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Isn't it obvious? Doesn't everyone know that the more effort you put forth the more likely you are to succeed at something? Surprisingly, your students may not! Yet the practices of reinforcing effort and providing recognition have been statistically proven to raise student achievement.
I too made the assumption that my students knew what effort was and that, by the time they got to my high school classroom, they knew that it was one of the keys to achievement. However, what I assumed and what I saw in my own students told two different stories. So I asked them one day "what does it mean to put forth effort?". The common response was "it means you try something". But when I saw what "trying" was to some of my students it looked more like trying escargot than Spanish. They would take a tiny taste, get an awful look on their face, and that would be the end of it. This was not the kind of effort I wanted and it was certainly not the kind of effort that results in achievement.
So, we defined "effort" in a bit more detail.
Effort is... Effort is NOT...
-working on something until it is done -leaving a task incomplete
-continuing to try when something is difficult -giving up when something is not easy
-seeing difficulties or unknowns as opportunities -seeing difficulties as barriers
If you are going to ask your students to reflect on their effort, they need to come to a consensus as to what it is in the first place. This is a great conversation to have on those first days of school and I would not start a year without it.
Once you have established a definition, have students log their effort for tasks during your first unit. At the end of each class, as an exit ticket perhaps, have students give themselves an effort score and an achievement score as follows...
I would recommend doing this a few times a week for different types of assignments (listening, speaking, writing, reading). As the year goes on I decrease the frequency, but whenever we are approaching those tough times of the year (before breaks, on assembly days, end of the year), I ramp it up again. The goal is to make sure they never lose sight of how effort DOES directly impact achievement - so if they do seem to be losing sight of this, it's time to refocus them on what truly matters.
The second part of this strategy deals with providing recognition. The important part here is that the recognition needs to be directly connected to something the student has done to improve his or her achievement. Recognition is far more effective when it is personalized and directed towards the individual (rather than the group or class as a whole). Many teachers have elaborate reward systems in place for students - pesos, and stickers, and stamps, etc. There is nothing wrong with providing concrete symbols of recognition, but again, it should be tied to the student meeting a performance goal.
So what are other effective ways to provide recognition?
-give the student a shout out on social media
-send a positive email or postcard to parents
-hold a one-on-one student : teacher conversation
-add an example of their work to a student work gallery
-give them a special privilege in the classroom (being allowed to charge their phone, sit in the rolly chair, sit on their desk instead of in it - see my FREE Secondary Reward Coupons for more ideas)
-give students badges (similar to what many video games do) for specific language-based achievements such as being able to count from 1-10, say the alphabet, introduce themselves, etc
Here are some of the badges I use for my beginning language students. You can get them HERE.
No matter how you decide to incorporate recognition into your classroom, just remember that it means a lot to kids. We're working with a generation of kids that is used to fake recognitions, awards of participation, and medals for showing up. This type of recognition is different, it is meaningful, because you are recognizing what kids can actually do and what they have achieved. Not to mention, it's just a fun and special thing to add to your classroom that kids will remember for years to come.
The second of Marzano's strategies focuses on asking students to summarize information and helping them to take notes in a meaningful way.
One mistake I made early on in my teaching career was assuming that students knew how to summarize and take notes, but I quickly learned that was not necessarily true. I found that when I would introduce a grammar concept, students would want to write down every word and every example exactly how I wrote it instead of taking the time to actually listen to and process the information being shared.
Now that I have moved to a proficiency-based classroom and no longer do direct grammar instruction (I have switched to teaching grammar inductively), summarizing and taking notes usually focuses on authentic reading/listening samples and cultural information. I often give my students something to read and instead of giving them comprehension questions, I give them a form like this one...
This is a type of Summary Frame that I adapted for use with narratives or stories in the target language. If you have a textbook that has a Fotonovela for each chapter (as most of them do), these work great for those as well. The story does not have to be read, it can also be something that students view. It can be used with everything from cortometrajes to full length movies.
Here is an example of how this might be completed for the story "El Agua Mágica para el Rey" which I use from a great site for children's stories in Spanish called Chiquipedia.
Another type of Summary Frame I use is specifically for summarizing conversations in the target language. Interpersonal Speaking is arguably the most difficult mode of communication, so I like to model the process of back and forth communication frequently through listening activities. This tool helps students to identify some of the most common elements and patterns seen in conversations and can be used as a launching point for conversations of their own.
Here is an example of how the completed form might look after a student listens to a conversation about a movie event.
We have a lot of culture discussions in class as we learn about people, places, and products of the target culture. This is information that I want my students to know, but I do not present it is as notes. Instead, we look at pictures and artifacts and have discussions about them. While we do this, students complete a sheet like the one you see below. This note-taking sheet focuses heavily on visual information. Students are supposed to draw (or copy/paste images) to accompany any information that they write down. Students can many times capture much more information in a picture and are more apt to do so since it requires less handwriting. Asking them to draw and take notes in word form requires them to process what they see and understand in the moment rather than just copying down my words like a scribe without really having to pay attention to what it all means.
A completed sheet (after a targeted look at the country of Argentina) might look something like this...
