Planning for the end of the year

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I think perhaps one of the biggest problems I have with lesson planning is that I am constantly looking at “the big picture.”  While that doesn’t sound like it’s a bad thing, I feel like I start looking so far ahead and planning week by week that my day-to-day plans suffer some.  I could definitely use more time to put into my day-to-day plans, especially when I teach stories.  This is something I struggle with more times than not, so it frustrates me to spend a lot of time on it.  With my high school Spanish kids, if its not planned well it’s pretty obvious because they aren’t really into suggesting plot twists and me asking a story, whereas my middle school kids would prefer that I didn’t have even vocab planned and we could just create a story about anything from nothing (seriously, these kids get EXCITED when I have them write stories for an “essay” grade!  It’s AWESOME!).

Anyway, that flaw aside, I’ve been thinking a lot lately how I want to end the year in the last quarter.  We have two weeks left in the third quarter, and I have my Spanish classes creating and then performing skits.  I know this isn’t the best activity for CI, as it doesn’t involve a whole lot of input at all.  I will walk around to help them, try to speak with them in Spanish as I help and suggest, but it will mostly be them having their own discussions about what they want to do.  And while it would be awesome to think they will all be discussing their skits 100% in Spanish at all times, I know that is unrealistic.  I haven’t been as good as I could be about keeping our class in Spanish– definitely something I want to improve upon next year (unless I am asking a story, we all– even me– tend to be in English; at first it was to calm their nerves about Spanish after a couple years with Rosetta Stone at the school, and now it has become an awful, nasty habit!).  Anyway, I think the skits WILL, overall, be useful for a couple of reasons.  For one, my students (middle school and high school alike) BEG to do them!  They have fun with them, they get to be silly, and I have a pretty sweet prop box in my room that they can play with whenever they want!  For me, I love that it’s an opportunity to get them ALL speaking in Spanish in front of the class.  I struggle the most in getting THEM to speak in authentic language on a normal basis.  Most of our speaking activities, unfortunately, involve me asking them to turn to a partner and retell my story.  

Okay, so those are some things I have and will be doing, even though I’m saying I know what I need to improve upon.  Having said all that, I’m wondering how much I can improve her in the 4th quarter.  I am DEFINITELY going to be doing my best to incorporate a LOT more Spanish at all times.  I know they can do it, so I guess this is where I prove to them that THEY can do it and stop letting fears hinder learning.  In high school Spanish, the novels that we have read so far this year are Pobre Ana and Casi se muere, both by Blaine Ray. For the last marking period, we will read Esperanza, a TPRS Publishing Book, and I am VERY excited.  I plan to do a unit on dictators and civil wars while we read, and hope to end the unit watching El laberinto del fauno. I am excited and I think the kids that know about it are as well.  Unfortunately, I think I might “save that one for later” with my middle school students.  They are 7th graders, and I am thinking that content might be too much for them, and I am definitely not even going to THINK about showing them an R-rated movie, permission slips or not.  With them, we have read Berto y sus buenas ideas and we just finished Pobre Ana.  I think we will read Casi se muere next and end there.  

Either way, for both high school and middle school, I plan for my semester 2 “exam” to be for them to each write their own story and present it in front of the class.  I want to require visual aids to tell the story (pictures, PowerPoints, whatever) and I am thinking also to assign each student a different Spanish-speaking country in which their story should be set, and ask them to do a bit of research and include some kind of cultural information. This is, after all, most of what we have been practicing and doing all year, so it seems to me to be the most logical kind of assessment.  It could also be a good basis for an assessment if I later get students who want to try to test out. 

I feel like I get so excited and hopeful even thinking about these different things that I want them to do.  Even when I am doing it wrong, I am definitely seeing amazing things out of my students through the use of story-telling.  If a year ago you would have told me that my 7th grade students (with zero Spanish background) would be writing 200+ word essays with ease, I would have laughed.  Now I am seeing that constantly in their story-telling, and it is SO encouraging.  I love that my students have never seen me pull out a textbook in Spanish class, yet even they surprise themselves in their abilities to write and read (and somewhat speak) the language.  I am trying to start a PLC with other Spanish teachers in our county (most of us are the only language teacher in our districts), and I am definitely trying to make sure they see my success with this so that those who aren’t using it might at least consider TPRS.

This post ended up being a lot more rambling than I thought, but I suppose that shows pretty accurately where my though process goes while I am lesson planning.  I have also been avoiding not only some of the finer points of planning, but also a very steep mountain of papers to grade. Blog posting could, indeed, be procrastination at its best! 

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