I am so excited to teach Spanish I this year! One reason is because one of my main goals (that Laura reminded me of!) was to let all of the students know that they are capable of learning another language and progressing in that language. Then the rubber hit the road planning this summer, and I realized that I had to come up with a first unit from scratch… as I am not using a textbook and students are only going to really have the language that I teach them to use on any assessment! And I had to assess them AND come up with an IPA so soon. Luckily, I had some ideas and tweeted out for some more! First, I decided on a few things that I didn’t want:
- I don’t want to start immediately on the textbook basics: date, time, weather, school, descriptions, greetings, alphabet etc. It isn’t super engaging and there is only so much that you can do with this language on an IPA.
- I want to figure out how to intertwine most of these ideas throughout the class as we are progressing throughout the year. I really don’t ever want a full school unit. So many classes are cognates, and we can discuss the items that we use in class easily without devoting a whole unit to it.
- Many textbooks make the mistake of isolating some topics and wanting to teach all of the ideas of a topic. I don’t need a whole unit of descriptions with most of the words when I can intersperse them throughout a variety of units. Same thing goes with other topics like the weather. We are lucky in Maryland to have four seasons. Therefore, I can wait to introduce the word snow until right before a snow day. It is much more engaging that way.
I decided that I did want to make sure that I covered the basic topics though. I have heard of many teachers including a review of the calendar, weather and time at the beginning of each class. Our classes rotate, so the time review is relevant. (Otherwise, you would just say the same time- every single day!) I also want to incorporate one country per unit into this time. That way, we can discuss a variety of times and weathers. I want to start with Argentina. As I wrote in my authentic resource blog post, it can be easy to take a screenshot of the weather that day to use in each class. I will do this after our introduction activity.
Then I thought about what different units that I wanted to teach throughout the year. I came to the conclusion that it made sense to me to talk about likes along with activities and sports from the beginning. I came up with a list of what I wanted them to be able to do by the end of the unit:
- Interpretive Reading: Students will read a Yahoo! Respuestas (like this) that will be edited about what sports or activities that a variety of people like. Students will have to identify sports and who likes them in addition to a variety of cognates. I plan to edit them not only because many of the answers end up with errors but also to minimize the text that my beginning students have to read. (Also someone on Twitter recommended Yahoo! Respuestas to me, but I can’t find the original tweet!) I may also add another reading assessment a little later of a TV schedule of ESPN like this to discuss the date and times of different sporting events. I believe that reading can be assessed much earlier than some of the other skills.
- Interpersonal Speaking: As much as I love group interviews, I will have to ask all of the questions in the first interpersonal interview because my students would have trouble carrying the conversation. I plan on asking my students some of the questions that we were reviewing throughout the chapter including how to introduce themselves and which sports/activities they like and do not like. Also, I will ask them when to continue to work on dates/times. Wendy helped me learn that I can assess their answers on a smaller scale initially. I will just give them a score for each question/answer on a scale from 1-4 based on if they were able to answer the question and if they pushed themselves to give a more complex answer.
- Presentational Writing: Since they are still trying to figure out how to write more, I will provide them with heavy prompts about what they like that they will have to answer in Spanish. I will leave it open for students to express much of what they have learned in the first few weeks. It also will imitate a free write where the students can explain what they said about themselves and other students during the first few days.
After I had decided the end goals, I was able to write down some can do statements for my students. It was a little tricky because at first, I came up with a LOT that students could say about this topic. I wanted to use the simple future to talk about who will win or lose and teach querer and preferir. I pared it down to make it easier and more doable for all of us. I am using these can do statements:
- I can introduce myself.
- I can say activities/sports that I like.
- I can say activities/sports that I do not like.
- I can tell when an activity takes place.
- I can identify cognates.
I believe that whatever unit you do, you should include cognates in your first unit. They will be extremely helpful as students navigate their first authentic resource or reading that I write. In addition to these can do statement, I also really like how many teachers include some reach objectives for some students. The three that I have decided upon are:
- I can say which activities I prefer.
- I can say what I love to do.
- I can say if a team will win or lose.
