Dr. Baros is a dedicated researcher, educator, and LGBTQ advocate. Her areas of expertise are proficiency-based language teaching and creating inclusive environments for LGBTQ students and people.
Look at how awesome this is!!
My friend did Story Listening for her VERY FIRST lesson ever! She's not even in front of kids yet - this was for the other future teachers in her class and is designed to be a 15-minute "sample". Here's how we developed her lesson:
First, she watched my Story Listening session (the one about the volcanoes). Then, she picked a story she thought would be interesting to tell, a Curious George book. She thought about how to tell the story in comprehensible Spanish. Then, we simplified it to be as easy as possible. After narrowing down the story to a single problem and a single way to solve the problem, we also adjusted the story to make use of as many proper nouns and cognates as possible. This story is the result.
I wanted to share this (with her permission) because A) she rocks my socks and is going to be an AWESOME teacher, B) look, we're getting more fresh CI teachers!, and c) I thought it might be helpful to use as a model for getting started in CI with minimal (in this case zero) teaching experience. I'm hoping this is simple and easy enough that a novice teacher could walk in and confidently teach through CI!
As the name of this post suggests, this is another step on a journey that started long before this post. It may be helpful to review the following posts before reading this one in order to contextualize what I'm about to write:
As I reflect on all that I've learned during our first trimester, I find myself compelled, yet again, to change the grading system. I was using an Interpersonal Mode rubric adapted from Ben Slavic which fit the needs of co-creating with the class (One Word Images, Ask A Story, Etc.) very well. However, with my recent transition to primarily Story Listening, the Interpersonal Mode rubric no longer fits the behaviors I expect of my students since they now have new roles for engagement. Moreover, there are things missing from that rubric that I want students to be doing, especially since so much of our class time is now spent reading.
The bottom line is that grades should be meaningful, and what I was doing no longer fits what I wish to communicate to parents and students. So, something has got to change.
What would be meaningful and fair to communicate?
Before I even begin to think about setting up my gradebook, assigning tasks, and grading them, I must be able to answer this question. The meaningful part concerns what I need to communicate to parents. How should they interpret the grades that their students receive? The fair part of this question concerns what students can control - and, as I've explained in the two posts linked at the beginning of this post, I do not view assessing what students can do in the language (i.e. proficiency or tasks) as fair and I have to honor that when assigning their grades (soap box moment: whether or not I agree with it, these grades do influence their quality of life based on how they and their parents feel about them! Not to mention that high school grades will affect college acceptances and scholarships. For those reasons, I take assigning them very, very seriously).
For my class, I've determined that Student Behaviors (Citizenship) and Completion of Assignments (Classwork/Assignments) are fair and meaningful to communicate:. To be honest, completion of assignments can be categorized under student behaviors, but there is some sort of satisfaction when students see a direct connection between the tasks the complete in class and what shows up in the gradebook. However, in honoring what is fair to assess, these daily tasks are formative assessments of my instruction and students receive an automatic 100% just for completing them. It feels great to them to get these regular 100% grades in the grade book, and it ensures that students can communicate openly with me about how well I am reaching them while only being graded on what they can control.
How does this look in the gradebook?
Although it may be somewhat arbitrary, I decided to give each of the categories (Classwork/Assignments and Citizenship) equal weight in the gradebook. The categories are broad enough that I can include everything we do. I've always preferred to use weights as I feel they give me more accurate control over my gradebook, but that is just a personal preference.
Because this approach is likely unfamiliar to parents and students, I plan to send a letter explaining how students are graded and how to interpret those grades. I also plan to review their proficiency assessments in their notebooks and touch base with the parents of students who are struggling in their proficiency so that they have a complete picture of their students' performance and how they can support them, while still maintaining fairness in the grade book. Once I write that email, I will link to it here.
Beginning of the year:
A few weeks in:
After the first month or two:
Month Three or Four:
Month Four and Beyond?
This is where I am now. How to proceed? My current plans are to continue doing the plan for months 3-4 until all of my students are able to engage in FVR successfully with partners, and then proceed to where everyone can engage in Silent and Sustained FVR. Right now, I have only a handful of kids reading independently. Of course, many of my students who could read independently are helping their friends in small groups. They are working very productively and it's a beautiful thing when my administrator (or anyone else) walks down the hall (we spread out since it can get loud with everyone in the classroom) and asks me "Are they reading novels in Spanish?!" I'm so proud of them! However, I know that I didn't scaffold the reading enough this year for some students (It was my first year doing this and I now see the need for a well-thought out and differentiated transition, which I included in the plan above), so I'm going to take a step back and provide more structured and contextualized reading for those few students who still aren't ready for FVR. My hope is to have everyone successfully engaged in SSR by the end of the year while I continue to provide whole-class auditory input through Story Listening or other methods.
This blog post is in respont to questions from other teachers and was originally posted on my Facebook page:
What does your lesson cycle look like? What are your objectives?
This is what a "unit" looks like for me and it can apply to any CI class - please look at my instructional flow chart first to see a summary and then read the rest of this post for my application of these segments (click the picture to go to the original Google Doc).
