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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

My Verb Epiphany

I had an epiphany today. Today... I-got-it.

Since I've committed to teaching the Standards Based Way, I've tried to re-think how I need to plan my units/lessons with proficiency as the entry, middle and exit point. I was doing backward planning design before but I now realize that I would cheat because of the grammar. I would start with the end assessment and the "I can statements", but I would then look at the grammatical structures and the vocabulary that I had in the unit and arrange things so that I could use them at specific times, as prescribed by my unit packets. For example, Unit 1 is travel and Future tenses, Unit 3 is the Ecology unit with the subjunctive tense, etc. Everything I taught, every Power point, every worksheet, every quiz and IPA was geared towards the mastery of those new structures and vocabulary. But, I did it in a fun way, so most of my kids did enjoy my class and they did learn a lot.

For days, I have been turning in my head how I would approach things differently this year but I couldn't put it together in a cohesive way. So, today, I stayed late in my classroom having a date with my curriculum. I took out the SC State Standards for Language Proficiency, which are basically the ACTFL National Standards and the Tell Project's At-A-Glance handouts given to us by +Thomas Sauer when he came to the SCFLTA conference last winter and I started reading them again. I made a list of the things that I felt my Spanish 3 students already knew and then those skills that they need to have in order to progress from Novice Mids to Novice Highs. (In some skills they are Mids and in others they are Highs). 

Then, I looked at my district's unit packets for each quarter and thought PBL was the easiest way to merge these two curricula. I decided that I would do the Amazing Race theme which +Kristy Placido and +Carrie Toth were discussing in Twitter a while back. As I started putting the unit together I was  super excited about all of the things that the kids were going to do during Semester 1. Then, I started looking at the language that they would have to use to get there and that is where I stopped myself cold. I literally thought "that is not going to work out because we are supposed to review preterite and imperfect in the first half of Q1 and how are they going to talk about what they will do if we are supposed to be in the past tense". I started trying to figure out weird twists of an Amazing Race game where they would only speak about what they did. As I started getting more and more frustrated by how stupid this was sounding to me, I thought to myself WHY??? Who the heck does that in real life?  Nobody only speaks in the past tense or the future tense. There is no reason that my students can't learn and use all of these tenses right now. The future is a piece of cake and these poor kids have been marinated in the past tenses for 6 months of Spanish 2, so why continue to torture them with more past tense for 2 more months of Spanish 3?

I decided right there and then that I would never again let grammar stop me from planning a unit. My kids will be using the present, preterite and future tenses during S1, not because I have to check off some box but because they will need those structures to talk about what they are doing, what they have done and what they are planning to do in their Amazing Race adventures.

Oh and one more thing, as I was looking at all of the novice high I can statements, I was actually sad that my kids can say SO little about themselves and others. That is also, about to change, my friends.

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