16 January 2017

Spinning Plates: 30 preguntas for planning

When I am planning my lessons for the week, there are several questions I try to ask myself--actually about 25. A part of me feels like I have to ask myself all of these questions every day to be connected, but that can't be right. There simply aren't hours in the day.

Maybe I keep too many plates spinning, and if I narrowed my focus, I wouldn't have so many questions to answer.

I just don't see any plates I'm willing to set down, though.

Still, I figure if I have all of the questions written out, I can at least consult them at some point during each week (preferably well before I have to, you know, actually do the lessons), and thereby make the whole overwhelming alphabet soup at least a little more ordered.

PBL Questions

Some questions I need to answer to keep projects moving forward. I firmly believe everything we do should somehow lead up to a real, concrete communicative situation some time before the end of the course. So here's what I consider to make that happen:
  1. What is the next step in the project?
  2. What do we need to discuss to move forward with the project?
  3. What can they read/listen to introduce the topic?
  4. What can they read/listen to expand on the topic?
  5. Where and how do they need to pause and reflect?

CI Questions

Students need a purpose, and they need confidence in their ability to accomplish that purpose with the language at their disposal. So I have to break down interpretation and discussion in such a way that I KNOW the majority of them can handle it with almost no trouble.
  1. How can I break down instructions in comprehensible language?
  2. What essential verbs can they use with this?
  3. What yes/no questions can I ask?
  4. What open-ended questions can I ask?
  5. Can they understand the text, or should I break it down PQA style?

Interaction Questions

I want them collaborating whenever possible, and engaged even when there's something they simply have to get from me. I could really add all of Part II of Teach Like a Pirate here, but I think these help whittle it down a little.
  1. What can they discuss in groups?
  2. What can they create in groups?
  3. What excuses for movement can be built in?
  4. Is there a tech tool that could make this easier/more interesting?
  5. How can I get a quick read to see if everyone's with me?

Notes Questions

Interactive notebooks help organize and focus my planning as well as providing something solid students can return to when they have questions.
  1. What previous notes can help with the task at hand?
  2. Is there any new information (vocabulary, texts, structures) they need in their notes to refer to later?
  3. Are there any patterns of errors I need to reinforce with notes?
  4. What should those notes look like?
  5. Can they do something active with the notes?

Differentiation Questions

Now, with my current Spanish II/III class, I have an extra layer of questions to work in--fortunately I have a planning period right before that class to tweak earlier lessons to accommodate.
  1. Is there something Spanish III/native speakers don't need to be doing?
  2. What could they do together or independently instead?
  3. How much time will they have to work without my help?
  4. What do they need to have in front of them to be able to work without me?
  5. Can they prepare something Spanish II would benefit from interpreting?

Culture Questions

There are some more questions I've been wrestling with since our most recent #LangChat on assessment. I haven't been doing a very thorough job even using authentic texts as windows this year or even sticking to any kind of cultural reflection. I still want to do more with the self/community/world lenses, but really I need to make sure I stop and ask these questions:
  1. What does this have to do with culture (product? practice? perspective?)?
  2. How can this prepare them to reflect on their own goals/identity?
  3. How can this connect them to the broader world?
  4. How can this help them observe and appreciate cultural differences?
  5. How can they express their observations and connections?

Phew. That's a lot of questions, and a lot of precariously spinning plates. I hope if I ask myself these questions often enough and explicitly enough that I eventually won't have to process them separately. 


  1. Thank you for writing all of this out so explicitly! I often feel like I have major ADD when I am trying to plan and this really helped me understand the competing priorities that I am trying to address to make sure my learners get THE BEST language class they can.