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.
Note to the reader:
For the last three weeks, I've been trying out Story Listening for the first time in my classes. I was struggling with the Story Asking as we would get stuck, I had trouble choosing details that kept everyone engaged, and many of my students were getting lost in the chaos or frustrated with the "flow" of the story. My "low" kids weren't understanding what was happening. My "high" kids wanted to keep moving. And my "easily distracted" kids were off in their world. I wouldn't say it was a hot mess, but it was close. The kids were learning, but I didn't feel like we were going anywhere fast and I was frustrated and exhausted. I'll readily admit that there are people more talented at "Asking a Story" than I am - but it just hasn't really ever "clicked" for me. So, after a particularly rough first period, I decided I would let myself off the hook and simply tell a story to the next class. I knew I had to pick something interesting, and the first thing that came to my mind was "La Llorona". I found a quick summary of the story online to refresh my memory, printed it out, and "told" it. Despite the minimal preparation, it was a hit! I didn't do any drawing - I just put the words they needed help with on the board with the English translation. After that, I pre-drew my pictures and vocabulary and told the story of "La Llorona" to my remaining classes with the pictures under the projector. After each class, I asked the students to show me how they felt about the activity by holding up fingers. A "3" meant they learned about the same, a "1" meant they learned a lot less, and a "5" meant they learned a lot more. Even with my minimal understanding of Story Listening and almost no practice, every student in every class rated the activity as a "4" or a "5"! I was sold! I've made a number of adjustments since that first week and would like to share my "beginners guide" to getting started with Story Listening.
First, it's very important to understand exactly what Story Listening is and is not. It is not simply storytelling. Storytelling puts the emphasis on what the teacher is doing and will likely not meet the acquisition needs of students, whereas Story Listening is focused on the person who is listening to the story and responsive to what they need. In order for story listening to be effective, the following conditions must be met:
It is also helpful to understand the potential similarities and differences between Story Listening and other methods of CI Instruction. NOTE: I use the word "potential" because CI instruction can take many forms. Almost all language teachers agree that we must actually use the language for students to learn it. In some cases, this takes the form of stating sentences that the students understand. Most traditional classes use the language in order to give instructions, although this use is incidental to the "real" instruction (i.e. vocabulary, grammar, worksheets, comprehension questions, etc. taking place.) For this particular list of similarities and differences, I'm going to narrow the list to items that differ between Story Listening and other methods that are grounded in the idea that the instruction itself should be through CI and focused on meaning and proficiency rather than skills and vocabulary. Even here, however, we find a lot of variance in how teachers instruct and the strategies they use, and and almost strategy has the potential to be used similarly or differently than the strategies employed in Story Listening.
Potential Differences: (many of these items overlap, so I apologize for any repetition)
Finally, I'd like to touch on a few differences in my personal preference for various strategies:
So, if you'd like to get started with Story Listening, here are a few tips from my personal experience:
Good luck with your Story Listening! I would love to hear from more teachers trying this in their classrooms and will continue to post videos regularly of my own.
This is a follow up to my post The New and Improved FVR Program.
Well that was interesting....
Give a kid assigned reading, and they do what they have to to get the assignment done (maybe).
Eliminate the homework and give a kid time in class to read with options and support, and they check out books to take home.
That about summarizes my experience this week. It was magic!
Context: These students have had approx. 70 minutes of Spanish every other class day for 2.5 months. I assigned reading as homework three weeks ago (30 minutes), but eliminated all homework this time and decided instead to give students structured free-reading time during class with options for various materials, levels, and scaffolding by working with partners, in groups, or individually (see below for more details). Then, I said "go".
Yesterday, a future Spanish teacher was subbing in the room across from mine. Her kids were at lunch, so I invited her over to see what was happening in my room. The reading time was well under way. I asked her the most important question in education, "How do you know they're learning?"
She looked at them for a moment, and then said, "Because they're doing it?"
