Last week, students at my school started scheduling for next year. That means I get lots of questions about what the next level of Spanish is like. Even though we still have several weeks of school left, I thought that since they’re thinking hard about next year, this was a good time to give them a little survey. I borrowed heavily from Sara-Elizabeth’s ideas from last spring, with a little adaptation to make it fit my students and what I wanted to learn from the survey. I used Google Forms, which was excellent. I can see individual responses (with the option when I set up the survey of whether or not to collect names. I did.), as well as a summary that provides excellent graphic representations of the results. There were 6 absent students who I’m still getting to finish up, but I think this is a good enough sampling to start drawing conclusions.
Here are my thoughts about the responses (and the questions I asked) from the various levels. Final warning: this isn’t short:
I started out with questions about the current school year:
- How much Spanish do you feel you learned this year?
Scale of 1-5: 1 = much less than anticipated; 5 = much more than anticipated
My takeaway for this one? I did better than I thought I did in Spanish 2! Yay! My Spanish 3 students expected more out of this year, based on their responses later on, I think this is because they felt like they learned a lot under a vocab and grammar system. I’m glad they did, but I wish I had been able to make them feel the same way this year. Definitely something to think about for the future.
- Rate your agreement with the statement, “I feel that speaking only Spanish in class is a good idea.”
Scale of 1-5 again; 1 = strongly disagree; 5 = strongly agree
Takeaways: Even though my 3s miss the grammar and vocabulary of the past, they recognize that speaking more Spanish is beneficial. The 2s were mostly with me as well, which doesn’t surprise me, since this was the class in which I saw the most growth in speaking. My 1s were mixed. I understand that – it’s hard not to speak English when you don’t know any Spanish! But this is something that I think is important even for beginners. I need to find ways to make myself more comprehensible, give my students more confidence, and permit English when it’s really needed. All things I’ve been thinking about anyway, so I’m glad to see that we’re in agreement here. Also, maybe this was a flawed question – did we really speak Spanish all the time? Should we?
- How challenged did you feel by this class?
Scale of 1-5; 1 = not challenging at all; 5 = extremely challenging
These results didn’t surprise me too much. I know my Spanish 2 students worked really, really hard this year. They made some amazing strides, and their level of perceived difficulty reflects that. My 3s felt that this year was less challenging because of the lack of focus on grammar and vocab, but I think this is good – it means I was comprehensible for them and that they felt they were well prepared for what I expected of them.
- What percentage of class time was spent in Spanish?
I asked them to consider not only me, but themselves, the people around them, and anything that went on in class.
I was particularly interested in the results for this question because it told me how much Spanish they really spoke to each other in those whispers where I couldn’t quite tell what language they were speaking. I expected Spanish 1 to be lower since I allowed a fair amount of English from the students in the first semester. I’m really pleased with the results from Spanish 2. The results from Spanish 3 confirm what I already knew: they have been speaking too much English. The numbers for that class aren’t bad, but they’re definitely not where I’d like them to be. Definitely need to make a change for next year.
- Which of the following best reflects your performance on the weekly Aventuras?
Basically: Did you do the work, or not? The choices were:
1. I always followed all the instructions – including time limits and listening minimums.
2. I sometimes spent less time on a website than the directions said, or listened to less than the minimum number of clips.
3. I often spent less time than required on a website or listened to less than the minimum number of clips.
4. I usually just went to the website and copied the link or took a screenshot without exploring or listening.
5. I rarely turned anything in for the Aventura assignment.
I was also particularly interested in this question. I wanted to know whether these Aventuras we’ve been doing are worthwhile. I think they’re a great idea, but only if kids are actually doing them. Overall, I was very pleased with the results. The great majority of students said that they either always follow instructions or only sometimes do less than the minimum. I was never under any illusion that all the kids were doing everything they were supposed to, so these numbers make me really happy – most of them really are exposing themselves to Spanish outside of class!
- Name 2-3 activities from this year that you feel helped you learn the most Spanish.
This was open-ended, so here are some of the responses that were either very common or that I felt were very interesting:
1. Across the board, many students said that speaking Spanish helped them learn (imagine!), so I’m glad that even though some thought it was not necessarily a good idea to speak Spanish all the time, they realized that speaking Spanish was helpful to their learning process.
2. In every class, a huge percentage of kids indicated that music helped them in some way. I have definitely seen the results of making music a daily part of my classroom, and I’m glad that they think it was a good idea, too.
3. My 1s and 2s mentioned pictionary quite a bit as well. We’ve played a few variations of this game this year, but lately I’ve been doing it Colleen Lee style, and I like the results.
4. Several students mentioned Aventuras and blogs as having helped them. More confirmation that these were good ideas! Yay!
