Free Writes and Novels

In my last post I talked about being happy with making progress, and not feeling pressured to do all the things right now. So now I’m going to follow that up by telling you about the new things I’m trying! However, I am trying these new things because I really feel like they are the right “next steps” for me – not because I need to check them off the list in order to feel like a good or productive teacher!

Last week all of my classes did their first timed free writes. I gave my Spanish 1 and 2 students a goal of 100 words, and my 3s had a goal of 120. All classes had 10 minutes to write. I didn’t correct for grammar. In fact, I marked nothing in the text of their writing. I only used Martina Bex’s Free Write rubrics and forms and marked proficiency levels. It made for extremely quick “grading” and enabled me to enjoy my students’ writing, rather than pausing to mark errors or point out problems.

Overall, I was extremely pleased. My Spanish 1 students were split between Novice Low and Novice Mid, which I think is pretty much right on the money for the beginning of the 2nd quarter. The 3 sections averaged 53, 57, and 48 words in 10 minutes. My 2s were in the Novice Mid/High range, which I felt was appropriate since they didn’t have a proficiency-based classroom last year. They averaged 81 and 88 words. My 3s mostly fell in Novice High, but I had a couple of high performers hitting Intermediate. They averaged 110 words. A couple of kids across the board didn’t really get the idea, and just gave me a long list of words (despite me saying, “I don’t just want a list of words. Pick a topic and write about it.”), but I think when we try again tomorrow it will go pretty well. I recorded individual totals, so I’m looking forward to watching the numbers go up as the year progresses!

The other new thing that’s coming along – and I’m super excited about this one – is class sets of novels! About a month ago, I applied for a $250 grant through our local Education Foundation, and received word last week that I got it! I’m getting a class set of Brandon Brown quiere un perro, along with the teacher’s guide, and a few other individual TPRS novels to beef up my classroom library. I’m really excited to read this with my Spanish 1 classes. I think it’s going to be excellent, and there are so many wonderful resources out there that I’m looking forward to digging into!

Then, last week, while digging through old Spanish Club account statements, I discovered that my school has a French Club fund with $480. We haven’t offered French as a class (or, therefore, a club) since the last French teacher retired 5 or 6 years ago. I mentioned it to my principal who said that the treasurer’s assistant has been badgering her to spend that money for years, but she just wasn’t sure what to buy. I told her I would love to spend it on novels, and she agreed! So I put in my requisition today for a class set of Esperanza and Felipe Alou, along with teacher guides for each. I didn’t quite have the funding for another full set, so I requested several other individual novels that I’ll add to my library. I chose those 2 titles because I think that I can read them this year with both my Spanish 2 and my Spanish 3 classes, so they can pull double duty. I can’t wait to get my hands on them!

I still think you should do what’s right for you, and not feel pressured by all the great ideas out there. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try some of those ideas out when it’s right for you and someone hands you a bunch of money!

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