Inspired by a summary of an old #langchat, and then having that inspiration reinforced by these reflective teachers sharing their journey, here is a post more for me than for you. What will – or might – or let’s be realistic, should – I do differently next year? And if I take a minute now to lay out a plan of what to do to accomplish these goals, will I be more likely to do them?
1. Unify and (or?) motivate my units (again?).
Confession: moving to a once-a-week class with home educated students was a huge practical shift for me, and I had trouble adjusting. I had two 16-week semesters and told myself I was going to do one “unit” a semester but in reality it turned into a progression of Can-Do statements disconnected from any unifying elements, and we felt it…
Process: … until Kara Jacobs and Elena López inspired me to use Canela with my older kids, which in turn inspired me to use a Peppa Pig episode with my younger kids. It wasn’t perfect but was much more unified and gave me some much-needed framework in my curriculum design (without me imposing a textbook on myself, which doesn’t work for me either).
- Include more student motivation. We have a lot of choice incorporated already, but I’d like to find out more about my students’ passions and also connect them with people – the motivation that ended up sending me on a lifelong language journey. What will this look like?
- Send out a student survey in the summer to see what they liked and what they’d like to see changed. Also ask about their interests, especially if I have new students coming in.
- Contact the schools I have already identified in our two Latin American Sister Cities to try to establish a relationship and intercultural exchange there.
- Browse the very good ideas bouncing around the internet on units and decide whether to select/adapt one of those. (Some of these unit ideas can easily last me an entire semester!)
- Decide if we will finish the Peppa Pig episode or turn to something else; El Chavo animado appeals to me because of the authentic culture aspect.
- Finish the Canela viewing guide. I will continue with the older kids with this, and it may be our entire year’s curriculum, and so this goal may end up being as easy as “With the older class, we will do one unit, and it will be called Canela.”
2. Post activities earlier.
Confession: My students often got their activity ideas (4-6 of them) posted on Edmodo on Tuesday night, “due” Friday morning.
Process: I am now on the other side of the Year of No Grades (post coming!) and we don’t have “assignments,” just activity ideas. I do track who does them, but students get no grades and frankly almost no feedback on them. There are two reasons they get done, one intrinsic and one extrinsic: 1) “If I do them, I will improve faster, and if I don’t, I won’t,” and 2) “My mom says I need to do them.” Snapshot: No one learner did them all, and no one learner didn’t do any of them. Anyway, I’ve got to figure out how to make myself get better at this. Often the reason they weren’t done was that there simply wasn’t enough time to do them between Tuesday night and Friday morning along with all their other school and family activities.
- Sketch activity ideas when I lay out my Can-Do statements on the syllabus / calendar.
- Schedule a time to set these out. Thursday night has always worked best for me, but our model now is more “flipped” in that the activities are less homework (review of introduced material) and more preview of the next week, so Saturday evening may be a better bet. When it’s not date night.
3. Use class time more wisely.
Confession: I really struggle to stay on task in class. My students get me off on rabbit trails easily. We have valuable discussions about culture and critical thinking and mutual respect and intercultural relationships, in English, but it’s especially damaging when I have such a limited amount of time to get enough comprehensible input to my students. I quite frankly do not even try to hold myself to a 90% target language goal (post coming on my personal policy statement!) but I haven’t figured out yet where my balance is between the life conversations that give me rapport with my students and give them the motivation to continue this journey past me (Jeffrey the Penguin stories simply do not, sorry) and the stories, songs, videos, and variety of activities that keep us interacting with comprehensible target language.
- We don’t have a stiff schedule. Talk to students a lot when they come in early, and as they help me break down my class setup at the end of the day.
- Plan more thoughtfully and better before Thursday night at 11:00 and I will feel more comfortable with where each class period is going.
- Now that my students are getting some proficiency, reinstate a TL-use encourager, like paying to speak English or having an English zone.
4. Figure out how (stuff) works in a blended model.
Confession: I ask students to do stuff they’re not ready for at home without me to help and don’t communicate well enough the message that
1) I just want them to try and explore, and
2) they don’t have to have everything “right.”
