I am finally sitting down to write this important reflection of my Spanish level II classes this past year (even if it is in July and not June or any other month throughout the school year). Honestly, I am a very reflective teacher and my mind never stops reflecting as I develop lessons and what ensues daily in my classroom. Here are four things I did in Spanish II this year that made for a fantastic year.
As I just said, I was fortunate during the 2021-22 school year because for what was one of the most challenging years for many, this school year was truly a great year for me (and I think for most of my students too). With acquisition at the core of our daily practice, a focus on personal growth in each student’s proficiency, and 100% in-class learning (no Zooming or hybrid learning) – the year saw all students grow and develop in ways they had not in past years.
The Importance of Classroom Community Building
Noticeably, most of my 9th and 10th grade students were hungry to learn and be a part of a classroom community. The year prior was filled with remote and hybrid learning all school year and even when some students returned to in-person learning, half of their peers were still at home lurking secretly in the background like the Phantom of the Opera. The “all in” classroom approach of the 2021-22 school year made school feel “normal” and this excited me as a teacher and created an excellent classroom climate that pushed my students to want to perform their best too.
I started the year with community building as we polished their Spanish skills using so many of the same activities I have always done (TPR gesturing and Card Talk / Circling with Balls) but this year it was all so much more important because these students really did not know each other – having not seen one another since March of 2020 and of course since then, so much had changed in all of our lives. The emphasis on this community building and getting to know each student also plays an important role in developing the individualized class culture in each different section of my classes; these class cultures, idiosyncrasies, and how they feel during class are so often what our students will remember anyways.
Planning and Lesson Design in Level II
Creatively speaking, I was in my glory to return to the classroom and speak target language in a comprehensible way with my students. During the 2020-21 school year, I was just transitioning to using the CI based series Nuestra Historia series created by Voces Digital and I was so excited to delve into this new curriculum with stories and culture at the core. I must say that over the past few years, I have invested a lot of time working with the Voces Digital team on various aspects of the Nuestra Historia series and I was so happy to teach with it. However, I knew I could not let my enthusiasm in terms of speaking Spanish using this series overwhelm my students. I followed some of my own advice that I had talked about in a webinar that I gave during the pandemic and I very intentionally developed my lessons in 10 to 15 minute chunks. I continued to prepare all lessons like this throughout the year and, frankly, it was the right amount of focus time (on most days) for my 9th and 10th graders.
One other planning strategy that I used all year long was to ensure that one of those 10/15 minute chunks included an activity that required all student participation and interactivity. Please do not get me wrong, of course my students are always participating in class, but these activities required them to work together even if it was using technology with a Quizlet Live, Blooket, or Gimkit game. For many of these activities (except the former), I tried to limit using them only twice a semester. Here were some of my favorites this year that I implemented with students:
-A simple egg hunt: I used 3 sets of plastic eggs that were the same color and put cut-up versions of a story in each egg. Teams had to find the eggs and put the story in order (I did it outdoors and just threw the eggs around). The kids just loved running outside.
-Running dictation in the hallways – here is a great explanation with many options from Martina Bex’s Comprehensible Classroom. I keep it even simpler than the many ways she suggests (Although I always fall into the trap of making each section of my story a bit too long for students. Oh well that’s what being EXTRA gets you 🙂
I have to also share these two Blogs that always provide me with new Ideas:
-This amazing curated list of pre, during, and post reading activities are gold with explanations from Keith Toda’s Blog at Toda-lly Comprehensible Latin.
A Push for Reading
I also wanted my students to read something each day. Most days it was just on a slide and I read it with them by having them translate, having individual students translate, and/or asking questions. Since both the Our Story series and SenorWooly.com provide such a variety of rich readings, I had no problem implementing the idea of reading everyday with my Spanish II students. More importantly, I could see great results in all three modes of student communication (interpretive communication, interpersonal communication, and presentational communication) because we read so much this year.
I will follow up with a post on a new system of Mastery Learning in my classes.
On another note, like so many other teachers, I still struggled this year with the constant use of cellphones and I will continue to read more throughout the summer about how I want to restructure (or stick with) my expectations for the fall.
I hope you were able to see some bright spots this year too.