YES! It seemed so simple, too obvious to be the right answer. But, glancing around my room, I could see students demonstrating sustained focused on a page to read it, and then turning the pages when appropriate. Students were reading the books out loud to their partners. Students were laughing and reacting to the information in the books. Some students were switching from materials that were too hard or not interesting to materials that better fit their needs. Everywhere, it was very obvious that the kids were DOING IT. They were READING. So then I asked, "If I know they're learning, then do I need to give them a quiz, test, or some other form of assessment to know that they're learning?" NO! I already know that they are learning. Their behavior IS the assessment, and it doesn't take a trained teacher to know that some awesome learning was happening in there.
Oh yeah, and no fewer than 7 students asked to check out items from me this week, even though they have access to all of them online. In fact, I had a sub on Thursday, and on Friday two girls approached me with books in their hands. They apologized because they "accidentally" took the books home with them, but I could tell from their body language that they didn't want to give them back. So, I asked if they'd like to check them out, and they were so excited! My library is getting smaller and smaller.....
Here is how I structure reading in my classroom:
First, I explained to students the intention of the structured reading activity: I want to help them feel successful reading and find something they enjoy reading, so much that it inspires them to keep reading on their own simply because they want to, not because anyone is forcing them to. I also explained that this might take a while for them, so don't expect it to happen today or even this trimester. As they learn more language, they'll find it easier and easier to read and I will keep working to find something they enjoy. I posted Bryce Hedstrom's poster "How to choose reading material" and briefly went over it with them. I plan on educating them about effective reading for 2-3 minutes each time we do Free Reading.
I assigned some Reader Leaders ahead of time and gave them instructions on how to conduct a reading group and model effective reading and troubleshooting. These were students that already have high reading ability (based on my formative benchmark assessments, which I've created by adapting Eric Herman's speed readings) AND who I felt would be good leaders. I assigned each of them a three-chapter segment of Eric Herman's "Ataques de Hambre" - I chose this book because the students already know the fairy tales and three chapters to a story is less intimidating than a whole book, so it was like a "gateway" to novel reading.
I gave students the options of reading alone or in the groups led by my Reader Leaders. Most students chose to join a group - I found it was best to limit the groups to only 4-5 students (including the leader), smaller for groups that might have trouble focusing (which included, not coincidentally, my lowest readers). There are some students who are on my private "must read with a group" list, but nearly all students chose to read with a group anyway so I didn't have to ask them to do so.
For students not reading in the groups I gave them access to my extensive class library of Fluency Fast and TPRS novels (I only put out my Nov-Low and Nov-Intermediate novels, and then personally invited my advanced students to select from my higher-level novels if they would like to), embedded readings of stories they've already heard in class (one group of three ladies chose these), the "benchmark assessment" readings (Some REALLY wanted to keep passing off stories all period), and access to a Google Drive folder (no one used these - they all preferred hard copies since they were available) where I have more short stories for novice readers, "Mundo en tus Manos" from Martina Bex, and some other resources. I also introduced my highest readers to Newsela. I've reserved the computer lab for all of our future reading days so that students don't have to use their devices to access these materials. I plan to continue observing what students choose to read (including what they put down and pick up throughout the period) and tailoring my library according to their decisions.
As I've been helping other students start on the same Kagan journey that I've taken over the last two years, I've been reflecting on where I need to grow as a teacher and how I can practice what I preach by really using Kagan the way it's meant to be used. This is one of the areas I've slacked off in the past, but is SO valuable to instruction that I can no longer ignore it:
Two essential components that maximize the effectiveness of Kagan Cooperative Learning are Teambuilding and Classbuilding. These activities are the "process by which a room full of individuals, with different backgrounds and experiences, become a caring community of active learners" (Kagan Cooperative Learning, 5.6-5.7). Teambuilding does this with members of individual teams, while Classbuilding does this for the entire class at once. These activities are critical because, as we all know, teaching and learning begins with relationships. And, where cooperative learning is concerned, we need to ensure that the students have positive relationships with one another before we can expect them to learn from one other (Have you ever been asked to collaborate with a stranger? How successful was that and why? Likely, you had to find some sort of "connection" before you were really able to make progress).
Most teachers attempt to build relationships with their students, and some even help students build relationships among one another. Those who do TPRS rely heavily on this because it not only supports the classroom environment, but also drives content as we use the students themselves as our topics of conversations. Some strategies are more effective than others, and some teachers are more effective than others, at building these relationships. Kagan gives method to this madness by ensuring class- and team-building does happen (and it happens on a regular basis), that it happens for every student, and that it's quick and efficient, so you don't lose class time. The irony here is that you are intentionally taking class-time to do something non-content related in order to teach more content. It's a pre-emptive strike works the same way as taking time to stop and teach students classroom management procedures thoroughly before getting on with the rest of the school year - if we do it regularly and we do it well, it saves us time during instruction because students are ready, willing, and able to cooperate and learn. Isn't that worth 2 minutes of your class's time? We give a little to gain a lot.
There two basic rules to remember when planning class- and team-building activities:
The number rule is easy - it just takes intentional planning and foresight to see when would be a good time to do the activity. Of course, this means you will likely need to plan a week out so you don't get to Friday and realize you haven't done any relationship-building all week. Sometimes, there's is just that "spot" that they fit in a lesson, and I can check one off for that week. However, if I plan out a week and realize I'm missing a teambuilder or a classbuilder, I scan through and see if I missed a good opportunity. If not, I throw a quick one usually right after my warm up on a particular day. Why there? First, it doesn't disrupt my bell routine and students still come in and sit quietly. I NEED that routine - as do my students. Second, it sets us up for the remainder of the day. There's not much use to a pre-emptive strike if it doesn't come before the kids have a chance to get squirrely! Third, it gives me a chance to check the "temperature" of the class - how is everyone doing today? Is there a vibe that I should be aware of? Finally, it gives students a chance to review, but that brings us to the next point.
Then, the solution occurred to me - and it was so simple! The key to Teambuilders and Classbuilders is that they need to be accessible to every student. No matter how "good" or "bad" a student is at a particular subject, they need to be on an even playing field with all of the other students and talk about things that are meaningful to them. What if the activity was structured and scaffolded in such a way that anyone could do it in Spanish? I presented this thought to our coach with the following example: In week 1, I teach my students how to ask and answer "¿Cómo te llamas?" (What is your name?), "En dónde vives?" (Where do you live?), and "¿Cómo te sientes?" (How do you feel?). For a Classbuilder, I could do Quiz-Quiz-Trade with those three questions after they'd been taught (LOTS of repetition!) and cards that look like this in order to provide support so that even a student brand new to the class could succeed (The cards get cut out and folded so that the hints are on the back, and I would put options for ¿Cómo te sientes?" on the board to select from). I reasoned that if someone who's never had a day of Spanish in their life could participate successfully, then it's accessible enough to be a Teambuilder or Classbuilder - and my Kagan coach agreed! Score! Of course, I'm talking about the most novice of the novice-low speakers here. As students acquire more language, the types of questions and prompts used in these activities can become more complex. The key is that students should be able to participate without having to try or learn anything while getting to know their peers. For language teachers, the beauty is that students are still practicing interpersonal speaking - and CI teachers will likely have a bank of past PQA questions to pull from for students to talk about (this is why my Teambuilders and Classbuilders are an opportunity for review!).
In summary, with a little adaptation and thorough understanding of the what and why to Kagan methodology, each of the barriers to using Kagan to its fullest extent in CI classrooms is slowly coming down. Of course, incorporating these relationship-building elements into our regular instruction is something that is old news to most TPRS teachers, but Kagan adds one more tool to the tool box. And, for me, it's the hammer that secures that last nail necessary to ensure that I've reached every student on a personal level. As an added benefit, students are building relationships directly with one another while still getting low-risk opportunities for the ever-important Interpersonal Speaking practice. This is another win in the methodology book for me, and I plan on working hard next school year to make sure it's regularly present in my planning.
