19 January 2014

Setting Independent Language Goals with Students

I'm not really assigning homework this semester. My students are setting their own language goals and figuring out how to accomplish them. It's an idea I got from Jeorg Ellen Sauer at #ACTFL13, but I've had to tweak it a little bit for the high school level, scaffolding a bit more to guide students and tightening up submission procedure and requirements to meet district and parent expectations.

Kiddos started off pretty enthusiastic with great ideas, but they've struggled a bit with the finer points of goal setting. Choosing tasks appropriate for their level and that build to their larger goal is challenging, and deciding a timeline is pretty foreign to them (no pun intended).

Since they had a total of 5 goals with at least 3 tasks to scaffold accomplishing each, I recommended they aim to fit 5 tasks in each 6-week grading period. I may have to do more than recommend next time. I also suggested they incorporate the following steps for their tasks for each goal:

  • establish vocabulary
  • practice
  • demonstrate achievement
Looking at some of the tasks and goals they've come up with, though, I'd like to expand those suggestions and break them down by communication mode (starred steps are kind of either/or options):

  1. Select texts
  2. Establish necessary vocabulary
  3. Respond to interpretation (e.g. summary, discussion)
  1. Listen to examples of similar conversations*
  2. Script your lines
  3. Practice alone or with friends*
  4. Practice in an authentic setting
  1. Establish necessary vocabulary
  2. Create a draft
  3. Create a problem area "cheat sheet"*
  4. Revise according to suggestions*

For myself, the coordination of all of these different assignments is proving tricky. In the future, I'll need to set aside time for commenting and conferencing sooner. For the time being, I'm commenting profusely on individual Google Doc contracts, conferencing individually in class (as much as I can), then adding dates--once approved--to a class Google Calendar. For the Schoology gradebook, I'm going to add assignments by the week and finagle on an individual basis (yay individual assigning option!) for the handful who insisted on doing 2 things in one week, partially because I want them to see when an assignment is impending, and partially to not have to create 61 (and counting) individual assignments.

Some of the kids are slightly less enthused than they were at first, it's true, but once the dust has settled, contracts are established, and the learning is under way, I think these personalized plans will prove both more popular and more productive than any other homework assignment I've ever given.


  1. This sounds awesome! I can't wait to hear how it goes. I always love having time to conference with each student, but then I seem to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the year.

    1. The conferencing is tough, but the Google Doc commenting is not too bad in a pinch! And it's any time anywhere!

  2. Have you ever checked out Ephiphany? It is a newer company, and locally-based, so some of our personalized learning academies are using it and helping the company tweak. I think it would fit nicely with conferencing, goal-setting and badging. www.epiphanylearning.com/