19 November 2014

Setting and Tracking Goals: 90% Target Language

One of my classes achieved OVER 90% in the target language during group work today! And all I did was watch!

Well, watch and poke their monsters.

With a Project-Based Learning approach, you have to build in times for small groups to collaborate, and there's not a whole lot of scaffolding you can do a lot of the time, since different groups might have to take the Driving Question in different directions. They also need to set their own goals and discuss their progress with each other, something I cannot direct for every group.

Goal Setting
I can, however, have the whole class set a goal for how much they think they should stick to the target language in their discussions for the day overall. Maybe they'll aim a little lower if we haven't had group discussion time in a while, maybe more if we have been on a TL streak and they've been working with the topic a while. They know that since this is the last 6 weeks of Spanish I, we should at least be approaching 90%.

This goal setting is not only a convenient way to make students mindful of how much they are sticking to the target language, but it really is a great way to have a purposeful conversation with larger numbers. I post the visual you see at the left on the SMARTboard, we reflect on how we did the previous day, and everyone votes for what today's goal should be by saying the number they prefer.

Then they get to work in their groups, and I get to work on ClassDojo.

I set up my classes on ClassDojo with only 2 behaviors:
  1. en español :) 
  2. en inglés >:(
The first day (or even for the trial run discussion on a predetermined topic) I make it a point to pull up their monsters on the SMARTboard and keep poking one after another to give them a thumbs up whenever I hear someone speaking Spanish. In a Spanish I class of under 25 it's pretty easy the first time because, well, there is a lot of dead air while students think. In fact, I had one group--which included a native speaker, I might add--that refused to speak out loud. They reasoned that they weren't speaking English, so their monsters weren't losing points--they just weren't gaining any.

After they get used to the idea of the monstruos, I keep my iPad handy while circulating or conferencing with groups, so I can quickly add español points or subtract inglés points from wherever I am. I have found leaving the monstruos up and leaving the sound on can, indeed, be useful motivation when they have a clear objective, like setting their group's deadlines for various parts of the project.

I'm especially proud today because both of my Spanish I classes beat their 70% goal, even when I was a little ruthless with kiddos who slipped just a little. This bodes well for the rest of this project!


  1. I'm a big fan of 90%+ of class in the target language! I've used class dojo, but I really appreciated your spin. Teacher evaluations are coming to focus more on small group work, but it's hard for me to set them free without scaffolding. 1) Can you tell me more about project-based learning? 2) What have you done to prepare your students to "discuss" with EACH OTHER in the target language? I've used coping cards and taken days to make skits out of the phrases and do choral repetition to practice, but it's yielded ineffective. What do you do to get them talking to each other in Spanish and just using more Spanish overall?
    Thank you.

  2. I've been working on a post about the structure of the small group work, but the tracking has been a really big part of it, and emphasizing relevant high-frequency verbs. I'd like to hear more about coping cards! Here are some other strategies I've tried: