Winding Down and Gearing Up

Am I the only one who starts getting excited for fall as soon as I start taking classroom decor down? I mean, who doesn’t love summer break, but back to school! We’re down to one more student day, and, as usual, I’m feeling reflective at the end of the year. It seems like it was ages ago and just yesterday that I posted my goals for this year. I reflected on them at midterm time, and looking back now, I’m pretty pleased with how well I did on those goals this year.

Of course, not everything was perfect, but let’s start by looking at what I think went well:

  • Music, music, music! We have (more or less) learned a song every full week of school this year, and on the surveys I administered to my students last week, an overwhelming number of them listed learning song lyrics as one of the most helpful activities this year. It hasn’t been perfect – we’re using too much English when we look at the song on the first day, and it’s taking more class time than I think it’s really worth. I’m going to have to consider some tweaks for next year, but one thing is for sure: I will definitely still be starting class with music next year.
  • New school! It was scary to start at a brand new school, but I don’t think it could have gone better! On the surface it might seem like a negative that they haven’t had consistency in the Spanish teacher position before, but it definitely saved me from the difficulty of taking over for a legacy teacher who was beloved by staff and students alike. My students were excited to have someone new, and they bought in to what I was trying to do pretty readily.
  • Forced output. I know there are lots of opinions about whether or not output should be required in world language classes, and I think that, depending on the teacher and the classes, there could be lots of right answers. As long as we’re all working toward student proficiency, we don’t have to do it exactly the same way. In my classroom, Spanish is required. I’m the first to admit that my “ban” on English isn’t as complete as I’d like it to be, but when Spanish 1 students give me responses like the ones below, I’m pretty pleased.Spanish Percentage
    But there’s room for improvement! I am looking forward to a fresh start and another chance to motivate students to use more and more Spanish next year!
  •  TPRS Novels. This year I read Felipe Alou with Spanish 2 & 3, Brandon Brown with Spanish 1, and Esperanza with Spanish 3. Nothing is ever perfect the first time around, but overall I’m pretty pleased with how it went. I’m definitely planning to use them again next year.
  • Movies & TV shows. This year, I showed El Internado in Spanish 3, as well as a couple of episodes in Spanish 2 – just enough to get them totally hooked and excited to keep watching in the fall. Spanish 2 also watched Sugar and Spanish 1 watched Canela. Overall, the responses were positive. I thought they all went well and were worthwhile activities.
  • Free writes, but we’ll talk more about them later.

I’m sure there are other things that went well, but it’s the end of the year, and this remembering thing is hard. So let’s think about the things that didn’t go quite so well, maybe a little in Allison and Megan‘s #confessions style.

  • I had great intentions of posting my daily goals for each class, and even had cute picture frames with scrapbook paper background hung up. They maybe got updated twenty times this year, at least two of which were on observation days. Oops. This is still something I want to do next year, but I’m thinking about a different format. Maybe a looping slideshow with pertinent information as kids are coming in? The next Spanish club event, reminders about weekly homework, daily goals, a list of needed materials (because I can only answer “Do we need Chromebooks today?” so many times and maintain my sanity), etc.
  • Units. Units? This year, I had planned to more or less follow the outline that I had used last year, but the addition of TPRS novel units and Spanish 2 and 3 students who have had a less-than-consistent Spanish education meant that I was doing a lot of things differently than I had originally planned. Overall, I’m happy with how we did, but there’s definite room for improvement here. I have a pretty good idea of the direction I want to go next year and I’m so excited for Camp Musicuentos this summer to help iron out some of the things floating around in my head!
  • Free writes. This one really goes in both categories. I very much like the idea, but my execution needs some work. 1) 10 minutes is too long. It takes too much class time, and when some kids are writing well over 200 words, it takes time for me to grade, too. Next year, we’re cutting it to 5 to save on both in-class time and grading time for me. 2) Every week. The fact is, kids aren’t going to show real, consistent, measurable improvement in one week. The kids got pretty tired of writing every week, too, and I found myself avoiding giving other in-class writing assignments because then I felt like we would just be writing all the time. Next year, I’m thinking maybe once a month, so that the kids have a chance to grow between each write. 3) No topics. I cannot tell you how many “My daily routine” “My family” and “My house” free writes I read this year! Next year I think I’ll do some true free writes, but will also assign broad topics for kids to write about.
  • I’ve already posted about rubrics.

And now it’s (pretty much) summer break. I am so ready for a little rest and relaxation, but I’m also excited to dive into a few projects for next year. I’m (slowly) reading ACTFL’s Keys to Planning, and loving the practical advice and information that it offers. I’m excited to collaborate with a teacher in a nearby district (also one of my best friends from high school) on some unit and curriculum planning this summer and put some of what I’m learning into use.

I really think that those things are going to take up a lot of my summer time and effort, but I’m also hoping to get a general plan for an FVR program for next year. I’m counting on some money from my district, and have applied for a couple of grants that will hopefully help me beef up my classroom library. My students surprised me this year when they reported that they feel pretty confident when they listen, but a little less so when reading. In general next year I’m going to try to be much more intentional about the amount of input my students receive, and an FVR program is going to be one aspect of Project More CI (and Hopefully Less Teacher Talking).

Now I just have to make it through one more student day, two teacher days. It’s all downhill from here.

Happy summer! And to those of you who still have a month to go – just remember that when you don’t start until after Labor Day, it will all be worth it!

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