5. Across the board, kids mentioned our weekly quizzes. In Spanish 1 and 3, we take a map quiz in which students have to identify the (Spanish) names, capitals, and nationalities of all the Spanish-speaking countries. I number the countries in a different order each week just to make it a little more challenging. In Spanish 2 we take the little words quiz, which I have definitely seen make an impact on my students’ writing and speaking this year. If nothing else, their confidence has improved greatly because they know they know these important little words.
- If you could change any ONE thing from this year, what would it be and why?
Again, an open-ended question. Here are my thoughts on some common responses:
1. I felt a little validated by the fact that more than a few students made comments about their own performance in class rather than mine, usually about taking better notes, paying more attention, or just generally trying harder. When I wrote this question, those kinds of answers never occurred to me. However, I think it says something good about my students that they think the biggest change should be in the amount of effort they put in. They’re willing to grow and admit their mistakes.
2. In all three levels, the most common response was that they wanted to be able to speak more English. This response puts me in an awkward position. I know that the more Spanish and the less English, the better. Of course, there are times when English is necessary, but I think that they should be few and far between. So, do I go with what I think and ignore the survey results (but then what’s the point of the survey?), or do I allow more English, which feels to me like giving in? I think it comes back to making sure I’m comprehensible and that my students are prepared for what they’re asked to do. The better I do, the less they will feel that they need English.
3. One Spanish 1 student responded that the Aventuras should go away – they take too much time for students, especially those who are involved in sports. I see the point this person is making. However, I think I have to disagree – yes, some of the Aventura activities take time, but they have a whole week to complete them, if they wait until Tuesday at 10 PM that’s their own fault. And what would I do instead? In the past, I’ve given worksheets every night – that surely took more time than the one weekly Aventura and blog. So, this is an instance where I appreciate this person’s feedback, but I don’t see anything changing because of it.
4. One or two people said that they wish there had been less English, which I found extremely encouraging.
5. Several students in Spanish 3 and a few in Spanish 2 noted that they wished we had a vocab list, that we still learned verb charts, and still took vocab/grammar quizzes every Friday. I’m glad that they felt they learned that way, but I think the issue stems from my need to get better at planning units and the fact that they are used to and good at memorization and what they think school is “supposed” to be like.
- Do you have any other thoughts, comments, or suggestions for me?
Honestly, there wasn’t much here. Lots of students telling me that I shouldn’t move to a new school district next year, which made me feel good, but also worries me that if I leave, they really won’t continue with Spanish next year. But that’s a whole different issue.
Next, I asked them about their plans for next year:
- Are you planning to take Spanish 2/3/4 next year?
These are great numbers! Typically, retention from 1-2 is pretty good because kids think they need 2 years in order to get into college. Still, I’m very pleased!
This is even better! My numbers dropped off for Spanish 2 this year, but I’m so glad that most of them are planning to stick through to Spanish 3! Typically there’s a drop off between 2 and 3 because it’s mostly only students who want an honor’s diploma who stick with it. I’m glad that a high percentage are planning to go on!
I wish I were more surprised by this number. I have had several students tell me that if I can guarantee that I’ll be here next year, they’ll take it. Many have said they absolutely won’t without me. I’m flattered, but I’m disappointed.
- What are the top 2 reasons you want to take Spanish 2/3/4?
This question only went to students who said that they plan to continue next year.
Most students responded that either their parents want them to, they want an honor’s diploma, to help them get a better job, or to get into college. Some said travel. A few chose “Other” and said nice things about me. So I may not have instilled the deep love of language that I want to yet, but as long as they’re taking another year, there’s still a chance! I didn’t realize I wanted to major in Spanish until the end of my senior year of high school!
- What are the top 2 reasons you don’t want to take Spanish 2/3/4?
This question only went to students who said that they don’t plan to continue next year.
Students cited lots of reasons here. Common were “it’s been too hard” and “I think I’ve learned enough” among my 3s, many said that they wanted an easy senior year or that there was a conflict between Spanish 4 and another class that they wanted more.
Finally, I asked them to rate their confidence ability to do various things in Spanish. On a scale of 1-5 I asked them to rate their ability to understand what they read, what they hear, and their level of confidence when they speak. Overall, I was pleased with the results, as no one rated themselves below a 2 in any area, and most students were at 3 or higher for all three.
Next, on a scale of 1-3, I asked them to rate their ability to do specific things in Spanish (I can talk about my house. I can retell the plot of a good movie. etc.) 1 being “not really” and 3 being “most of the time.” Overall, I was pleased with the results here, too. Most students rated themselves at a 2 or 3 in every area. This was a great way for me to see where I did well and where I can improve for next year.
My general takeaways: I’m pleased. And I definitely think surveying students is a good idea! This is the first time I’ve done something like this, and it allowed me to see that I’ve done lots of good things, while also highlighting some areas of improvement (some of which I was already aware of, others less so).