mega888 Focus on adjustment – Path 2 Proficiency

As teachers, we are constantly adjusting.  It seems like we adjust frequently with different trends that emerge- PBLs, no homework, IPAs, differentiation- you name it.  However, the best of each idea seems to stick as we work on the next idea emerging from education.  Also, as foreign language teachers, we are all adjusting our beliefs and policies since we are reading this blog!  As I have started to teach towards proficiency, I have found that I am able to adjust my instruction even more after I have reflected.  This is even more important because I am adjusting based on what my students are doing.  They are driving my adjustments instead of trends in the education world.

Feedback Adjustments

I love using Google Forms to collect feedback!  One of my easiest adjustments comes from weekly feedback from my students.  Wendy Farabough first taught me about Feedback Friday, and it is so easy to implement.  You can have students complete this during the last few minutes of class.  It not only lets me know what activities I should repeat, but it also gives me an insight into what they are thinking that week.  I can easily add an optional question like “is there anything else I need to know?”  While many students skip this question, the ones that do write something typically tell me something important.  More importantly, it shows my students that I value their opinion.  I want class to be engaging for them, and a quick five-minute activity can demonstrate that.  Plus, it helps with my planning for the future year and week.  But make sure that you adjust based on this feedback!  If students like a certain activity, do it again!  If students do not find an activity useful, explain it to them or tweak it to improve it.

Many teachers bemoan that students never pay attention to the feedback that they give them on assessments.  However, what do we require for students to do with our feedback?  Do we guide them with what we want them to do?  To help students respond to the feedback, I typically have students fill out (another!)  Google Form about what they did and how they want to improve.  While I hope they use the feedback I give them, I also like to see if they agree with my opinion or not.  Also, they can share what was easy for them.  Many times, I cannot tell what is easy or difficult for them.  It would also be useful to have them give feedback right after they take the assessment before I give them my feedback.

When students express what is difficult for them, this feedback helps me adjust my focus in class.  Last year in Spanish II, many students commented that they were having trouble with interpretive listening.  I started investigating ways to improve my instruction and coaching for students and to adjust to where my students were having difficulties.  I read a lot of posts by Gianfranco Conti which explained the idea of micro-listening along with a variety of activities.  I realized that this was where my students were truly struggling.  I employed some of his strategies, and my students made improvements.  It also allowed me to start working more on these activities earlier on in my instruction.  

Assessment Adjustments

The other opportunity that I have found is to adjust after both formative and summative assessments.  I remember the first time I gave a FULL IPA at the end of level 3.  At the end, I was thinking there is so much that I want to work on with the students now!  By using the rubric, I can see where students are struggling.  For my Spanish V students, many of them were using the same verbs.  However, when I looked at my vocabulary list from that unit, I mostly had nouns!  Next chapter, I will be sure to include more verbs and phrases.

This can also be relevant for grammar points to reinforce.  I frequently see these when they complete writing activities/formative assessments in class in their online Seesaw journal.  I can target any structure that they need to communicate before they write their presentational pieces.  Also by focusing on what they need to communicate, I can find the most relevant pieces of information.  I am not just teaching “morir- to die” in the unit with food because servir was also in that unit and they both have a stem-change in the preterite tense.

If your students are still writing simple, repetitive sentences, have you reinforced conjunctions?  Engage in more whole class conversation where you initiate better follow-up questions to help students with interpersonal speaking.  I am always reminded to play my favorite circumlocution game when my students struggle with describing words in Spanish.  One student has his/her back to the board, I write a word on the board, and everyone else must describe it aloud in Spanish.  Assessments should give you a point to drive and adjust your next unit instead of being the end of learning for that topic.

As we teachers always reflect, remember to constantly adjust to help your students improve throughout the year.

Published by Maris Hawkins

Maris is a Lower School and Middle School Spanish teacher at an independent school in Washington, DC. Although she has taught almost all grades and levels of Spanish. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in Spanish and Art History in addition to her Master's in Teaching from the University of Virginia. Maris also loves adapting authentic resources to make them comprehensible to use in her class. In addition, she has presented on how to incorporate technology into a proficiency-based classroom at various conferences. She lives in Virginia with her family, and she enjoys exploring the area around DC.

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