One more year has ended! I can’t believe it’s already summer break for this teacher. As always, I like taking the time to reflect on my school year once I am done because many of my ideas and experiences are still fresh. Reflecting at the end of the school year is actually a good exercise for anyone to do, as you can go back to your reflection at the beginning of the new school year to remember what you want to keep, get rid of or implement. If you haven’t done so, I invite you to reflect. You will find it helpful next school year!
This is my 4th year using Comprehensible Input (CI). I teach grades K through 5 as one member of a team of three Spanish teachers. We all teach the same grades, and this allows for consistency and more contact time with our students. Our students currently have Spanish five times per seven-day cycle, although things might change a little since our administrator is working out a new schedule. Fingers crossed we will continue to see our students as often as we have so far.
As a team of three, we work hard to align our curriculum. But it really wasn’t until this year that we all agreed on establishing commons goals for our program, while still allowing space for individual creative expression and each of our special “rituals” in our curriculum and separate classrooms. For example, I tailored my own classes by teaching certain songs that I felt connected well with the curriculum, creating my own stories, and doing different movie talks, but I still worked toward the same goals as my colleagues. They also had their favorite songs, books, and games they taught to their students, and that was completely fine! We don’t need to align 100% on activities all the time, as long as we are all teaching towards the same proficiency goals, finding our own unique ways to reach those goals that play off our talents, interests, and passions (our TIPs).
What Am I Reflecting On This Year?
Reading Aloud and Free Voluntary Reading (FVR)
It was great to experience first-hand the benefits and power of reading aloud in class, and there was no student who didn’t look forward to that time. I read aloud to every class from K to 5th grade. I chose when reading aloud best fit, not reading aloud in every session. I also used it as a way to start the class and mix things up. It was challenging to have books for K-2 students. Luckily, at the beginning of the school year, my 4th and 5th graders made picture books that I added to my read aloud library. My 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders also had the pleasure of reading on their own during our FVR time two or three times in a cycle. I do have to say that the books by Spanish Cuentos were the most popular among my students.
This was a great way for my students to transition into my classroom using the TL (Target Language) right away. I used it with grades 2 through 5. With the younger students, I had used different greetings for them to practice as they entered the classroom. I feel that la frase de la semana would be too much for my younger students.
I used some jokes and other simple pictures as warm up activities with my 4th and 5th grade classes. I plan to extend this next year to include more cultural and social justice-related pictures relevant to the age groups I teach.
I used this strategy close to the end of the school year. The students were excited, but sadly we didn’t have the time to use the two characters in co-created stories. I didn’t really have the time to explore all the beauty behind the creation of “One Word Images” during the last three weeks of school and decided to go ahead and jump into the creation of some characters with my fifth graders. They were excited about the idea.
We got to create two characters and even created personalities for them, but we never put them into action in a story. I have to be honest that I used the OWI for about 8 minutes. Not sure if I would spend an entire class creating an image, but it definitely is something I really want to learn more to bring into action in my CI class. If you want to learn more about it, I suggest you watch Mike Peto in action!
I didn’t really have any classroom jobs this year but used helpers that I called “secretarios” whenever it was needed. However, I am interested in adding two jobs that Alina Filipescu mentions on her blog: (1) a poster holder, and (2) a student in charge of the stuffed animals’ basket. If you are a teacher using classroom jobs with your elementary students, please share in the comment box how you use this in your FLES classes.
Decorating With Purpose
It took me a while to give up the empty spaces on my wall. I am kind of a minimalist at heart, so my walls felt busy this school year. However, I completely understand that the signs are not there to decorate but to give my students quick access to high-frequency vocabulary, phrases, and communication. I plan to add more rejoinders to my word wall for the next school year!
What Am I Excited About?
PBL (Project-based Learning) Training: I took a three-day training since the school is heading in this direction. I got to work and expand on an existing project. I will share it on my blog soon! During this workshop, we had to present our projects to receive feedback from other elementary, middle, and high school colleagues. I got really valuable feedback from them, and I am very much looking forward to using this project in the fall.
Launching a Comprehensible Input Group in Austin: One of my colleagues and I created a CI group for the Austin area called “Keep Austin CI.” I am really looking forward to connecting with other colleagues and meeting up in the fall.
Presenting and Sharing My Passion for Teaching With Others: It has been a while since I last presented at a conference. I will be presenting at an online conference and hopefully a few other regional conferences next school year.
Continuing My Growth As a Teacher: It doesn’t matter how long you have been teaching, you will never stop learning from colleagues, students, and the community of teachers! I look forward to continuing to derive inspiration from many of you!
Publishing My First CI Book: I am currently working on my first CI story. I can’t wait to see it in paper, and, most importantly, getting the reactions from my students!
How was your school year? What are you looking forward to in the new school year? How are you recharging during the break? Remember to take care of yourself first!
Yes! Another school year has ended, and now it’s time to reflect upon on it. I have always been good about writing a list OF reflections at the end of the school year, thinking about what worked or what didn’t, what I need to continue working on, and what I will keep doing in the new school year. However, since it’s essentially a note to myself, I rarely benefit from anyone else’s experiences (something I value highly!) and I often lose the list during the relaxation and shuffle / travel of the summer. This year I decided to use my blog as an open forum to reflect on my school year. I know it will always be here (unless Blogger shuts down!) so I can come to back to it when I need it. I have also saved a copy in Google Drive, something I suggest you can use to safely store your reflections too! This document can also be used as a reference to set your goals for the new school year.
