Each year, I end up with some surprise focus. I can never determine what it is at the beginning of the year (sorry to my principal and department chair!), but naturally I find something along the way that I realize I need to focus on. Then, I continue to work on it throughout the year. A few years ago, it was interpretive reading. This year, it has been interpersonal speaking.
I have listened to many podcasts by Bill VanPatten discussing tasks, but I haven’t always been successful in applying it to my classes. I stumbled into a task myself for the final interpersonal assessment for my level 5 class last year. They were studying the paquete in Cuba, and they had to discuss what five items they would include in it. I noticed what a rich conversation they had, and how much more students were motivated to talk.
I wanted to continue to develop this skill. At the beginning of the year, I changed up my tertulia. This assessment continues to improve as my students work on it, but it is much more of a conversation than before. The biggest light at the end of the tunnel for me has been to see my level 6 students. They did the same assignment and spoke for 40 minutes without much intervention from me! (Except when I get really excited and jump in!) They asked really strong questions that weren’t just comprehension questions and had real conversations. (I learned that one of my students has BIG plans to make an affordable avocado toast restaurant with different toppings- sign me up!) Sometimes, I feel a little crazy teaching SO many levels, but to see the growth that my students make helps me to continue refining my teaching. It also helps me understand what I am doing that is working (or not!)
In December, I did the task talk from Kara to bring it back to BVP, and again my students were having better conversations overall. This has helped me continue to develop tasks, and I developed one for the horoscope activity. Then, I watched Meredith White’s Everyday IPA YouTube video, and it clicked! At times, I was isolating the speaking activity too much. Students would still do the puedos or the fishbowl conversation due to the nature of those activities and the ability for me to check them. However, they weren’t completing the other speaking activities as much in the target language because there wasn’t always a reason to do so other than to just practice the language. I needed to link my activities more.
With my level 1 students, they were reading La Familia de Federico Rico. For the interpretive piece, they read a chapter and completed a reading guide. Then, they asked a partner personalized questions based on the chapter. For example, students had read a chapter about soccer, and the grandmother who plays soccer with her grandson and scores all the goals. During the conversation, students asked their peers to describe a family member, if they liked soccer, and when they are nervous.
After they answered these questions, students compared their answers, the book and their partners’ answers to write a few sentence summary on Seesaw. I gave students sentence starters like In the book, Federico… but my partner… or Federico and I… This was a suggestion from Katrina Griffin during her NECTFL presentation. I use them sporadically, but I need to use them consistently. Overall, students were motivated to speak more in Spanish because they had to eventually write in Spanish. It is easier to figure out what you will say and communicate in the target language instead of translating later. My goal is to make it as easy as possible to communicate in Spanish and give students all the tools that they need. I have started doing the same thing with my other levels with a lot of success.
The other interpersonal activity that I have done is around the idea of stations and links interpretive reading with interpersonal speaking. In level 5, we were studying Colombia. I printed off some old articles from this year and last year from my own blog and Mundo en Tus Manos. I had students brainstorm their answers to two questions after reading each article. As they progressed around the stations, they also read the other responses and elaborated on the responses. When students returned to their original station, they summarized the responses. As they were discussing their responses, I noticed more students participating to add more thoughts. I try to give students time to really reflect and think because many times, quieter students are more willing to participate.
I am sure that I will continue to post more, as I work on developing the interpersonal skill in my students this year! How have you modified your interpersonal assessments or in class activities this year?