Peer Editing for Success!

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Please ignore the horrible grammar, but enjoy the joke ūüôā

Peer editing can easily become a waste of time, but I’ve tried several different ways and have hit on something engaging and beneficial to the students. ¬†The idea I’m going to discuss tonight is a modification to Expert Groups which I learned about this summer at the AVID Summer Institute (are you tired of hearing that yet?). ¬†Basically, I have 6 different tasks for the students to complete as they read. ¬†Rather than have them read 1 paper and complete all 6 , I have them each read 6 different papers, doing something different with each paper.

For example, while reading the first paper, they must circle the first word in each sentence. ¬†Why? ¬†If every sentence begins with, “I,” perhaps they have forgotten to incorporate transition, sequencing and flavoring words.

With paper 2, they underline every verb. ¬†It’s harder to write in L2 than L1. ¬†Students tend to have a few favorite verbs, and this encourages them to consider more variety.

On paper 3, students draw a box (not rounded) around every transition, sequencing, flavoring word they find. ¬†ACTFL doesn’t list that as something novice writers and speakers can do. ¬†Come to Plano ISD, we’ve proven they can!

After reading paper 4, students write a specific positive comment about it. ¬†I give good and bad examples. ¬†I don’t want, “That was good.” ¬†I do want, “I like how you transitioned from one idea to the next by using the transition, on the other hand.”

After reading paper 5, students write a specific suggestion for how the paper can be improved.  Again, I give good and bad examples.

Finally, I repost the original prompt/task, performance expectation, and requirements.  Peers note what the author included and what is missing, along with counting the words.

By breaking it down this way, the students do not get overwhelmed or feel inadequate to complete the peer edit. ¬†Notice, I do not have them check for grammatical errors–though I always tell them that if they see something questionable to mark it with a “?.” ¬†Editing in the LOTE/World Language classroom can easily and effectively be done with a little guidance from us.

Musical Partners

I am trying to think outside the box with partner work this school year.  I have a FABULOUS language lab in my classroom that my students feel I overuse.  While I will never give up opportunities to use the amazing tool, I have decided to mix it up from time to time and get students up and moving (and picking their own partners).

Today, my students completed an independent activity about their summer.  Normally, I would pair them on the lab and have them ask and answer questions with each other.  Then, I would mix up the partners a few times so they got an opportunity to learn about other people.  When sharing activities like this, I try to spend as much time as it took them to do it so they see that it was in fact worth their time.

Today, I decided to utilize that collaboration space around the corner by playing Musical Partners.  That is my name for the activity that I stole from an icebreaker at the AVID Summer Institute.  We went into the space (with their worksheet), and I played music on my iPad.  While the music played, students walked around and/0r danced around.  When the music stopped, they paired up,  asked questions of each other and shared information related to the activity.  I gave them about 2-3 minutes to speak before starting up the music again.  They walked/danced until the music stopped and found a new partner.  We did this 3 or 4 times (depending on the class) before returning to our room.  It was a lot of fun :).

In case you were wondering, my song choice was Shakira’s Estoy Aqu√≠, a classic from when I was in Spanish 2 oh so long ago :).

Setting the Tone for the Year

I know, I know… It’s been 11 months to the day since I last posted, but I feel inspired tonight. ¬†Today marked the first day of my 8th year of teaching, and I’m feeling quite reflective and pumped!

My first few years of teaching, I made sooooooo many mistakes and over the years learned the value of setting the tone in the classroom.  The last few years I have paid particular attention to what I do in the beginning that makes things run smoothly the rest of year.

While I am a Spanish teacher, I have never felt that teaching Spanish was my only responsibility to my students. ¬†I feel it is my duty to help them learn to be good people. ¬†I try to incorporate life lessons and model appropriate ways to deal with various situations. ¬†Last week during in-service, I had the pleasure of hearing Patrick Briggs speak, and one thing that stood out to me was the importance of relationships with students. ¬†It has always bothered me when teachers say, “I don’t care if my students like me.” ¬†I’ll be honest, I’ve even said that in the hopes of convincing myself that I really meant it when it seemed like that was what you were supposed to say to stay off the radar. ¬†But it’s just not true. ¬†I care so much more than that and a wonderful mentor administrator (who by the way, came off as a SCARY, GRUFF person–Ed are you reading this?) made me realize that perhaps my true feelings would lead me to success with my students. ¬†I thought he was scary, but he cared more about his staff and students than any administrator I’ve ever met while being able to keep us all in line so to speak.

I 100% admit it, I want my students to like me, I want them to like my class. ¬†That being said, my number one priority as their teacher is for them to learn Spanish. ¬†I felt like over the years I had to learn to balance. ¬†At first, I sacrificed the relationship aspect, then at times the learning. ¬†While I’m no where near perfect, I feel like I have had quite a few consecutive years of success in this area.

So what do I do?