UPDATE (October 16, 2016): Due to my experiences over the past few months, I've had a "rebirth" of sorts into the CI world. Due to this, I have taken some significant steps away from using Kagan as a main method in my classroom and instead focusing on simply storytelling and communicating compelling and comprehensible methods. However, Kagan and the underlying principals of cooperative learning do still have their appropriate places and are used often in my classroom - just not as extensively and not in the same way that I was using them before. I do still feel that cooperative learning is essential in my classroom for a few reasons - it demonstrates my faith in students to figure something out on their own, allows them to build relationship through supporting one another, adds variety to the classroom, and especially because it gives me an opportunity to hear how they verbalize their internal processing of the language - I occasionally realize that the class was "understanding" something in a different way than I intended, and this gives me a quick break from instructing to monitor and adjust instruction as we move forward. I generally use teacher-centered instruction to co-creation of stories, which forms the backbone of the language that we use in class. The cooperative activities (and therefore Kagan) come into play when students are processing input together, such as re-reading a story that we co-created. There are excellent structures beyond Kagan that utilize cooperative learning, such as the "Running Dictation" or any variation thereof. As long as students are engaging in Positive Interdependence, have Independent Accountability, have Equal Opportunities to participate, and are Simultaneously Interacting, then all of the benefits of true cooperative learning are present and valid.
UPDATE: For a summary of most useful Kagan structures for CI instruction as well as specific activity ideas, click here. For a comprehensive list of Kagan structures and ideas, click here.
I started my CI journey at the beginning of my career when I taught in a TPRS classroom. In fact, we could actually go even earlier when I observed my would-be master teacher at work during my teaching program and was amazed by what he was doing, so I requested that I be placed in his class for student teaching. I'd never heard of Comprehensible Input or TPRS, but I was hooked! I have been 100% on the CI boat from the very beginning and it shapes everything about my classroom, from the activities we do to assessment to the posters I have on my wall. When it comes to foreign language teaching CI is king. Of course, I know I'm likely preaching to the choir here, but I wanted to make it clear where I stand in terms of the importance and superiority of CI. I also want to make a comparison:
I was introduced to Kagan two years ago during a staff development activity. Since then, my school as worked to become a "Kagan" school, complete with our own certified Kagan coach on staff and complete professional development days dedicated to official Kagan training and credits. At first I was resistant to using Kagan in my classroom - I argued that I needed to be the one providing input because students can't possibly learn correct language without a proper model! I resisted for the entire first semester. Then, I had the opportunity to observe our Kagan coach at work (he teaches middle school math) - and I was hooked. Again, I was amazed by the energy and engagement levels of students at all levels and I had to have that same thing in my own classroom! Kagan, like learning about CI and TPRS, has again revolutionized my classroom and I won't go back to how things were before.
Before I go any further, I should point out that Kagan can be a LOT to process, but it's best to take it little by little. Just like CI (and especially TPRS), misunderstanding and misapplying the Kagan methodology is likely to end in frustration and abandonment, claiming "it didn't work for me." I believe it can and will work for you as long as you are careful and really know what you are doing. If you are new to CI, focus on developing your CI skills first. That is the foundation of your language instruction. Once you are ready to dip your feet in the Kagan pool, keep reading and follow the "next steps" at the end of this article.
What is Kagan?
For those of you unfamiliar with Kagan, it is a style of cooperative learning that provides structures/strategies to increase engagement and accountability. However, the full Kagan methodology is just that - a methodology. Like with CI, most teachers have to re-think their classroom paradigm and have some philosophical discussions about the what, how, and why of teaching and learning. However, those that teach and assess using CI have already made most of those same paradigm shifts. In particular, Kagan emphasizes student-centered teaching and personalization, learning through communication and interaction, building a positive and supportive classroom environment, and moving from teacher-controlled classrooms to student-driven lessons where mistakes are OK! For many teachers, these can be radical ideas - I would argue that for many CI teachers, these ideas are standard and best practice. In many ways, Kagan and Comprehensible Input are made for marriage. However, just like with any real marriage, careful considerations must be made in order to make the marriage a success:
There are four fundamental components to every Kagan structure for engagement, summarized by the acronym PIES (which every other teacher understands to be a fruit-filled pastry, while I understand to be "feet"!). If one of these is missing, the structure will not work as intended:
How do I use Kagan in a CI classroom?
