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!).
I thought, great idea, but what if my students don’t ever live in Madrid? Or abroad at all? 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 (a good problem, I know) – 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, that’s a problem? Why? 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.
Did you catch that?
I can’t motivate kids. And neither can you.
My job is to find out how students naturally motivate 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 plan to pass the survey answers along to our Spanish 1 & 2 teacher to help in planning next year, if she wants (and knowing her she will), and to our elementary/middle school teacher (so she 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, and let you know about it.