Summer is usually a time for re-evaluating the work I’ve done throughout the year. In summers past, I have spent the whole time completely re-working the curriculum based on whatever interesting things I find from the awesome blogs I read and teachers I follow on Twitter. This year, though, will be quite different. Rather than reworking the entire thing, I will be working on small parts. The main style of instruction and the things that I will be presenting in the coming year are not going to change very much, if at all, but there are individual parts that need tweaking. Unlike in past years, I will not be throwing away everything I have. I will not be starting again from scratch. It’s a good feeling.
Tuning the Engine (aka Curriculum) Instead of Rebuilding It
The only thing that will be getting a major overhaul is assessment. I’ll spend the summer looking at what worked from the year and what didn’t. There was a lot lacking this year, if I’m totally honest, in the way that I assessed the students’ proficiency. I know that they can write and I know that they can do all right in a very basic conversation, but I’ll be using the time off in the summer to find ways to really figure out what the kids are able to do with their language.
My goals for the summer are to figure out the best ways to incorporate proficiency assessment. I have the Can-Do Statements and Standards and everything else I will need to build better rubrics and informal assessments. I need to have more than just a gut-feeling about where the students are. I plan to know very well where they are. If I had to break down the students by proficiency level, I’d say, broadly:
- Novice-probably about 65% of the students
- Intermediate-Probably about 30% of the students
- Advanced-around 5% of students
But I have no way of really knowing. That’s where proficiency assessment comes in. Hopefully by this time next year, I will have a much better idea of where the students are. This is my goal and I will be working through the summer to figure out the best ways to find out.
This has been the year of results. Kids in middle school could sit down and write stories from scratch. 4th and 5th graders were writing bullet point summaries of stories that we read in Spanish. They had never been able to do this before. CI instruction methods are a completely different approach to learning a language (not learning, acquisition). The fact of the matter, though, is that regardless of what the classroom looks like (hectic, chaotic, silly), the kids can speak so much more and understand so much more than they could in past years. It’s kind of staggering. (And I’m not even very good at what I’m doing…I can only imagine what it will be like after a few years more practice!)
There were so many great things about this year, but there are so many ways that they can be even better. These results are confidence-boosters. As they say, success is the best motivator. This year, more than any other, I am feeling very successful.
The Key: Find What Works for You
Maybe all this confidence is getting to my head, but I feel like I can tell you what the key to success and confidence in the classroom is: Find what works for you. If you are having trouble with your curriculum, think about ways to change it. Go to a conference, attend a webinar, chat with us on Thursdays and Saturdays during #langchat on Twitter. This answer seems obvious, like a cop-out, but if you really think about it, usually the simplest answers are the best. That being said, it is a simple answer, but an incredibly hard task. Be open to new things and make sure that you have fun. If we aren’t having fun with our work, why do it? I found TPRS and I have run away with it. It has been a home run for me and my students’ success. It won’t necessarily work for everyone, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t something out there for everyone.