To really make this process efficient, I keep a catalog of CI strategies and Kagan structures handy to flip through during steps 2 and 3. I recommend that you develop your own personal catalog of the structures you've tried (meaning that you didn't just give it a shot once, but actually did it 3-5 times and ensured you followed every step every time) and found most effective for your classroom, along with the specific activities and objectives that you've used them for. I'm working on categorizing Kagan structures by the types of CI activities that they pair well with, including whether they are suitable for input or output activities. At most, you may only ever use 5-10 different structures during a given year - this again emphasizes that you are not expected to use every Kagan structure, just the ones that work best for you and your content area!
How do I get started?
First, get familiar with what Kagan really is and how it looks in the classroom. Do a little bit of reading to understand the fundamentals and familiarize yourself with some of the most common structures (see The Essential 5). If possible, attend a conference (you'll want to start with the "Kagan Structures Level I" 4-day workshop). If you can't go to a training or attend a conference, then you should read the Kagan Cooperative Learning book. However, DO NOT read this book front to back - that would be far too overwhelming! Start with the essentials - I recommend reading about the Seven Keys for Success (Chapter 5) and previewing the Structures (Chapter 6). That should be enough to get started - look over the other chapter headings and read/apply as it suits you. There is a LOT more to true cooperative learning that just what is in those two chapters, but it's enough to get the very basics down.
Next, group and label your students appropriately. If you've read about teams and grouping in the book above, you'll know the what and why for this. I skipped the heterogeneous groups and went straight to the structures my first time around - it was ok, but not really what it could have been because I had the blind leading the blind. I really saw the benefits of Kagan when I had my students grouped properly - my high students were processing information on a deeper level as they had to explain to their partner(s) why they know that word means "they live" instead of "he lives" (it has an n!), while my students at lower levels were getting quality input, all while building a positive relationships and value for one another. Don't make the mistake I did - if you're going to do Kagan, do it right the first time and carefully assign those groups (I recommend purchasing the Team Tools software to make this a breeze!). Then, make sure students know their letters and numbers (Kagan style - see the book!) - these help with the facilitation, management, and efficiency of Kagan activities. For those without desks (I'm hoping to join your ranks next year!), you can label your chairs with the group names, numbers, and letters and then teach your students who their "group mates" are so they can quickly move their chairs to be with their groups.
Finally, use the lesson planning steps above to carefully select the structures that will support and enhance your instruction. Start small with simple structures (your first few structures will likely come from The Essential 5), and only try one or two Kagan structures at a time. It will take 3+ tries to really make a structure work, so don't give up! Double check and make sure you are following all of the instructions and steps. If you realize you missed something or students are confused, don't be afraid to pause the class and clarify. I usually teach structures like this:
Follow the steps above, and you should be well on your way to an effective CI/Kagan classroom. Please leave any questions below and let me know if I can be of any assistance - I would be happy to be your "virtual Kagan tutor"! I will update this post once I have the "catalog" of Kagan structures matched to CI strategies that I referenced above. Happy teaching!
As I'm reflecting on the year so far, I figured it was a good time to invite input from my Beginning Spanish students on what they'd like to see happen in the future. Overall, I've been very happy with my Beginning Spanish classes and would have been satisfied to keep doing what I'm doing. But, hey, maybe there's something I'm missing? So, I decided to put the question out to my sixth and seventh graders and see what they have to say - and I'm so glad I did!
I labeled three areas on my board ("I like...", "I don't like...", and "We should...") and passed out sticky notes to each group. I invited them to write their feedback on the post-it notes and stick them on the board under the category it went with. I set the timer for 5 minutes and they were very engaged in writing the notes! Afterward, I went through what was on the board with them and responded (eliminating the suggestions like "taking naps" and "no homework", etc.) as well as asked for clarification on what they wanted to see happen. I have to admit that I was pleasantly surprised by all of their great suggestions (and I have to admit it gave me the warm fuzzies to see all of the wonderful things they wrote about class so far, with nothing mean or negative - I love my kiddos!). Here are some of my big take-away's from this discussion:
Students love Señor Wooly! In fact, there weren't any notes that said they didn't like the songs, but a few that asked that I don't use any more non-Señor Wooly songs because they're just not up to par with those on the website. There were a few that said they didn't like the Nuggets for homework, but once I told them that they were going to have homework, they all agreed that the Nuggets are better than anything else I could assign.