Interested in using some of these summarizing and note-taking strategies in your own classroom? You can download all 3 templates seen here in the file below. Let me know how you like using them!
Let's talk about seating...
When you first think about how to seat students in your classroom, you are likely thinking about ways you can curb certain behaviors that are distractors in the classroom. You think about putting those two kids on opposite sides of the room from one another, this kid up front, that kid entrusted to the back, etc. But instead of looking at seating arrangements as a preventative measure only, you can start to think of how you can use seating to increase the effectiveness of your instructional activities.
So, let's look at 8 different seating arrangements that can be used in any classroom and when/what activities each is best suited for...
Seating Arrangement 1: Small Groups
-inductive grammar lessons
-small group games like "descúbrelo" or "yo veo"
Seating Arrangement 2: Large Groups
This seating arrangement allows for larger groups which is perfect for differentiation. Each group can be working on a different skill collaboratively while the teacher has easy access to each group to facilitate that process.
WORKS WELL FOR...
-Breakout EDU Games
Seating Arrangement 3: Pairs
This seating arrangement allows for easy communication between two people which makes it ideal for interpersonal speaking practice and info gap activities.
WORKS WELL FOR...
-information gap activities
Seating Arrangement 4: Whole Class
This seating arrangement works well for whole class activities. The students can all see/hear each other and the teacher can easily see all students.
WORKS WELL FOR...
-Whole class Speaking Activities
-I have / Who has Activities
-Telephone Style Writing Activities
Seating Arrangement 5: Out-facing
This seating arrangement works great when you need to increase the concentration and focus of your students. Turning students away from the center of the classroom creates a feeling of privacy and minimizes distractions since students can not see one another.
WORKS WELL FOR...
- Listening Activities
- IPA Assessments
- Formative Assessments
- Administering Proficiency Tests / Student Growth Measures
Seating Arrangement 6: In-Facing
This seating arrangement is great for whole class activities because students can see and hear their classmates as well as the teacher and board. This makes it idea for whole class activities involving speaking or discussion.
WORKS WELL FOR...
-Whole class speaking activities
-Oral Review Activities
Seating Arrangement 7: Traditional Rows
This seating arrangement is good for individual seat work. The teacher has easy access to answer student questions. This is my go to seating arrangement for days I have a sub.
WORKS WELL FOR...
-Individual Seat Work
-Infographic Reading Activities
-Sub Plan Days
Seating Arrangement 8: Theater Style
This seating arrangement is perfect for lessons that focus on any kind of visual that must be seen clearly by all students.
WORKS WELL FOR...
-viewing target language movies
-viewing target language music vides / song activities
So I know what you're thinking - "I don't want to have to move my desks around EVERY TIME I do a different activity. Of course not! So here is my recommendation..
Think about the types of activities you do most in your classroom and choose 3-4 seating arrangements that are most conducive to those types of activities. Once you have chosen them, teach them to your students. You will probably find that there are at least 1 or 2 that you would hardly ever use because you just don't do that type of activity. For me, I rarely do seat work (I typically assign that sort of thing for homework instead) so I do not use traditional rows. My typical seating is in small groups, so that is my default. In my classroom, I call them "formations". When we are about to take a quiz I tell them "get into testing formation" and they know what that is and move the desks accordingly. Once they know the seating arrangements you like to use, they can not only reproduce them, but the change is an immediate signal to the type of activity and expectations.
Regardless of where you teach, what age student you teach, or what subject you teach - you have likely been asked to demonstrate how you use "research-based strategies" in your teaching. The most popular and widely studied of those strategies were developed by Dr. Marzano. He identified 9 strategies that have been proven to be effective (in varying degrees) by research. Even if you know these strategies though, it is not always clear how they should or could be put to use in your classroom. So, I thought I would take some time to go through each one and give some ideas as to how they can be used specifically in the instruction of foreign language.
We will start with the most effective strategy; Identifying Similarities & Differences
Falling under this strategy include activities that ask students to compare, classify, and create metaphors & analogies.
-Have students compare cultural celebration and practices from the target culture to their own using a venn diagram or comparison matrix
-Have students compare the meaning of a series of vocabulary words (cocinar, cocina, cocinero) and then another that includes at least one of the same words (cocinero, bombero, enfermero)
-Have students take a list of vocabulary to be learned and break it into their own categories. For example, upon receiving a list of words related to the house, students might classify words for items based on what room of the house they would commonly be found in.
-Have students look closely at verbs used in sentences and classify them according to the subject
3) Creating Analogies
-Give students two words and ask them to think about the relationship between those two things, then give them a third word and have them come up with a word that relates in the same way. For example, comer is to pollo as beber is to _______?
Looking for activities that fit this strategy? Here are a few of my favorites...click to learn more!
Each year I choose a mode of communication that I, as a teacher, really want to work on improving my instruction. I read a lot of articles and do research, and then I try different approaches in my classroom to see what works and what doesn't. This year I have focused on how I can improve the way I teach listening and wanted to share what I have learned.
