So, here’s the thing that was happening in my classroom, and it has been making me crazy. I am fighting every day to be the most engaging and interesting thing in the room so that my students will pay attention to me and learn Spanish. I am speaking in the target language 90+% of the time with my big, colorful, amazing visuals, pantomiming things they don’t understand, using simplified language, and doing what I believe I am supposed to be doing. Did you roll your eyes yet? I know. I would have too.
Are you hearing your admin (or saying to yourself) “You are not supposed to be the center of attention. You are supposed to be facilitating the learning….” I get that. I hear it, but I’ve been fighting it. I felt that I needed to always be the one dancing in front. I mean, my visuals are clear and it’s not a list, right? I mean, this slide pulls prior knowledge of colors and stores and adds new vocab that I label and we describe… It’s not that bad, right? Do I sound desperate? Yeah, I felt desperate.
My principal’s favorite phrase is, “The students should be doing the heavy lifting” but I hadn’t really bought into that until recently when I realized why I was getting so irritated. I was annoyed that they’re not engaging with my amazing visuals or target language notes. Why not? Because they aren’t actually DOING anything while they’re “taking notes”. Well, that’s not true. They’re writing down what I write, drawing what I draw, and some awesome eager language-learners are actually responding to my questions. Those learners are probably 4 out of the 32 kids in my room. The rest are mostly cooperating, but even on my best day, there are students completely zoned out. Now, before you sign off this blog saying “Wow, she’s a terrible teacher”, let me share what I’ve done recently to adjust.
Let’s talk before and after…
I realized I needed a different approach to this whole note-giving thing. One that would put the responsibility on them, but still seem like something fun. So, I decided to get out of the way. I rearranged my furniture so the classroom doesn’t have a “front” anymore and changed the traditional notes from a “listen to me” format to a “read and think” format. My graphic organizer became a reading puzzle. It doesn’t have the listening component, but seriously…were they really listening?
Students come in, get materials, sit down, do their warmup, and then I dance around with visuals and introduce vocabulary out loud, and they write words and sentences, and maybe draw. It’s all in Spanish. It’s all solid. It’s just not particularly engaging and requires NO brain effort on their part. Basically none.
Students still come in, get materials, sit down, do their warmup, and then they are given a notes puzzle. The “I Can” Statement is on the board as their learning target to explain WHY they have to do the notes. The “I Can” says “I Can understand a fruit or vegetable when I read a description of it” or something like that. Their eventual goal is to be able to shop for items or order food in a restaurant, but before that, they need to be able to read about food. They cut apart their puzzle, with an image, the word in Spanish, and my created description. They can’t use their phones or a dictionary, they just have to cut and sort and think until they have what they think is right. Then they ask me for help. I remove the ones that are wrong and they try again to figure it out. It takes longer than the notes would have taken, but I’m moving around my room, helping individual students question their thinking, and EVERYONE is working.
It’s not something you can do every day, but I don’t introduce vocabulary every day. I will introduce fruits on one day, and then work with them for a day or two, and then introduce vegetables. I am finding that this way of doing notes has grabbed the attention of more than 80% of the class, and they are working harder and working together to figure out the language. Some of my most reluctant students have even said “Ms. Rhodes, I love this!” which I NEVER would have thought I’d hear.
It’s made it more fun for them, and taken the pressure off of me as the sole owner of Spanish knowledge. I have included the fruit and vegetable puzzle notes below if you want to give it a try. I hope this helps take the pressure off of you too! Have fun!