Cannella's Classifieds

Blog 6


Don't Cry for Me Argentina by JoSale

What's Happening In My Classroom

What has gone well:

There are several things that have gone really well in my classroom lately! This week was my last week teaching Spanish IV. I am happy to report that my final project with my Spanish IV students was an extreme success. My CT mentioned that it was her favorite assignment I had the students do all year. Our final unit was over human rights. Argentina is one of the countries we study in this unit. Having spent a few weeks in Argentina, you can imagine my excitement to have the opportunity to share Argentina's rich history with my students. After learning Argentina's history with a special focus on the Dirty War and the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, I had my students do a mini project. This project had three different elements. First, students had to choose a family member or a friend to represent as one of the disappeared during the Dirty War. They had to make a poster with a picture (or drawing) of that person. Student's had to put the name of the missing person, their relationship to that person, and the date of the disappearance on the poster. We pasted their poster to a piece of black card stock and then hot glued paint sticks on the back so the students could hold them up. The second element of the project was a letter. The students had to write a letter describing their feelings and love for their missing person. The letter had to include the name of the missing person, the student's relationship to that person, and at least four things that described or represented the missing person's life. The final element of the project was participation. After all the posters and letters were complete, I moved the desks to create a circle around the room. I had half of the students pretend to be "Madres de Plaza de Mayo" and the other half visitors. The "Madres" marched around the classroom holding up their posters. The visitors choose one "Madre" to speak with. The "Madre" had to read the letter to the visitor and explain their lose. The visitor was expected to listen actively and ask questions. I then had the students switch roles. These project surpassed my expectations in every way. The students really got into them and made it very personal. I read letters about missing parents, siblings, cousins, nieces, nephews, and close friends. Each was touching and heartfelt. One of my students even chose to do her photography project on the missing people in Argentina. She represented them through shadows and reflections in her photographs for her performance final. It was incredible to see how passionate my students became about history, especially the history of Argentina. I think that by having them choose a family member or friend close to them to represent as a missing person made them better understand the tragedy and the lasting impacts of the Dirty War. I am blown away with this project's success! I will certainly be using it in the years to come.

What has not gone well:

The challenges I have faced this past week were in large part due to standardized testing. This past week the tenth grade students had to take the gateway. This standardized testing affected a large majority of my Spanish 2 students. My third period class only had three students for two days due to testing! There is not much you can do with just three students. They gateway was over by the end of third period, so all my fourth and sixth period students were in present. However, they were completely drained from testing all morning long. The activities I had planned for my students one these days were challenging and required a lot of deep thought. I learned how much standardized testing really does effect students. In the future, I need to be mindful of major standardized tests that affect a large population of my students. I need to come up with lessons that still engage students and further their knowledge, but that are appropriate and accommodating after a long day of testing. I am thankful to have had the experience during my student teaching as I know standardized testing is something that is going to continue to affect my classroom as long as I teach.

Bring On The Change

Instead of mentioning something I want to change, I want to talk about a change I did implement in my classroom the past few weeks. After listening to the last panel to one of the teachers and how she communicates with her students through sticky notes, I decided to give it a try. One thing that I do not want to do is to call students out for their poor behavior in front of other students. I try to avoid this whenever possible. I love the option of waiting until after class to talk if possible, but sometimes you just need to communicate with that student immediately for it to be effective. This past week, I tried using the sticky note approach. I communicated with my students through sticky notes not just for poor behavior, but also for excellent work, or just because. The students thought it was so strange at first. They had a hard time figuring out if a sticky note meant something good or something bad. I think this is what I like most about it. As long as I pass the sticky notes out for both good and bad, I can keep them guessing. I think it has even strengthened some of my student relationships. The students are willing to share a lot more in their writing than they are out loud. I also think it shows them just how much I care about them and their success. It is also my way to correct poor behavior without calling anyone out or making a scene. It may not always work, but I am happy with the results I have seen so far. I wish this is something I had implemented early on. This is a change that I will implement day one in my future classroom.

Discovering New Things

This week, my students had to take the county SPG's which is post test to evaluate student's growth. They take the SPG at the start of the year and also at the close. This year there was a writing portion on the SPG. The writing prompt asked students to write about an accident that happened to them. They were to set the scene of the accident, describe what happened, and then talk about the treatment they received after the accident. This is a really challenging prompt that requires students to use both the preterit and imperfect tense as well as several reflexive verbs. I was very nervous about my students performance on the SPG mainly because the county uses these SPG's to evaluate the teachers based on their student's growth. My CT really did give me complete control of her classroom, so I wanted to make sure that the SPG showed good student growth. I felt as though it was an evaluation of my teaching abilities just as much as it was an evaluation of the student's skills. In order to get my students where they needed to be to be successful on the SPG, I did a number of things. First, I came up with four different practice accident writing activities. I started class each day by going over to reflexive accident verbs. I then had a series of three images that represented an accident that required the students to use the two reflexive verbs we were focusing on. The first day, I was the main person doing the writing. I asked the students for input, and provided them with a structure for writing about accidents. With each practice write, I became less and less involved. Finally, on day 5, I had the students come up with their own 3 scene accident to write about and illustrate. I took this up as a daily grade. I was very thorough in my grading of this assignment. I wanted to see where each individual student really stood in their writing. I was pleasantly surprised at how well the students were able to write. I handed this assignment back and had the students correct their errors. I did all of these things in order to prepare my students for the SPG, and the students scores on the SPG are a reflection of just how prepared they really were. Nearly every student improved between 50 and 80 points on the SPG! My discovery is that backwards design really does work. I also discovered that the best way to prepare a student for a task is designing meaningful activities for them to practice with in advance. In order to do this, you have to constantly be looking and planning ahead to give yourself time to implement the practice.