2 students in 8 years who have ever ended up living abroad, to my knowledge. What if I could tailor assessments and activities around what they actually wanted to do with Spanish? How can I find out?

Switching gears, part of my problem - which I'm sure is greatly magnified in other schools - is that we have a 15-year Spanish program. Students are required to start Spanish (15 mins/wk) in Pre-K 3-year-olds. The time of instruction increases gradually until in 9th and 10th grade high-schoolers are required to take Spanish 1 and 2 at 50 minutes/day. Then we offer Spanish 3 and our fourth year is AP Spanish. We have an eye out for a future goal of testing 8th graders into a Spanish 2 section in 9th grade which would enable us to have Spanish 4 and AP Spanish.

Wait, why would that be a problem? Well, you know the drill. Kids have different teachers and so they end up learning different things (or nothing at all) or the same thing 3 years in a row. Kids can't stand one teacher and so they choose to hate the required classes and skip out on the electives. This year I'm on a journey - I'm reading Drive and plan to read Punished by Rewards this summer - and I'm finally starting to give up on the thought that I can motivate kids. I can't. My job is to find out how they're naturally motivating themselves, and give them opportunities to channel that motivation and flourish. I'm convinced the only kids I've been reaching are the kids who are already motivated in the ways I've been teaching and assessing. Now I really couldn't care less if they "passed Spanish" but left my class with no lasting motivation to change something - anything.

So this week I'm doing a survey. I wish I could survey my first graders and see what they want out of their next 7 years in Spanish to pass on to my 2-8 teacher but I don't think they'd understand what I was asking. But I plan to survey 8th grade, 10th grade, and 11th grade. I want to know - Are you looking forward to next year in Spanish? Planning to take it at all? Why or why not? What would you like to do with Spanish? What's worked well for you? What's been hard? Easy? Frustrating? I'll pass answers along to my Spanish 1 & 2 teacher to help in planning next year, if she wants (and knowing her she will), and to my elementary/middle school teacher (so he can get some feedback).
I plan on doing the survey anonymously (and weeding out the nasty/stupid answers). Hopefully we'll find out something helpful!

19 March 2012

Design your own final exam

This year as I contemplated my final exam for Spanish 3, I didn't want to do what they did last year, because I like the PhotoPeach reflection much better as a relaxing ending to AP Spanish. Since my most popular blog post ever is about student choice in homework, I thought, why not the final exam too?

My students are all interested in different things, and motivation is the primary key to language learning, so why not let them choose their own topic? They are all involved in different things, baseball and spring drama and final projects, so why not let them choose their own due date? Imposing technology on students doesn't usually work, so why not let them choose their own format? And that's sort of how the whole thing went.

Here's the info and plan they made for themselves. I hope it works as well as the homework options do!

12 March 2012

What I'm changing this week

I just got back from the Central States conference, and although I only attended five sessions, as usual my mind is spinning with all the things I need to change (which would be why I only attended five sessions!). I concentrated somewhat on elementary-related issues, since that is where I struggle the most, as a teacher completely trained to teach high school. The list of things I think I need to adjust/redesign in my elementary classes is up to twelve [gulp]. But if I don't start small, changing one small thing at a time, I'll never make those changes, or I'll totally overwhelm myself and my kids. So, squelching the little Energizer bunny in me that always wants to throw everything out the window to try everything new, I'm changing one thing this week: written goals.

After a training or conference I went to last year, I don't remember which exactly, I decided to start displaying the class goal on the board at the beginning of my high school classes. That lasted about 2 weeks and has been resurrected from time to time. I never even thought about trying it with my little people. They're just now starting to read, so what's the point, right? But it does seem like it's a mistake to never tell my students where they're supposed to be going, and a stated goal will give us all direction. This week, my goal for first grade is this:

Baby steps.

photo credit: Geomangio via photopin cc

10 March 2012

Repost for CSC12: Increasing target language

I just finished presenting my Best of Kentucky session, Target [Language]: Say Less, Expect More at the Central States Conference. Thanks so much to the few who stuck it out to attend the last session of the last day! Here's a repost of my presentation for them and anyone who wants it: