Friday, January 24, 2014

First Year Firsts


As part of my New Year's Resolutions, I am trying to keep up with a blog, for once.  If not for anyone else's entertainment, keeping track of my own year and progress.  I am a first year Spanish Teacher in Texas.  This year I have all Spanish 2 kiddos, five regular classes and one accelerated.  It has already been a year of MANY challenges.  All of the classes, student teaching, pre-school prep, and planning still did not prepare me for the reality of teaching.

So.  After my first semester of struggles, I changed a lot of how I'm structuring my class.
Goal 1: Do more translation.
Goal 2: Go green!
Goal 3: Teach for retention.

I realize the last one seems like a given, but I thought that's what I had been doing.  When we came back from Christmas break, they were all back at square one.  It was like the whole first semester never happened.  This semester I'm having the students make "chunk books" that I found here.  Instead of staples, I did an easy foldable to keep the books bound.  Day one, the kids wrote down their objectives for the chapter so when they say, "What are we doing?" the answer is right there on page one.  This also lets them know what we will be learning for the chapter when we start, and check back at the end to see if they reached these goals.  They also took some notes for a review of the chapter we did before the break.  End of notes for the day.

Day two we took notes over a small chunk of the vocabulary, went over those, and took some notes over direct object pronouns.  After each set of notes, I try to do a few practice exercises.  The great thing with the Notes Book is they don't have to take out a piece of paper, unprepared students asking for paper from other kids, barely-used paper being left on the tables and the floor and all over the room.  I tell the students to turn to the pages we designated for practice and use those.  No more asking if scrap paper is okay?, Are we turning this in?, Can I write on the back?, Do we keep this?

So far, so good.  Teaching small chunks of different concepts seems to stick much better than the text book's suggestion of teaching all 60 vocab words one day, teaching all of the grammar another day, and doing "drill and kill" worksheets in between.

For quick assessments, I have started making quizzes on Google Drive.  Much less paper, much less running around to make copies and finding a jammed copier, MUCH easier to grade.  Almost all of my kids bring their own device to class each day.  I post a link to the quiz on the overhead or write it on the board, they open the form and take the quick quiz right from their phones. No passing papers out, collecting them, stacking them up on my desk.  After kids take the quiz, Google Drive automatically creates a spread sheet with all of their answers.  You can easily add and edit an array formula and grading formula that will give you the kids' grades instantly!  I can't tell you how easy and wonderful this has been.  The kids really like it too!  They feel like they're being tech savvy and smart using phones to take quizzes.  For instructions on making your own quizzes on your drive, check out this page.

The past two weeks have been successful so far.  The students say the books help a lot.  It really helps them see how much they've learned and how far they've come.  For this first chapter, I am taking the notes for a grade just to give the students a little more incentive to keep up with their books and take good notes.  As of right now, ALL 143 students will be taking home progress reports with an "A" in Spanish.  Hopefully, the good grades will continue.

First blog post on my first blog: Done!  Tune in next week for an update!

1 comment:

  1. Welcome to the world of blogging! You will find that it's an exciting journey of reflection that will push your thinking and empower you. I'm very impressed that you are trying it out in your first year of teaching -- I know how tough that first year is! Finding a supportive blogging community can really be encouraging, so I hope it helps you through! I recommend leaving lots of comments on blogs you admire, as well as participating in link-ups. (For example, has a writing challenge link-up every Tuesday, and has Spanish Fridays.) Thanks for your kind comment on my blog, and please feel free to let me know if you have questions about any of the ideas I've shared!