19 June 2013

Keepers: strategies to reuse and refine for next year's Spanish classes

I had a pretty good year this year. I had a lot of freedom to experiment and ample access to resources to support the experimenting. We recently started in on some collaborative planning for next year with LangCamp, and it's got me thinking about what has worked for me this year and how I want to make the most of what I learned this year next year.

Some routines I put in place I think have been beneficial not only to students' linguistic progress, but also to my sanity. Palabra del dia, for example,  has been a way of incorporating some high-frequency words like "juego" while subtly signaling that the class needs to focus, with reasonable, logical consequences if that focus is not achieved.

Weekly routines like SSRBlogs, and Opciones have been useful in getting kids to engage with the language and the culture regularly, even outside of the class. 
  • Students even requested more SSR days, so I'm thinking of going from Monday and Friday to Monday, Wednesday, Friday to start off. I think I may also expand the SSR log to include a topics section (to show they kind of got what they were looking at) and a space for a couple of new vocabulary words (to add to their stockpile).
  • Also, I hope to branch out with blogs a little more, expanding our audience, as I've discovered other teachers who have students blogging or are interested in starting (@SraCampbell & @Garnet_Hillman, I'm looking at you!), maybe offering "Bloggies!" like Sra. Campbell. I also need to push choosing a worthwhile theme early on, though, and show examples of successful ones, maybe even requiring at least one visual per post as well. 
  • For Opciones, I'm in the process of expanding selections to include more music and food as well as creating a template for submitting evidence, which will now also include the option of audio/video recording and possibly "prepared recipe for the whole class."

As far as procedures for presenting new information, I found PACEE notes, visual vocabulary notes, and Hands-on vocabulary the most beneficial.
  • The debate rages on about the benefits of explicit linguistic instruction versus acquisition through environmental osmosis, but I consider pointing out grammar patterns in context a useful scaffolding tool and a way of helping students not just acquire but create a reference source. I will have to find a way to keep larger classes following along, though.
  • Creating a Powerpoint with one vocabulary word with one corresponding clipart per slide is an easy way to frontload vocabulary useful to the unit, and a quick way to review regularly. In this way we also circumvent the dependence on English. I like to copy all of the slides, animate the written word so students can't see it at first for a review in order, then copy the animated slides and scramble them for a teensy bit more challenge.
  • Wherever possible, I like to have physical props to connect with new vocabulary (so far, primarily with ingredients when talking food). The tactile connections reinforce the visual, building stronger networks for accessing the vocabulary. Also, making partners touch slimy things blindfolded can be a good conversation starter!

In the realm of assessment, I definitely want to move forward with the E-portfolio site. I'm considering switching from Google Sites to Blogger for the purpose of monitoring growth more easily. I would miss the columns for quick cross-level comparison, but maybe after students have provided evidence for each "I can" statement in one level (e.g. Novice Low), they can simply link to the post where they finished completed that part of their collection. Until that time, they can copy what they previously had, links and all, into a new post, maybe color coding or bolding goals that have now been met. I think this might work within their already established blogs with proper tagging, too.

Of course in LangCamp, we're working out together what units we want to do in Spanish I and II, and I'm pretty tickled with the progress we've made. I do plan on reviving some projects from previous years, but I also want to maintain some of the choice I offered this year. Now that I am going to be getting a crop of kids that I pretty much know already, I feel confident choosing the first topic or two for them and maybe letting them choose the last one from a list of Driving Questions. I will still have 3 projects per semester, and though I haven't decided the order yet, I'd like to keep these options on the table:

Spanish I
  • Día del Niño: planning intensively with @yeager85 to incorporate "basics" of Spanish I
  • School recruitment: not sure if this will be replaced with school supply drive or not
  • Cooking shows: I will need to work on methods for selecting recipes,ensuring they're more authentic
Spanish II
  • App creation: a useful application for first aid, but very intense technology-wise
  • College abroad: this was a pretty good starter unit, but this may not even be one that holds any interest for next year's class, since most are not seniors like the ones that did it this year.
  • Experiencia Afrolatina: I'm thinking maybe "Does race matter?" would be a better DQ, but still working out what kind of audience and product we should aim for.
  • Make your own finalWhile I didn't teach Spanish III this year, I think what the seniors in Spanish II did for their final unit (though not final exam) would be cool for the seniors I'll have in III next year, maybe even all semester! This might even be feasible for the handful of seniors in Spanish II with them in their combined class.


  1. For your Spanish 1 school recruitment I have seen a cool idea. At my state conference Yo Azama presented a project for 1 where students made a video for exchange students to introduce them to the school, including appropriate clothes, supplies, etc. I did a more complex version with my level 3 and it worked out great. Students that had the best will be on the school website. (This was at the end of the year, so it hasn't gotten up there yet!)

    Also, electronic portfolios are something I am really working on this summer. My goal is to have something that will follow students through all levels of language. I am using our Google docs, but want to incorporate the "I can" statements you have as well. I also need to make sure there is a place for students to submit evidence and reflect on what they did/can do better. Are you using student reflection as part of their portfolios?


    1. The exchange students idea would be cool if that were a possibility at our school (our particular early college model does not allow for newbies at all, as far as I can tell). I think the appropriate clothes, supplies, etc. could be handy for freshman orientation, though! And it would be awesome PR to have it on the school website--bet we could make it happen!

      I, too, am trying to make the portfolios so they follow students, and Google Docs work for most things, but audio clips, not so much. There is some reflection to it in that students have to choose which "I can" statements apply to them (and which don't), and they have to back at least some of them up with evidence. There's a "this is a goal" option for the "I cans" they can't check off yet, but I think it's probably wise to add a little more personalized reflection in the future.