Language Sensei

A Language Teacher's Journey

Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes…Innovating and Keeping My Sanity…*


blueprint  If only there were 48 hours in the day!  I don’t know if you are like me but I suddenly looked at my classes one day and thought “yes I must change ’cause I can’t go on with one more lesson like I used to’. I don’t know if you are like me but I can get lost in planning, changing, altering and updating and the almost limitless possibilities/options/materials that are out there to explore. And then…life knocks and says ‘what about me?’. So with change a definite for me, I’ve had to really look at how I can best make changes and still maintain a life for me, with my husband, and actually get some sleep. What do I keep in mind? How do I alter what I do to be congruent with the ‘new’ me? There are several things I keep in mind…

Accept that it will take time – I could do it all at once, every course, every class, but would I actually be the teacher for my students that I want to be? The amount of energy that would take would probably lead me to be less energetic, supportive and open to what my students want. So my biggest thought is to accept that this is, of necessity, a gradual process. It would be great to move every course, every unit to what I want it to be, but it’s not realistic. Ultimately, for the change to be real, effective and lasting, I had to learn to give myself permission to take it slow. After all if I don’t have time to change, try to alter as needed then, long-term, my students won’t see a benefit.

“Test the change” via 1 unit – My goal has always been to innovate small – with idea that it will eventually become ‘big’. So, in accepting that lasting change takes time, I’ve tried just to work with 1 unit.  When I was adapting to using a tablet in class, and shifting my resources to digital, I started with 1 unit in my Year 3 course. Why? Well I was teaching 2 sections of it in the semester and, voila, I was altering 50% of my unit teaching at that time. The unit approach also allowed me to reflect on whatever I was trying, in this case new technology, and evaluate how it worked for me and my students.  Knowing that I just had to find things for that 1 unit also allowed me to develop a “template” for change, that I knew, down the road, would let me attach a course, and ultimately my program.

“Grow the Change” via 1 course – It had been, for me, 5 years since last I taught the Yr1 course when I took it up again last year. The students in Yr1 received the benefit of my ‘go-slow, innovate by unit’ strategy I’d be testing in my higher level courses. When it came to the Yr1’s I was ready, I knew the what I needed to do to ‘change’ past approaches, and I could apply what I had learned (via my #langchat PLN) to the course as a whole.  It wasn’t as daunting or time-consuming as I thought it would be because I ‘knew’ how to do it. Now I look at them and realize that they are my students who will grow my more choice-based, authentic resource, comprehensible input, ‘no workbook’ strategy in Yrs 2-4. So next year, as my new Yr 2’s I will be able to deliver what I have always thought my Yr2 course should be. Then, in Yr 3, I can do it again. By Year 4 – voila – a revamped program ready again for new innovations in my teaching.

The pressure to ‘change everything all at once’ is huge. I still feel it. But when I do I take a deep breath and remember that lasting change in my classes, just like in my life, is more real and has more impact made in measured and do-able steps. To all of my #langchat colleagues making big changes – go for it – and remember to take time for you in the process!


*Credit to David Bowie (@DavidBowieReal) as writer for the lyric sampled



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  1. I get caught up in the idea of making all the changes right away and neglecting everything not class-related. I’m going to try your unit approach this year. Thanks for this.

  2. I am undertaking a revamping of Spanish 1 with the goals of more authentic resource/culture based as well as more student-driven/choice-influenced with driving questions. What you have done sounds like where I want to go. Would you be willing to share what you have done? Units? Scope/sequence? Resources? Anything would be of great help! My email is Thanks in advance!

  3. I used small wesbites to both organize my stuff and to get lessons started for 4th and 5th graders (age 8-11) This gives students more opportunities to choose what interests them. Then I try to give them opportunities to play with Spanish.

  4. Thanks for the information Joe! I am looking as always to put choice into the mix and like the idea of ‘play’! More to think about and thanks for sharing your resource!

  5. Best of luck with the ‘revamp’ Rachel. I must admit that my scopy&sequence for my Japanese classes is more ‘in my head’ than on paper. That may be why I change things up so often. An example of what I did with #authres from a past post may point you in that direction. Also @sraspanglish has written about driving questions on her blog – check her out! Have a great start to the year – Colleen

  6. I really like the idea of ‘test-driving’ a unit – it sort of gives me a road-map for future reference. It also lets me revamp and alter as I see fit for the next time I do something! Best of luck in the new school year! Colleen

  7. I am so at that place you are describing, “let’s change everything”. But yes, how to take it slowly and spiral in new with old. I’m wondering about my L3 & 4s how they will roll with some new ideas and structures? My L2s will probably be fine since I started to introduce some tech stuff last year. My L1s won’t know the difference. Well, will keep touch to see how my plan progresses. Bonne chance!

  8. Hi Patty,
    Thanks so much for your comments – it really is a work in progress and I do believe that slow/spiral works best for me. I don’t have that many hours in the day to do it all at once. And sometimes I have to remind myself that, while the lesson might not be ideal as it is ‘not yet changed’ it will work for them! Somehow I believe though that I’ll never be done! 🙂

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