1) Listening is not as easy as it sounds
If you break down this concept of interpretive listening into smaller parts, you will find that in order to get students to that goal of being able to actually INTERPRET what they are hearing, they first have to develop some more basic skills.
2) Assume nothing
Regardless of the level of student you teach, never assume that their skills are at a certain place just because they "should be" at that place. Unfortunately, "should be's" don't matter and will actually railroad your plans when you get down to the reality of what listening looks like in the classroom.
3) Differentiation does not have to be difficult
I admit, there are still times when I cringe at the sound of the word "differentiation" because to me it is just code for "more work". However, small differentiations can make goals reachable for a larger number of your students and assure that students at the bottom and the top are not getting left out.
So, let's start by breaking down interpretive listening and all the little parts and pieces that students need to be able to do.
The most basic of listening skills is aural recognition, or the ability for students to recognize a word by the sound it makes when spoken. Aural recognition involves understanding phonics. Activities that target aural recognition include any kind of cloze activity in which students are to write what they hear. This could be filling in lyrics to a song, blanks in an audio script, or taking dictations. Easier aural recognition activities will involve known words while more challenging ones will involve unknown words.
Vocabulary knowledge is another key skill. After all, just because you can correctly reproduce a word you hear due to the phonetic patterns of Spanish doesn't mean you know what the word means. Listening is not just about individual word meanings either, it's about how those words function within a context. Activities that target vocabulary knowledge might come in the form of a checklist where students must check off the meanings of the words they hear. These activities might also draw students attention to unknown words and ask them to specifically consider the context.
Comprehension is one of the most important real life listening skills. At the root of communication is being able to pass information on to others, but if the other person does not understand the information you are trying to communicate, the exchange is useless. Comprehension requires students to not only know the meanings of a good portion of the words in the communication, but also to have strategies for dealing with the words they do not know. Activities that target comprehension should really be done in the students' native language. Sure, we are supposed to stay in the target language the majority of the time, but if you are really trying to get an accurate picture of comprehension, you need to let students express it in a way that is more than just repetition of what they heard. Having to explain things in their native language prevents them from being able to parrot what they heard in Spanish.
Communication of information involves students being able to take information they learn and pass that information on to someone else. You have all played the game "telephone" where a message is passed around the room orally and when you get to the last person the message has turned into something quite different than the original. This game demonstrates how complicated the process of communication truly is. Activities that focus on communication of information will ask students to recall details, summarize, and search for main ideas.
Making inferences is a high level skill that would be difficult to accomplish for any student if they had not spent time focusing on the skills before. When you ask students to make inferences and interpret, you are asking them to read between the lines. It's not just about what is said, but how it is said, and what may not have been said at all. Activities targeting the skill of inferring will ask students to generalize, make assumptions, and synthesize information they have heard.
Finally, the idea of culture should not be ignored even in listening. Giving students authentic materials to listen to means the culture is already embedded in that material and it is up to you to pull that culture out and put it in front of your students for consideration. For example, listening to a student describe their school schedule in the United States would be inherently different than listening to a student describe their school schedule in Mexico. It's not just the language that is different, but the way a school schedule is structured. Helping students to take note of and think about these differences will open their eyes to similarities and differences across cultures.
Looking for listening samples and activities that have already been created to address and target all of the skills mentioned in this article? I've got you covered!
Enrique and Ozuna make it through Round 3 a banderas desplegadas, Shakira se lleva un chasco, and Romeo Santos y Aventura caen como moscas.
Who will the winner be? ¡Estamos en ascuas!
Round 2 of Marzo de Música is in the books. Definitely the highlight of the week was the "Batalla de los Enriques" with a tight race between "El Perdón" and "Duele el Corazón". We said "adios" to Prince Royce, Bomba Estéreo, and Carla Morrison this week. Only 4 songs remain! Stay tuned!
Week 2 results are in and I can't say I am too surprised, though my heart does ache a bit that Calle 13 didn't make it into Round 2...perhaps I should have pitted them against someone other than the unstoppable Enrique Iglesias.
Now on to Round 2!
This month is all about exposing students to Spanish Language music. I know many of you use music when you teach, but there are always some great songs out there that just don't fit into the themes or mechanics that you teach throughout the year. "Marzo de Música" is a chance to let students hear what teenagers in Latin America (and right here in the U.S.) are listening to.
So, each day this month, my students will be listening to two Spanish Language songs from a variety of genres including rock, alternative, pop, bachata, regional, and urbana. After hearing both songs we do a vote on which one they like better and the winning song moves onto the next round. By the end of the month, one song will earn the coveted title of "Mejor Canción del Año".
This activity takes no more than 10 minutes per day and is well worth it. You will see your students making connections to the music, learning the choruses, and adding these songs to their own playlists. Not to mention, once the songs are planned out, this is a stress-free activity for teachers. I have had tons of students come back from years past and tell me "I still listen to X song all the time". It's the perfect combination of fun and learning.
So, without further ado, here are the results from Week 1 of "Marzo de Música":
We are halfway through the first round and I am looking forward to seeing which songs make the cut during Week 2!
I have been teaching Spanish for the past 15 years in a large Suburban School District.
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