Once I have decided upon these skills and the can do statements, I start fleshing out some activities which I will share in the upcoming week. I hope that this post helps you understand how I plot out my units and get started without the guide of a textbook. Have you done something similar? What is your first unit for the beginning of the year?
Mistakes, I’ve made a few- according to Queen. As I have been switching from a more traditional approach to teaching foreign language to teaching towards proficiency, I have definitely grown. However, here are some “mistakes” that I have made that hopefully you can avoid… or at least learn from my mistakes!
- Not switching my grade book categories: Traditional grading allowed me to have tests and quizzes categories. Now, I would rather have: speaking, reading, writing and listening sections. This way, I don’t have to jam two parts of an IPA on one day to call it a “test” to distinguish between tests and quizzes. I just want to be able to call it a “listening assessment” and put it with the other listening assessments. I believe that this will also hold me accountable to have enough in each category and balance it all.
- In an interpersonal assessment, not inserting myself enough: I love have the students talk to each other in an interpersonal assessment. It pushes my level 2 students to maintain a conversation; however, they do not push the vocabulary level like I do. They will stick to the same types of questions that their peers can understand. I need to ask questions to push their understanding and gage what they can understand.
- Not really knowing where your students are: I have heard this from numerous people when they switch to proficiency. You assume that your students have a greater proficiency level than they do. Once you figure that out, you will be able to develop appropriate assessments and rubrics for your students.
- Not reassessing your rubrics: As a department, we designed the rubrics for our IPAs last year. They served their purpose, and they were a great start. However, after working with them for a year and further reassessing where our students are, we need to rework them. However, I would encourage you to give your rubrics a few tries before you change it. That will help you design a better rubric. There is no way for you to design a rubric perfectly the first time.
- Not shortening my authentic resources to help students: I have recently posted on this, but I have decided especially for novices to delete sections of the text that is not helpful for students. This will make authentic resources easier for students especially in the beginning levels. As I switch to teaching level 1 next year, I want to be even more cognizant of the overwhelming nature of authentic resources.
- Not NOT having a textbook: I have finally decided that two years after moving in this direction, I am ready to drop the textbook. I will say that it is easier to shape IPAs around existing textbook units instead of the other way around. Two years in, I feel that I am using the textbook in small doses that it makes sense to drop it. I would have been in over my head if I had dropped it sooner. Also, if you never drop the textbook, that isn’t a problem either. I think it can become a hot button topic, and you have to do what works for you. You can find success by adapting a textbook to meet this need.
Last spring, I updated my summer proficiency pack. This year, I decided to update my winter proficiency pack. I did a combination of activities. I wanted to combine some culture with some written and listening activities in Spanish. While I kept a few specific ideas, I also shared some looser ideas that students could complete. Typically, I use these assignments as a replacement for homework. While I accept late classwork, I do not accept late homework. Therefore, I like to provide extra activities in case someone misses an assignment. Here is my list of activities for kids to complete this winter break!
The next week, I want to focus on describing what is happening and focus on action verbs. I also want students to be able to classify different movies/TV shows. At the end of the week, I will have an interpretive reading assessment. Students will be interpreting movie and/or TV reviews. They will also have a shorter writing piece where they describe what is happening in a clip.
I plan on doing the following activities to prepare them:
- I will either use the guide that I created for De que te quiero te quiero or create a new one for another telenovela. My goal is to have students understanding clips from actual shows, and I create a reading type guide to do so. I also plan to have students also describing some parts to their partner.
- Zachary Jones has a lot of great resources where students plan out their trip to the movie theater.
- This webpage from Bolivia lists current movies with summaries. It would be easy to give generic interpretive questions (who, what etc) and allow students to choose their movie (within reason!). You could also create specific questions and have all students read the same review.
- Also, I found a few video clips of vloggers discussing what to watch on Netflix. One girl covers her favorite make-up, food and programs, and this man covers his favorite programs.
You can see my previous week plans here as well as my final IPA which serves as my final goal for my students. I will be publishing the final week before the IPA tomorrow.
I have been trying to decide where to begin my year with Spanish 2. I wanted to do some sort of pop culture unit because I love pop culture! Plus, I believe that pop culture easily lends itself to culture comparisons as well. After mulling over a couple of ideas, I determined to use Netflix/movies and TV as my beginning unit. I can cover many of the grammar topics that my fellow colleagues cover as a review unit as well.
