Reflective Teaching Day 27: Holidays and Weekends

What role do weekends and holidays play in your teaching?

Holidays! Weekends! Some of my favorite things! In the past, I’ve never done much with holidays. I’ve always been so concerned with getting through all the material that I never felt like I had the time to really do much with holidays. Maybe mention them in passing, but that was about it. Now that I’m not trying to get through a whole textbook, I would certainly like to do something fun with Day of the Dead and La Navidad and Cinco de Mayo at the very least. I’m not sure what yet, but I’ll figure it out.

As far as what I do (or rather, have the students do) over holidays and weekends, not a lot. I’ve pared down greatly on homework this year, so time off school is (mostly) time off of assignments, at least from my class. I try not to bring work home with me, so why should I force my students to work during their free time? They already have work, sports, work for other classes, music lessons, chores at home, and, yes, social lives.  I mean, they are still kids, and I’m sure when i have a few of my own, I wouldn’t want them to have to spend all their youth burning themselves out before they even graduate.

It took me a while to come to terms with the fact that, at least in my class, homework doesn’t help that much anyway. Sure, they may get a little more exposure to various grammatical terms, but it’s never in an authentic context if it’s on a worksheet. And yes, they get practice, but when they do every question wrong, then they’re getting a kind of practice I don’t want them to have. Plus, giving only two relatively quick, electronic assignments each week means I don’t have to spend half my life grading miserable worksheets. I’d much rather give them instant feedback on what they’re doing in my class, and let all of us have some time off from homework. Or even out-of-class projects.

So far this year, I’ve just broken the projects up into pieces that can be accomplished in one class period or less. We worked for a week in Spanish 3 making Educreations storybooks to practice preterite/imperfect. One day we wrote outlines of children’s stories. The next day we turned it into paragraph form. Then, we practiced telling our story to others in class. Then, finally, we created the finished product. They got a lot more practice out of it than if I had simply told them “Next week, you have to turn in an Educreations presentation on a children’s story” and it was anything but class time wasted. Within the next few weeks, Spanish 1 is going to do something similar with colors.

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