Students want to play games and use their devices to learn and review, namely using Kahoot. They report that they do it in other classes and that they pair up if they don't have their own device - and they agreed to "teach" me how to make it work. Overall, I want to do more review, so I will build in all of the requests for games by using them for review. Another activity that they suggested that they do in other classes involves giving hints and pictures of a spot in the world, and have students use their devices to figure out "where in the world" that place is. This could be an interesting way to introduce cultural activities or even have little mini-lessons in under five minutes.
Overall, students seem to enjoy the classroom environment and activities. These are things I already knew, but it's nice to hear them say they enjoy the teamwork, I'm building rapport, that I interact with them, that I'm joyful, and "awesome possum" haha. There were a number of different things they expressed that they enjoyed about class, and multiple students specifically said it helped them learn Spanish.
Students want more learning options. There were a number of students that want to act things out, make up songs, make up dances, do projects, etc. I could address this two ways. First, I could mix things up a little more. Although I address many learning styles, I can often get into some of the same routines with these activities. Students want to mix things up more with different activities. Second, I can assign tasks and projects with menus, allowing students to express their learning in different ways. They also don't want to present in front of the class - I could easily accomplish this by having students present in groups and using a variety of Kagan structures. Some items they suggested for menus include: arts and crafts, act out, make up songs and dances, translate authentic resources like songs and cartoons, etc.
Students want to move and interact. I can easily build in these activities with Kagan. They want both opportunities to do Kagan class-builders to "get it out" of their system (referring to talking to each other) as well as opportunities to practice talking in Spanish. I will have to look for opportunities to get the up, moving around the classroom, and talking to each other in Spanish during class time. Some even wanted to go outside. I'm sure I could accommodate that from time to time.
Students want to change seating. Of course, the request was for "free seating" and I explained that my seating was very intentional so that each person had something to contribute to the group (see information about Kagan cooperative groups for more information on my seating arrangements). As a compromise, I offered to change seats once per month. It sounds like I need to get my Kagan group tools set up so it can automate these seats!
Students want to learn about culture. I need to look for more ways to build culture in. I'm doing this much better in my higher levels, but we've been caught up so much with Señor Wooly that we don't have a whole lot of culture. But students want to learn more!
I feel like a total n00b when it comes to my Advanced Spanish class. I've never taught at this level, nor with this amount of differentiation. I feel like each day is a struggle to try and meet students' needs at the level that they need it. Moreover, since all of them are in Spanish IIIH and AP, I feel an obligation to make sure they are satisfied with their elective choice, especially since it goes beyond the two years most students feel like they need for college. They are here because they truly want to learn what I have to offer. I have to admit I'm a bit flattered that they would choose this over, say art. But yet, here they are. And I often feel like I'm letting them down with first-year teacher issues.
Except, thnere's one big difference: I'm not a first-year teacher and I know I've done more difficult things than this before. I can do this - I just have to figure out what works. I keep reminding myself - at least I know how to teach now! I just need to put the pieces together! And of course, having an additional two years of classroom management makes me feel like a pro compared to that first year.
I've tried three distinct curricula with them so far:
As students finished their tests, I drew a table with three columns on the board: "What I like", "What I don't like" and "What we should change" and filled in a few of my "big" things I've been thinking about in black. As they finished, I invited them to add their own thoughts to the board in any color other than black. When everyone finished adding their ideas, I found that I could accommodate everything they'd written and still do my job well. How awesome! However, it occurred to me that not everyone may agree with the ideas on the board, so I passed out post-it notes and told them to put a check mark next to the things they liked and an X next to the things they don't like. They didn't have to put their name and I positioned myself looking away from the board.
When they informed me I could turn around, I was happy to see that there was a high degree of consensus among students. In fact they all agreed on every item except one - more on that later. Here is their feedback (my comments are in black, theirs are in blue).