I will share my final assessment for my students as well as breaking down how I will build up to the final IPA:
My final IPA will consist of:
- Interpretive: Read two descriptions of shows on Netflix and analyze them.
- Interpersonal Writing: Compare with a partner via table texting which show you would like to see and why (from the previous two shows.)
- Presentational Writing: Write a review of a show that you watched on Netflix. Give a brief summary, describe a character and why you liked it or did not like it.
My first week will revolve around describing characters in different series. Their first assessment will be a presentational writing assignment. They will have to describe the characters in a series that they choose as their final goal.
In the first unit, I want to do the following activities:
- I need to spend some time reviewing the presentational rubric and where students should be writing. I want to give examples as well.
- I also will start with La Persona Especial.
- Students will also read some of the fichas on their favorite celebrities. They will answer questions about each celebrity.
- Students will practice writing by journaling in Seesaw.
- I also create a PearDeck (an interactive slideshow) with celebrities for students to describe. You could also just create a powerpoint and have students speak or use whiteboards.
- Thanks to Musicuentos’ #AuthResAugust, I found this Twitter account that highlights different Mexicans. It is so awesome! (This week is Isaac Hernández a dancer.)
As I find myself moving more and more into teaching solely based on proficiency with comprehensible input, I feel that many teachers are intimidated to begin the switch. Many feel that they have to completely get rid of their textbook- then, where do you begin?! Plus it seems that some proficiency teachers create their own units that would not align with a traditional textbook. It becomes difficult to even edit those for your own class. Many teachers have so many preps that it seems overwhelming. Many teachers work with traditional grammar and vocabulary teachers and do not want to completely rock the boat especially when they are starting! Also, if you fill your days with a lot of worksheets or conjugation- where do you go from there? How do you prepare students for proficiency assessments?
I wanted to write a series for you, so you can start to dip your toe into the proficiency waters. When you have started, I guarantee that you will progress further. It will become easier to incorporate into your program then you can think about moving away from your program if you would like- or not! Many times, I think teachers feel that it must be all or nothing. That was never my personality, and I wanted to help you along your way.
First, I found it easier to incorporate interpretive reading or listening into already existing vocabulary quizzes. I would search for a video clip or a reading, and I would create an interpretive assessment based on it. (Here are two examples of a reading assessment that I created. I also have a template to use to listen to commercials for Novice High.) Since there is already a section for key words, you can add your vocabulary there. I have also asked students to find five or six vocabulary words that they know from the article. (I make sure that there are at least seven or more vocabulary.) I have also added a section such as “describe your own bedroom in Spanish and compare it to the one in the article.” I realize that is not strictly interpretive, but I am ok with that. You do not have to include every single item from the IPA list if you are not there yet. Try adding a few elements from the list.
Once I had decided on what my assessment would be, it allowed me to plan a bit easier. Many blogs list activities for interpretive reading and listening like Creative Language Class, Amy Lenord, OFLA tech binder, and Laura Sexton. Even though my interpretive assessments use solely authentic resources, I do not only use authentic resources in class. In addition to the blogs above that I reference, if I am preparing my students for an interpretive reading activity, I will:
- Give them a practice with the same types of questions.
- Use comprehensible readings to increase their understanding of the vocabulary and increase fluency such as these noticias.
- Use reading guides.
- Have time for Free Voluntary Reading with my classroom library.
- Have students complete a webquest style activity on a website in the TL.
- Play a game such as my review game with interpretive questions on the text.
If I am preparing students for a listening assessment, I will:
I also created a Pinterest board with more interpretive activities to help you. I do not complete only these activities to the exclusion of speaking and writing that week, but I feel that once I establish my focus for the week, it becomes easier to incorporate more proficiency activities into my planning. In the comments, add some of your favorite reading or listening proficiency activities that help prepare students! One of my biggest worries was what I would actually do in class once I moved to more proficiency based assessments. Take some time this week to think of a unit that you teach where you could add an interpretive quiz and find a good authentic resource to save. Then you can start wading in the proficiency pool!