Teaching in the Target Language
As a native speaker, I find it an easy task staying in the target language (TL) and keeping my instruction at the proficiency level of my students. I come from teaching in a FLES programs where we were required to stay 100% in the TL, to the point that my students thought that I couldn’t speak English. Yes, the children were trying harder to communicate with me in the TL, but there was more to it than that. Once I moved to a different school, the policies about teaching 100% in the TL changed. That was when I realized that I had been missing an opportunity to connect with my students and get to know a little bit more about them. It was okay for them to use their L1 to communicate with me during recess time. I feel that because I am a native speaker, they need to know that I am bilingual and that I also have interest in their language and culture. Keeping my class at 90 to 95 % TL in my classroom continues to be my goal.
Whole Brain Teaching
This was my first full year using WBT. As a result I feel that my students were more engaged, and I spent less time focusing on discipline issues in my class. Due to the limited amount of time I have with my students I only use level 1 in WBT, which involves these steps:
1. Five Classroom Rules
2. Teach OK
3. Attention Getters
5. Hands and Eyes
I will need to be more consistent in using the steps and definitely need a wider variety of “Attention Getters” in Spanish. If you use WBT, please share your Attention Getters with me! Also if you would like to try WBT next year, here is a link to the visuals in Spanish.
I use the WBT Scoreboard system for the whole group. I use the “pesos system” for individual participation. If a student challenges himself/herself to stay in the target language, they would get a copy of a printed peso to keep in their billeteras (a paper craft made at the beginning of the year). There were three opportunities for the children to use their play pesos to buy from my “tienda”. The tienda was filled with pesos, stickers and erasers. We got to practice sentences such as “¿Cuánto cuesta?,” “yo quiero un lápiz,” or “deme un lápiz, por favor.”
The “pesos system” got a little bit messy by the middle of the school year when students started to lose their pesos and billeteras, and, as a result, a lot of feelings of frustration were in the air. I have to find a better way to keep track of their points which translate into participation using the TL during
When using Interactive Notebooks, it needs to be clear that if you let your elementary students do this alone, they will take a lot time on it! This is my third year using Interactive Notebooks, and I sometimes forget about this. It is also necessary to put the samples together in advanced to have a visual to show to your students so they know what the final outcome will be. It is also important to be sure that the activity is at the level of your students. Something that has worked for me is to do activities with my students at the same time, making sure that they don’t get behind and always leave coloring for the end. Don’t use liquid glue – don’t even have it in the classroom because I learned the hard way this year when one of my students spilled glue all over his notebook. Glue sticks are the best! What I really love about Interactive Notebooks is that at the end of the school year students have a resource to take home to practice during the summer. I didn’t use them a lot this year, which I regret a lot because the excitement about this in past years has been great!
I started my school year strong on this, making videos for my students and sending communication with families about it. I teach at the elementary level, and the success of this really depends on how involved and available parents are to be able to sit with their kids. I might give it one more try in the new school year, but not keeping it as my priority goal.
I have to confess that one of my biggest fears is passing down stereotypes of other cultures to my students. Remember that I have reserved 5 to 10% of the L1 to use in the classroom when needed. On the issue of culture is where I give myself permission to use the L1 in class, especially to clarify any messages that can come across as stereotypes. I know some teachers have an strong opinion about doing this completely in the TL, but I do have to confess that I feel better if I allow room for using the L1 to clarify and maybe have deeper conversations about other cultures. That’s what has worked for me so far!
I incorporated some “light” use of the culture into my daily routine comparing the weather and temperature in different Spanish countries and sometimes even calling my mom in Colombia to allow my students to have basic conversations with her, and they loved it! I still have to work on stepping out of my comfort zone to share with my students more about cultures other than Colombia and Mexico.
Communication with Parents
I used a website hosted on Haiku, but because it was password protected it made it hard for some parents to access it during their busy routines. My goal was to get rid of paper newsletters, and I did, but the password protected site wasn’t helpful this year. I have heard of other teachers using Instagram and other social media outlets to share with parents while still protecting the privacy of their students. I might look into it and decide on what to use next year. I am open to any suggestions you might have, so please share them with me in the comment box!
What Am I excited About?
After 15 years of being in Boston (which is also the total of years I have been in the US) and 7 years of teaching at the same school, my family and I will be relocating to Austin, TX this summer. I will be teaching in grades K-5 at an elementary school, so I am excited to be working with a wider range of groups. I was the only PreK-3 Spanish teacher in the school I was teaching at in Boston, and now I will be part of a team of two more teachers teaching the same grades! How sweet is that?! I am excited to have more companeras.
This summer I will be attending the iFLT conference in Tennessee for the first time, and although I already use TPR I can’t wait to take it further and start with TPRS!
How did your school year go? What are you plans for the summer? Any goal for the new school year yet?
Have a restful summer! You deserve it!
¡Hola! I am Carolina, a Colombian elementary Spanish teacher based in Austin, Texas. Fun for Spanish Teachers is the result of my passion for teaching Spanish to children and my desire to inspire collaboration and creativity in a vibrant teaching and learning community. It’s the perfect stop if you are looking for songs, games, teaching tips, stories, and fun for your classes.