I use this template for nearly everything and I start with a fresh "unit" or cycle every week. Keep in mind that this is NOT a rigid template - I change and adapt it to fit my students' needs, always prioritizing CI instruction (Stage 1, Stage 2, and FVR in Stage 4 when students are ready). I teach I the block, so I only see my kids 2-3 times each week for 70 minutes each time. As for objectives, I pretty much use the same objectives every week. I was trained to use measurable objectives, so that's reflected in how I write mine. I always ask "How will I know that they met the objective?" when I write it. We also discuss the objective and agenda in Spanish every day ("El objetivo de hoy es ________. Primero, vamos a _____. Segundo, vamos a ____." etc.). At my old school, we also had to write essential questions. My essential question is always the same: "How do I navigate meaning and communicate my ideas in Spanish?" I figure that's the essential goal of every class period, unit, and course. Students learn more language and are able to comprehend and communicate more complex ideas, but the goal/essential question is always the same.
Auditory Input - Story Listening (for now). There are a plethora of ways to get auditory input. For instance, I started the year with a lot of One Word Images and Ask a Story.
**OBJECTIVE: "Listen to a story in Spanish and write a summary." This is actually extremely flexible and we summarize the story in different ways using my reflection sheet. Sometimes I have students summarize the whole story, but other times I ask them to summarize based on a prompt such as only summarizing their favorite part of the story, summarize a part of the story you have a question about and then write your question, etc. I'm sure we could think of many more prompts that would "summarize" the story in some way and demonstrate comprehension through authentic responses from students. They always get 100% for this as long as they do it - the important part is that they know they have accomplished they day's goal and I have tangible evidence/data for how well each student accomplished the goal in order to inform my future instructional decisions.
Structured Reading and/or Contextualized Reading
We started the year with a lot of this. However, many of my students are independent readers or are able to read with a partner now, so I'm skipping this step right now. I'm thinking I'll add it back in, though, because I think my students need a little more reinforcement of the language.
**OBJECTIVE: "Read a story in Spanish." Again, I write this in a very flexible way in order to adapt it to my students' needs although the objective is always the same: Read. I ask myself "How will I know they comprehended what they read?" Each class and even each student has a different answer to this question, but it's always observable. Are the students talking about what they're reading with someone else? Are they translating out loud with a partner? Are you observing how their eyes and fingers track across the page and turn pages appropriately? Are they selecting materials based on reading level and interest? Perhaps you are doing a structured activity in which everyone is demonstrating comprehension the same way, or, if your students are already reading independently, perhaps each student is demonstrating their comprehension in a different way. Whatever the case, they're reading and meeting the objective!
I use my reflection sheet for this. Students do three things. First they re-listen to a 2-minute version of the story and "grade me" on how well I made the story comprehensible for them based on our Interpretive Mode rubric. Then, they follow along as I read the story and highlight/cross off everything they understood. Finally, they summarize the story in some way. I use all of these as indicators of MY performance and how well I made the story comprehensible, then make adjustments in my Story Listening techniques to improve comprehensibility and instruction. For instance, if everyone is at a 3.5 or 4, I probably need to step it up. If everyone is at a 2-3, I probably need to simplify the language I'm using, go slower, and/or pay better attention to my students as I'm telling the story. I can also see from what they didn't highlight the words they're still struggling with to comprehend. Finally, I can look for trends in student performance and identify my high and low students on a weekly basis and work on differentiating for them.
**OBJECTIVE: This is usually some way to measure how students met the objectives for "Auditory Input" and "Structured Reading", so I do not write an objective specific to contextualized assessment.
Right now, I am doing Free voluntary Reading (FVR) for this step and plan to do so for the foreseeable future. Language students cannot ever have enough FVR!
**OBJECTIVE: See "Structured Reading".
Students can use their FVR time to do our benchmark reading assessments, but I set aside time specifically for them about once every 2-3 weeks. We do a writing assessment once every 6 weeks. Students self-evaluate and know that they will not be penalized for what they do - I am completely transparent with them and tell them this is for us to track their growth and to help me be a better teacher by seeing what's in their brains and making sure I meet them halfway. If any grades go into the gradebook based on these, they're always 100% for completion. Students and I use these as an overall measure of proficiency to track student progress over time and I get some good insights into what I need to do for individual students as well as how they are coming along in general.
**OBJECTIVE: "Evaluate my _______ proficiency." All of my evaluations are graded on completion. I do provide my rubrics and students self-evaluate their reading and writing (in the future, we will add listening. Eventually, I want to add speaking for my advanced students). They know that no matter what they score, they get 100% in the grade book. I am completely transparent with them that their score is just a way to track progress over time and to help me know what's going on so I can teach them better - and I honor that commitment. Of course, that means I have some explaining and educating to do with parents since most people equate ability with grades, but my students know that as long as they give me their best, their grade will be at least a B if not an A.
There are LOTS of other CI activities to choose from than the ones I've listed above or even in the flow chart (note the "More?" in all but the last segment). If we need some variety, I select from a menu of CI activities. As long as the activity is CI, the objectives listed above should usually work or only need to be tweaked to fit. Of course, there are plenty of other things that I use to fill the time in between all of these "core" activities. Many times, those are songs - silly songs like those from SenorWooly.com, vocabulary songs for Spanish students, authentic songs, or holiday/traditional songs (right now we are working on our Christmas carols!). These are usually on the same days as the activities listed above, so I don't bother writing an objective for the "side show." Every now and then there is a day where none of the above apply (that's rare, though). These are the only days that I write the objective based on what we're doing - such as the day where the objective was "Dance the salsa."
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