Overall, I'm very pleased with the students' suggestions. Students want to talk in Spanish! Which is ironic, because I feel like this is what I work the hardest to encourage them to do. I think that with this expressed desire, I can capitalize on this and structure more activities. I believe structure is the key - they need to know when to talk (taking turns and for certain periods of time), what to talk about, and how to talk abut it (sentence frames, etc.). They also want to explore culture more, which is something I've been moving toward using the Tejidos activities and addressing the AP exam themes. I'm not sure I'm seeing quite the payoff from listening to Un Gancho al Corazon, but it's a powerful motivation tool and the students love it. I can use that to my benefit by encouraging them to work hard for me and then reward them with Un Gancho. They also didn't completely oppose anything that I suggested was good or needed change.
It was pretty evident to me students did not find the reading log valuable. Instead, they requested worksheets. I personally feel that the reading is more valuable and I would get value from it. However, this is a place I can give in, especially since they gave me an alternate type of homework that I could use to be meaningful. I'll probably start with Conjuguemos and grammar-type worksheets. That seems to be what they want - I'll load class with Comprehensible Input and let them work out the grammar at home. Win-win!
There was sharp disagreement in feedback about splitting the class. It appeared that the majority of the class (we assumed the IIIH students with easier work) was happy with the split, while four students (we assumed these were probably the AP students) did not like the split. Some of the more vocal Heritage students were upset because "it's not fair" that they are doing harder work. They asked if they could get the "AP" on their transcript, which cannot happen because they don't have credit for Spanish IIIH (nor are they getting the full AP curriculum). However, this is one of the issues that I'm not going to budge on - I will not sell them short by giving them material that is too easy for them, nor will I give the rest of the class work that will set them up for failure. It looks like I need to have an honest discussion with them about how and why I am differentiating the instruction, and why I'm doing it for them (it's sure to make my life easier!).
Overall, I think this gives me a good "checkup" on where we are, what my students want, and what they need. I'm excited to move forward with these activities with the hope that I'll have more buy-in and motivation since the activities match their desires, resulting in more motivation and learning on their part. Plus, I'm excited to do the things that they want to do as well! It will be interesting to see how these next few weeks go with new strategies based on this conversation.
Last year, I was introduced to the Kagan Cooperative Learning method. I have to admit, I was skeptical at first. However, as soon as I saw it in action, I was hooked! I knew I could get more engagement, more comprehensible input, and more communication happening in my classroom if I could successfully transfer Kagan principles to my classroom.
Although I had some success incorporating Kagan into my classroom mid-year, the real strengths are showing this year now that I've had a summer to think it over, truly dive into my lesson plans and modify them to be Kagan-based at least a few times each class, and set up my classroom both physically and with expectations/procedures. Here are a couple of examples of activities that we've done:
Objective: Read an article in Spanish.
Objective: Write sentences in Spanish.
If you are interested in Kagan Cooperative Learning, I highly recommend starting with their book and the Kagan Structures for Engagement Smart Card. I also prepared a one-page handout to share with other teachers who are new to the method. I'll be attending the Kagan 4-day workshop in February and cannot wait to learn more!
I could not be more happy about this! The new Señor Wooly website exceeds expectations and then some. I am so excited to be able to share this with my students this year!
There is now a complete curriculum and you can assign "Nuggets" for each song to students for homework, then monitor their progress. It does not let them progress until they have achieved 100% on the assignments. Easy grading and differentiation! Speaking of differentiation, the website also allows you to set not only the class proficiency levels, but you can adjust the proficiency levels of individual students so the tasks meet their abilities. The only downside to all of this is that I'll have to re-think a few of my original lesson plan ideas as they were based on the supplementary packets and many of the same activities are now in the "Nuggets". However, that also means I can reserve my class time for the higher-order thinking activities, such as Movie Talk, writing and speaking activities, and more organic language as students get the basics down from doing their homework.
I cannot recommend this website highly enough - it forms the backbone of my curriculum (more to come on that soon), and this just made everything even easier, more interactive, more focused on comprehensible input, and overall more exceptional than ever. Thank you Señor Wooly!
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