Well, to be honest, there’s a lot of work that goes into this. ¬†First of all, the number one idea is not new. ¬†It’s not revolutionary, but it’s very important: consistency. ¬†I follow-through on everything from the beginning. ¬†It’s not a threat, it’s a promise. ¬†While the inevitable tears of the poor, sweet girl who has never gotten a detention in her life (or better yet, the boy who cries) REALLY tugs at my heartstrings, I do what I say I’m going to do. ¬†If I tell a student that I need him/her to stop talking or detention, I follow through if s/he doesn’t stop. ¬†Yes, my initial reaction is to give them a second chance, but years of experience has taught me that in the end they will like and respect me more when they realize they can trust me. ¬†Consistency is really all about trust. ¬†They learn that when I speak, I speak the truth. ¬†When we as teachers do not follow through, they learn to doubt us and to not trust us. ¬†Let’s not forget something else that goes along with consistency–fairness. ¬†I do not let one kid off and punish another. ¬†It doesn’t matter if it’s a student I had last year and who feels more at ease with my class the second time around. ¬†You got the warning, you ignored it, now you get the consequence.

Another thing that I feel is CRUCIAL to my success: I handle issues with the individual. ¬†When I ask a student to be quiet, I go up and say it to where s/he can barely hear it; if s/he is sitting, I get down to his/her eye level. ¬†When I need to issue a detention, I quietly ask the student to see me at the end of class. ¬†I do not embarrass or humiliate the kid. ¬†I do not show anger. ¬†I make it clear that one action caused a reaction–a reaction of which the student was forewarned.

When I discuss the detention with the student, I have him/her write out the explanation on the detention.  If I am dissatisfied with his/her rationale, s/he redoes it.  (I got this idea from an amazing colleague, Edith).  I want them to take as much ownership for their actions and resulting consequences as possible.

When we have the detention, we talk. ¬†We process what happened–I feel like a shrink trying to get the answers sometimes–and I help guide the student to figure out why the behavior was problematic and how to proceed. ¬†I also make it clear that I don’t hold grudges, and that I plan to move forward.

Most importantly, I work the room for weeks on end. ¬†Whenever the students are working in groups/partners/independently I am EVERYWHERE. ¬†I am visible and make it clear that I am going to be all up in their business so their business better be Spanish. ¬†It is tiring at times, but I put in all this effort up front so that when I’m really tired in May, I can sit down for awhile if I need to and be able to trust my students to stay on task.

Finally, I show my quirks.  I ramble on and digress in Spanish (yes they get a little lost, heck, I get a little lost in my own thoughts too), but I am me. I share tidbits about my kids, my hobbies.  They get to know a piece of my life which shows them that I trust them enough to be myself.

First Day Fun

On the first day of school, I try to avoid covering policies and procedures in my classes.  Why?  Well, to be honest, students get that from every teacher in every class on the first day.  If they are in my first period, they might have an interest but 2nd-7th periods have zero interest in hearing me babble on about rules, grading, and how great our year is going to be.  In LOTE, we dare to be different and think outside the box!

I have heard some teachers who start the first day with a story or a children’s book filled with cognates so that kids can see that they already know a lot of words (this works especially well in level 1), others who play the name game, some who have students make name cards and introduce themselves in the target language.¬† I also loved the idea of creating a PowerPoint about my lifestyle to go with an introduction to me and my class.¬† Like many of my students, I get stage fright when I have to be center stage.¬† On the first day, I am too nervous myself to put on a show (later on, usually by day 2, I get over it and am wiling to make the biggest fool of my self whenever it makes the environment for engaging).¬† I am visual, so the name cards would probably help me but the name game does nothing for me since I’m not an auditory learner.

So what do I do?¬† Well, first I hand out the calendar and we have our first Tapa del D√≠a.¬† But after, I do a mingling activity I call Loter√≠a Social–or “Social Bingo.”¬† I create a 4×4 bingo card with a question or topic in each box.¬† Students must roam around the room, asking each other questions to find someone different who answers “yes” to each box’s criteria.¬† I model it by asking a random kid a question I think they will answer “no” to.¬† Then I explain (in the TL of course) that I must now ask a different question.¬† I ask until the student says “yes.”¬† I next ask for their name and demonstrate writing it on my paper.¬† The students then get some time to complete the activity–and I participate too.¬† After several minutes, we regroup and I ask who they had on their papers for each box.¬† It’s a lot of fun to see who said “yes” to which question.¬† The greatest feature of this activity is that it’s easy to adapt to different levels (from level 2 and up).¬† For level 2, I used sports, movies, activities, books, etc and the kids usually fashioned questions about whether or not the person likes, plays, participates, reads, etc the item in each box.¬† For level 3, I make it all in the past–former teachers, did you see __ movie?, did you read___?, etc.

Lotería Social is only one of the activities I do on the first day.  Throughout the entire class period, I work on setting the tone for the year, something I will get more into on another post soon.

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