On their own path this week (04/16/16)

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It’s been a busy couple of weeks of learning with teachers around the country, including the yet again amazing TELL Collab in Nashville last weekend (see the Google Drive notes). While I haven’t had a chance to share my weekly blog summary, all the travel hasn’t kept me from keeping up with language teacher blogs from around the country. As the school year is nearing and end, many of us are having lightbulb moments, regret moments and visionary moments for the future. Take a look at some of the posts that caught my attention over the past couple of weeks.

  • I Don’t Do Standards-Based Grading, BUT…proficiencygradingcone

    Like it or not, GRADING continues to be big deal for teachers. And while I don’t have the powers to get rid of grades for teachers, it was great to read Spanish teacher, Laura Sexton’s recent post on how to figure out a grading system that works for her and her students. Sure, you could probably argue with Laura about why she made some of these decision and my guess is she would welcome feedback on her post, but I liked it because of the important messages her system communicates to her learners.  Read Laura’s post –> 

  • So You Use A Textbook…Stop Judging Yourself

    If you get together with a group of language teacher, the textbook question undoubtedly will come up. Next to grammar, it seems to be one of those topics we all have a very strong opinion about. Even my own changes depending on the circumstances a teacher finds themselves in. However, I have been consistent in saying that textbooks are neither the problem nor the solution to language learning. Spanish teacher, Valerie Shull, shares her own aha-moment and reminds us “that you control the textbook–not the other way around.” This using the book as a learning tool (resource) that could help advance student learning seems like a very healthy approach to this hot button issue. Read Valerie’s post –> 

  • Weekend Chat Speed Dating

    Getting students to use language to exchange information in a real-life context. I can’t think of a better goal for a language classroom and yet that is hard to do and I often get asked by teachers: what does that look like in a proficiency-oriented classroom. Well, Spanish teacher Andrea Brown, shared an example from her classroom recently that explained how she got what looks to be a fairly large class talking using language for a purpose. And she even shared a template of questions that might be helpful for others. Read Andrea’s post –> 

  • Primacy/Recency Lesson Plan Template

    Using some brain research in lesson planning is something that would help all of us and I’ve been trying to be much more intentional about my own planning keeping in my what I’ve learned from David Sousa’s important book called How the Brain Works. It was exciting to see Spanish teacher, Sara-Elizabeth (aka Musicuentos) take some of Sousa’s thoughts and put them into a useable template. Finding the right activities for students is only half the planning battle. Ordering activities keeping in mind that students remember best that which comes first, second best that which comes at the end and least that which comes in the middle, is the other half. Read Sara-Elizabeth post –> 

  • The Power of the Do-Over

    French teacher, Megan reminds us of another important message that often gets lost in the grading discussion: when does the learning end for students. Her charge to consider what happens when we don’t allow re-takes has been sitting my head for some time now: “Prohibiting students from retaking failed assessments sends a message – a dangerous one – that if you don’t acquire knowledge or skills at the same rate as your peers, you will not be successful.” Using proficiency as a guiding principle for language teaching emphasizes the need to rethink at what rates students are learning. Read Megan’s post –> 

  • Get it right from the beginning or get it right in the end

    It’s always interesting to follow language learning conversations outside of the US. While some of the labeling of educational practices might be different, it shouldn’t surprise anyone to find that many teachers struggle with the same things. French educator, Steve Smith, shares an interesting analysis that attempts to identify two different ways at looking at language learning: “The label the first ‘get it right from the beginning’ and the second ‘get it right by the end’.” I think both Steve and the original authors might be onto something here and if you’ve been thinking about the notion of a growth mindset, you might enjoy reading Steve’s post –> 

Thomas Sauer is the Director of Design and Communication for AdvanceLearning and an independent consultant. He previously held…

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