Saturday, June 11, 2016

Reflecting on a Year Teaching 90% in the Target Language

90% IN THE TARGET LANGUAGE? In my elementary Spanish classes? Yes! Over the last few weeks, as the school year slowly comes to an end, I have been reflecting on how this year has gone, most specifically in terms of my professional goal to stick to 90% in Spanish for the ENTIRE year, not start sliding sometime in the winter like I have done in the past. (#trueconfessions!)

SO, WHAT DID I LEARN? Firstly, I learned that I have been my biggest obstacle in the past. Yes, me! Which really surprised me because I have given many presentations and written many blog posts on establishing routines, classroom management, teaching culture, and more, all in the target language! Nevertheless, this mental roadblock kept me from even trying to shoot for 90-100%, though in looking back, my classes have always ranged 75-80% in the TL on average anyway- so why was I afraid of that 10-15% bump? I truly believed that my students would be too frustrated, that there were some things that just couldn't be done in the TL, and, most importantly, my relationships with my students would suffer. I'm not alone here- Wendy Farbaugh wrote a great blog post expressing similar emotions!


THE TRUTH IS, my fears were unfounded- I developed strong relationships with my incoming Kindergartners and maintained and built upon those I already had with my First through Fourth grade students. Lessons I had firmly convinced myself couldn't be done in Spanish because they were too full of unfamiliar language became lessons that, with creativity and thought on my part, were conducted entirely in Spanish or with only a few switches into English to establish meaning. Except for very specific situations, I addressed all behavioral issues in Spanish, as well as lice, bloody noses, wracking coughs, vomit alerts, tears, and missing pets (did I say elementary school?). In essence, I took what I had already been doing and made the commitment to do it more, and more consistently.

SO, HOW DID I DO IT? Here's the meat of the matter, and really deserves a post all on its own- or several! (Stay tuned, that's the plan!) Here's a overview, visually presented:


WHAT WILL I CHANGE FOR NEXT YEAR? The biggest thing I need to do, in my opinion, is teach my students strategies for learning in a 90% classroom right from the beginning of the year. Although 'eyes on me' and 'focus' are always important, my students really needed the 'why?' behind these strategies, which I didn't fully understand until about mid-October. Explicitly teaching strategies helps them and me hone in on what they (and I) need to do to ensure success for everyone.

UPDATE: See our post on building a partnership with students to support success in a 90% TL classroom! Click here to read!

HOW'S THIS FOR EXCITING?! Join us for our 3 WEEK CHALLENGE 'Hitting the 90% Target' starting January 2 on Facebook! We'll get you started transitioning to a 90% in the Target Language Classroom with these mini goals and tasks! Click here to join the event.



https://photos.google.com/photo/AF1QipMk0RMH8MFmOB_yJMuvVMH7xBx_qfLl8oqOQXbA

6 comments:

  1. Hola Julie, It is great that you were able to do that. I am in the 80-85%. As you know I teach high school. I like your comment on planning what vocabulary you will need to teach the lesson. I started to do that and that is what has helped to keep my classes in Spanish. I use a lot of cognates and previous vocabulary learned in class so the kids get what I am saying. It takes time to make a list of words but at the end it pays off.

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    1. Hola Maria!
      I so agree! Figuring out what vocabulary is the most comprehensible is a challenge- cognates, synonyms that are more comprehensible than others, even vetting activities to determine whether in fact it can be done in the target language (some just don't lend them selves well to novice speakers!), has paid dividends for me, too! It has been exhausting, truthfully, but I saw such gains in my students, especially at the lower levels, so I think it has been worth it! Espero q todo esté bien contigo! Abrazos, Julie

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  2. Hola. Julie, I need to break down my activities and know the vocabulary. Thanks

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    1. You are welcome! This has been an area of challenge for me as well- being very deliberate about the language I use with my students to ensure comprehension!

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  3. As a former MS and HS Spanish teacher, I know this was my greatest struggle too (hahah not the lice piece thankfully!) I like the part about teaching students strategies and teaching GRIT so students push themselves to stay engaged in a 90% Spanish classroom... even when they are overwhelmed or confused. Definitely having strong relationships and a safe environment goes a long way in making students feel comfortable with the struggle.

    Excellent flow chart and great way to think strategically... teaching 90% in target language doesn't just happen!

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    1. Thank you, Andria, for your comments! Your point about GRIT is so important! That resilience to keep going, keep trying, even when it is challenging is a key component to language learning! I am still on this journey, hoping next year is even better and I am more effective! ~Julie

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