3. Survey your students.
We all know the power of honest feedback. Have you ever invited your students to give you constructive feedback? I’ve surveyed students a couple of times in the last several years. In a most basic but helpful survey, how about asking your students something like the following questions:
- Why are you studying this language?
- Do you know any people who speak this language?
- What are you looking forward to?
- What are your hobbies?
- What kind of music do you like?
- What are your dreams in life?
- Are you worried about anything in this class?
- What have you heard about this class?
- What did you love about your favorite teacher ever?
- What bothered you about your least favorite teacher ever?
Do you get how the answers to questions like this could inform your teaching? Sure, you’ll get the occasional unnecessarily critical or rude comment, but whenever I’ve done this I’ve been surprised at how few those were.
Of course, if you really want to get research-ish with it, do a deeper survey. Two years ago we surveyed our eighth graders who were finishing their middle school Spanish classes and would enter Spanish 1 the following fall. We wanted to know 1) whether students were looking forward to the class, 2) what they thought they could do with their Spanish after their learning so far, and 3) whether the two were related. I tallied the data and made pie charts of the results to give me a good look at what students thought they could do. The results were very interesting and gave us some good information to pass along to the Spanish 1 teacher.
What questions will you ask your students this year? They are the most meaningful voice in helping you design the right classroom environment for your situation.