21 May 2014

Passion from the Start

What if Spanish class started with students' passions? What if we began with what each of them was individually interested in and build on that to come together for more collaborative projects?

This pats year, I'd been saving the big Genius Hour/Passion Project finale for the last 6 weeks, figuring students would have the practice from the other class projects and gradual build-up to inform their reflection and presentations. But the more I look at their blog posts from this semester, the more I wish we'd started sooner. I also get the feeling that the scaffolding of the GH/PP activities would have helped structure the class projects and lay more solid communicative foundations and vocabulary banks for the young ones to draw from along the way.

At this point, I honestly can't see much reason not to start with the passion projects from day one and make individual projects the first unit. I can, however, see a multitude of advantages...

Personal touch
While I know every student I'll have next year by name already (I don't know how I survived in schools over 250!), I don't know all that much about many of them individually, so I could get to know some of their interests early on, and perhaps work those into class projects like the Colombia supply drive, travel plans, or inventions.

Focus on vocabulary
We could focus on the top 10 verbs and how to choose additional personal vocabulary to reinforce simple expression from the beginning.

I would have students create soundboards (perhaps with the set of iPads I'm getting to play with next year!) early on, using Google Translate to make sure their pronunciation was right for their first self-selected 10-15 words in order to develop understandable pronunciation instead of bad habits (hearing joo-gar over and over in presentations yesterday left my sore from kicking myself for not practicing more and sooner).

And maybe we could have a class soundboard or VoiceThread each week for words that they find that everyone could use, starting with the top 10.When they find a word, they'd have to come up with an image or an action to photograph and add to the class VoiceThread, record themselves pronouncing it, and then the whole class would have to imitate them in recorded comments!

Focus on proficiency skills
I have also been thinking of reserving Fridays for portfolio evidence gathering and reflection instead of Genius Hour at least early on, so students would get in the habit of connecting their activities to specific skills. Plus Genius Hour hits just about every mode at least once by the end, so it could help them get used to what is involved in each mode and scaffold how to manage each, not only locating sources to interpret through reading and  listening, but practicing breaking down at least one of each and establishing protocols early on for interpretation as well as reflective writing and discussion.

Flexible time frame
When students e-mail or tweet or even call their experts, they would actually have time to hear back from them--or try more if they don't get tweets or emails back after, say, six weeks. They'd be able to figure out a lot sooner if their topic was going to be worth it for the long haul (or at least the semester) before it was too late to start over with a new one.


  1. Which levels will you be teaching next year? Also, do you have an explanation about how you start off the project posted somewhere?

  2. I have Spanish I first semester and Spanish II second semester. My Spanish II's are initiated in the process and could conceivably want to continue previous projects, so that will take some adjustment, but for starting Spanish I, I plan to do something very similar to this semester, where I helped them pick topics http://sraspanglish.blogspot.com/2013/12/genius-hour-driving-questions-for-world.html then started establishing vocabulary http://sraspanglish.blogspot.com/2014/01/genius-hour-agenda-part-1-setup-and.html