Also, I had every intention of implementing Sustained Silent Reading (SSR) this year and I SUCK AT THIS. After a few brief (kind of successful?) forays with SSR this year, we almost never got to it. Okay, like not in the spring semester at all.
- I don’t have time in class to do my classic vocabulary review consistently. I’m going to brainstorm how to get kids working with vocabulary outside of class. One idea: Give a set of words to look up on Google Images, post a favorite on Edmodo, and comment on someone else’s (in TL). Sketch one and come to show and identify/describe to a partner in something like Linguacafé?
- I have always wanted to have an awesome reading corner like Allison and Carrie. I love the idea of kids getting comfortable and doing SSR in a corner. But it took us 14 weeks to get through 18 minutes of Canela. When are we going to do SSR? And how can I get learners to reflect and report on their reading? And how could I possibly have a comfy reading setup when I have to set up and breakdown our learning space every single time we use it?
I’m going to brainstorm this. Will they do daily reading at home? Good news, on this side of the Year of No Grades my students and their families were begging for summer activities to do, and we’re going to virtually read together Brandon Brown vs. Yucatán this summer (attacking Tumba, Robo en la Noche, and Felipe Alou next year) via Edmodo, with the older class, so they’ll be prepped for more reading. (The younger class is getting a SSV (sustained silent viewing!) calendar for Pocoyó and Peppa Pig episodes.)
5. Improve feedback.
Confession: On this side of the Year of No Grades I confess to you that my students received almost no feedback. I confess also that I had a student’s fall semester final assessment in my bag for three months before getting it back to him. Scoring assessments is a HUGE mental block for me.
- Take advantage of Edmodo. Realize that the comments I make like “Great choice! Can you pick something you’ve never done before next time?” or “I’m so glad you asked a question here!” can count as valuable feedback bites.
- You people who have 100-200 students in a day, I throw flowers and coins at you. I had sixteen students doing one formal assessment per semester this year. I will preach this to myself. There is NO REASON ON EARTH I cannot get those assessments back the same DAY even.
6. Figure out a proficiency tracker.
Confession: I’m pretty good at communicating proficiency concepts and strategies to my student. They know all about the tacos and the poster and could probably tell you exactly what skills they are looking to develop to increase their proficiency. But giving them an opportunity to track their proficiency over time? HUGE FAIL.
Longtime goal + no plan for execution = always a goal, never a reality.
This year I tried my hand at interactive notebooks (another huge fail) and used a section in them for “I Can” statements on paper for students to glue in. But I had time to assess students in order to give them these papers exactly one time. And when I put them out so students could self-reflect and select the ones they thought they could do, none of them cared. No one bothered to pick up a single paper. So I don’t know if I’m doing this wrong or if my secret reservations about the value of any kind of badges, digital or paper or otherwise, have been justified here. On this side of the Year of No Grades I am even more firmly entrenched in Camp Alfie Kohn but I’m open to all perspectives and strategies that might cast a different light on things!
- The apps and tools and tricks overwhelm me but I can tell myself to find one thing and just try it. Just one thing. One way to give students a place to track their progress. This will involve browsing Laura’s eportfolios category and FreeTech4Teachers’s 10 Tools for Creating Digital Portfolios.
- I’ll be at ACTFL and the gurus of badging (looking at you, Noah and Laura) will be talking badges. I gotta go to that. And/or pajama party this with Laura as we share lodging at Camp Musicuentos Southeast AND ACTFL.
7. Use self-reflection as an exit ticket.
Confession: Even though I took a step toward getting better at student self-reflection by incorporating it into my new rubric, I didn’t even ask my students to take a minute to fill it out. I was handing back those rubrics at lunch, even through the windows of cars after class the last day (and one still sits in my teacher bag…). So when will this happen?
- This mostly involves binging Colleen’s blog.
- Inspired by Colleen, I’m thinking of self-reflection as an exit ticket. It’s all about time constraints, people.
What about you?
I post this here now because I don’t want to do this the week before school starts. You don’t either, so why not now? Share your list via your blog or comment here and let’s make some realistic goals and figure out how to accomplish them.