Language Sensei

A Language Teacher's Journey

The Year End – What Was, What Wasn’t, What Will Be…

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side-viewLike Seuss’ “Horton Hears A Who” I am saying “I’m still here!”. With 2 days left it’s time to sit and reflect for a bit on the past year. It was a year in which I dove off the deep end in terms of changing how I reported progress, re-examined what was key in my class and looked to enlighten my students as to ‘why’ we were doing things to hopefully involve them more in their learning. So on to the ‘was’, the ‘wasn’t’ and, looking ahead, the ‘will be’.

What Was:

More Formative Assessment – I was less about the ‘marks for if you’re getting it’ and more about the formative assessment. I don’t know as yet if it worked for my students? Did the more ‘casual’ less grade-based pressure work? I think it worked in letting them give themselves permission to take their time in acquiring a skill – that is in knowing that if they didn’t get ‘it’ right away that was okay. I employed more pop ‘check-ins’ and more self-generated language (not worksheets) to provide formative feedback. This will continue.

Purposeful Learning/Intentions – I tried to let my students ‘in on the why’ this year. That is I purposely, and in English, put the intentions of a major activity – and sometimes a minor one on the board. Calling their attention to the why would, I hoped, increase their commitment to an activity. I followed that up often by asking them if they met the intentions set out. At the start I put the intentions on the board but by the end of the semester I was asking them what they thought the intentions of the exercise should be. And not surprisingly they seemed to really get the why and I feel that this increased the commitment to the task and the target language.

#Forget the Fluff – Born out of my lack of planning (time-wise) I learned to really drill down to what is key in an activity/task/class. Why do we ask students to ‘make’ or ‘do’ something that is really not key to the learning outcomes. In my case it was a complete re-work of my Yr4 travel fair – stripped down to what is key I saw the best communication work yet by the students. I will continue to search out the necessary and trash the ‘fluff’ next year.

 

What Wasn’t:

‘Grade Weighting’ – Not a great year for this. It was my intention, as I told my students, that the ‘importance’ of items in a unit would be weighted towards the ‘end’ of the unit (things should build to the summative). By extension, the skills students demonstrated should count more towards the end of the class than at the start of the semester. I don’t feel that I did a good job in this – and that I didn’t up my expectations (and communicate those to the students) as well as I could have. And, as I am forced to keep a number-based gradebook, I don’t think I did a good job in weighting the items as I could have.

Planning – I must admit I lost track of time a few times. I found that I was more willing to ‘go with the class’ on what we were doing and less intent on ‘following my schedule’. As a result I took more time for units than usual (and I ask myself ‘is this a bad thing?’). I didn’t like this kind of ‘lost’ feeling I had in a unit as far as how long it should take to accomplish it. I didn’t like not having some sort of ‘timeline’ for the unit. Maybe this is a natural thing when you are changing your practice but for me, it was uncomfortable.

Guiding ‘Growth’ – I think I was good at providing an explanation for students as to where they were in meeting expectations. But what I wasn’t so good at was giving specific guidance, examples, focussed work on how to improve. I think this means more ‘samples’ of what different levels of achievement might look like. It means time spent specifically focusing on a particular skill. It means that I can’t just report how they are doing but perhaps have individual discussions during the year with students about where they are and how they can improve. Hm..

 

What Will Be:

Streamlined – I will continue to look for ways to drill down to what is key in the language work that we are doing and remove the ‘fluff’ from my units. I will ask/involve students in this process as well – what is it that they see as key?

Risk-Community-Reward – I will continue to support students in risk – by giving them the tools to be confident in their interactions, especially around the fear of not understanding or making a mistake.

Better Planned – I will try to set out a basic ‘plan’ (the number of weeks etc) for each unit to keep me on track. But if something comes up I will not be afraid to ‘deviate’ from the plan.

Achievement – I will develop a plan to effectively record and weight achievement so that the mark reflects what students can do at the end of units and the course more accurately. I will also clearly identify on my course outline what it means to be at which level of meeting expectations.

I’m sure there is much more that went well and much more to improve. But right now…I’m ready for summer!

Colleen

 

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