Thankful Reflection

Thankful_Reflection

November 21, 2017

So today is the last day of school for us for the week before Thanksgiving Break. I thought I would take some time to come up with my professional “What I’m Thankful For” List. And I know this seems to be a common theme with me, but as any good teacher knows, it’s all about reflection.

I am thankful for my ability to reflect on my best and (worst) practices. After the difficult year I faced last year, I am pleasantly surprised (and not to jinx myself or anything, but…) to see that things are fairly smooth this year so far. I feel like I have finally found my “groove”.

One of my previous posts on my Facebook page asked my readers what they would like me to write about. One reader asked for me to write about assessment strategies that won’t take forever to grade but give good feedback to the kids. So, dear reader, here is my best answer to your question.

Any good assessment has a rubric. I find that the more detailed my rubric is, the easier it is for my kids to understand what they need to do to get an A. (We all hope that they use this feedback not just for the A, but for the gaining of knowledge. We can only dream, right?) I try and give as precise feedback as I possibly can. Comments like “Make sure adjectives and nouns agree” or “Watch your subject/verb agreement” is way better than something vague, like “What else?”

Predictably, my 2s are more interested in the specifics of my feedback than my 1s are, but I’m hoping that as the year progresses, my 1s understand how important this specific feedback truly is. (We’re about to start their first foray into subject pronouns and conjugating -ar verbs in present tense. Wish me luck!)

I would love to hear your thoughts as to what you find works well for assessment strategies. I find that rubrics make things so much easier to grade when it’s all laid out in front of you, but I’m sure there are things that I’m either missing or forgetting about. Call me out! What are some of your favorite tips/tricks?

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Healthy Choices for Food & Exercise

healthy_choices_food_exercise

March 9, 2017

My Spanish 1s are culminating a unit talking about food, healthy and unhealthy food and activity options. For a final project before their Common Assessment (which serves as the Post-Test in a Pre/Post-Test), they are to create a poster talking about what you should/shouldn’t eat and what kinds of things you should do to stay healthy. It turns out I have some very artistic students in my classes who turn out some amazing final products!

But I’m getting ahead of myself. The idea is laid out as part of our textbook that we use, Realidades. (This is one of the few things I actually use textbook materials for!) In the Guided Practice side of the workbook, a template is laid out for students to start their brainstorming using the following sentence starters

  • Debes comer… [You should eat…]
  • No debes comer mucho(a)… [You shouldn’t eat a lot of…]
  • Debes beber… [You should drink…]
  • No debes beber mucho(a)… [You shouldn’t drink a lot of…]
  • Debes… [You should…]

Students make sure that the sentences are grammatically correct, lay out a rough draft on a piece of lined paper, and then–once approved by me–they may start on their final draft on a special piece of paper that I give them to make their poster. I include samples from previous years’ students so they can get an idea of how they can lay it out, what they can include, and ideas for how to include pictures even if they’re not super artistic (I tell them they can cut out pictures from magazines or use clipart found online). Their poster must be colored and I show them this rubric so they know what I’m expecting them to do.

As you can see, the results are awesome! I am constantly amazed with the hidden talents of my students! They are so creative and really get into it!

What are some of your favorite projects to do with your kids? I’d love to hear about them below!

Reflections: PBL So Far

pbl_reflections

December 5, 2016

So things have gotten crazy busy since I last wrote; it’s that time of year! In the past month or so, students have completed 2 Choice Boards, done one project, and given me tons of valuable feedback on how things have been going so far. And the verdict is (drumroll, please)…

It’s not working for them. While I’m kind of bummed that this is how it’s turned out, I didn’t know how it would go until I tried. I was super optimistic, the students were willing to work with me, but it just wasn’t working out.

Feedback I received included some of the following:

“It’s too stressful to make sure that I have everything done in time for the Choice Boards to be due.”

“I need more structured practice and more feedback more consistently instead of right at the end.”

“I feel like I’m not given enough opportunities to practice with your guidance.”

“I like that I can work at my own speed at things I know I need practice on.”

Okay, so some of it was positive. But that, in combination with parent emails about the lack of structure/guidance with frustration on their students’ part made me go back to my original setup.

It’s more consistent work on a daily basis rather than everything “all at once” as one student put it. I think that this setup might work better with high school students who are more independent and are more able to handle this type of setup.

As Matt Miller put it in his book Ditch That Textbook, you never know how something is going to go until you just jump in and try. And what’s the worst that can happen? It doesn’t work and you find out what not to do.

So, in conclusion, it’s back to the drawing board, so to speak. Plan A didn’t work, so Plan B, which I know is solid from previous years’ experience, is the new Plan.

So after all that reflection I still want to tell you how my new version of the House Projects went.

In the past, I had done individual projects, which was fine. I had smaller classes and it wasn’t that big of a deal to grade them all. But this year I have bigger classes (think 31-32 kids in each section), so I didn’t want to grade about 80 individual projects. So, after talking to my parents, they gave me an idea of how to make this a group project and incorporate real-world situations/experiences. (See my blog here about the initial ideas; you may have to scroll down a bit to get there.)

The projects turned out great! Students were able to choose their groups, anywhere from 3-5 members. Each member had a role and had responsibilities leading to the final product. There was a visual aid, a written component, and an oral presentation of the final product. Here are some of the amazing final projects that were submitted: