Summer 2020 found me emotionally ping-ponging between anxiety about keeping my husband safe and grieving setting aside 30 years of carefully crafted lessons using 90% target language from day one. As we await the final decision, we suspect the winner of the big reveal will be modified block scheduling.
The winner is definitely modified block – with-a-yet-to-be-confirmed configuration.
I am so grateful that my admin takes the time to explore wise tweaks to the schedule, but meanwhile I am planning my 90 minute synchronous lessons and my Wednesday asynchronous lessons.
All across the country parents are worried about our middle-school students being in front of a screen for so many hours.
Many parents have confided that their students previously went to school and came home and spent hours on their screens – screen time is a major part of today’s youth’s entertainment, connection to others, and down time.
Now parents need to flip to other activities and during a pandemic it is challenging for them. I admire all of the parents, including my nieces and nephews, who have creatively sought out alternatives for their children.
My challenge is how to teach such a basic level without being on the screen?
So far my solution is to make the asynchronous day a cultural choice board with a minimum of screen introduction and maximum time with off-the-screen choices.
For my second career, I started teaching in the mid 1980’s!
Where you even born? Out of school?
Can you imagine someone my age, an obvious tech immigrant, adjusting to teaching with apps on a screen?
I can, and you can, too!
(Check out my hair in my picture – those are not fashion-statements gray hairs, but ones I have earned by teaching adolescents for over 30 years.)
Our new paradigm. (Come shift with me!)
First, this can be our most concentrated teaching – teaching the most important concepts in the limited time we have.
Second, we can embrace the true meaning of Comprehensible Input and drench our students with listening and reading and have speaking and writing take a back seat. Yes, I know,
our partner activities
our think-pair-share activities
our “den cinco” partner swapping activities
our “adivina” upper level thinking activities
our ‘habla, habla, cambia’ activities
bring students the most joy – and they still will, but not as frequently. But if you really believe in CI, then let’s embrace this year as our year to focus on input.
Are you willing to try it?
Third, we need to grieve setting aside our masterful lessons for incorporating our 90% target language with new Spanish 1 students.
We understand that the first ten minutes of the block need to be an engaging pre-class.
We need to accept sacrificing our usual opening routines for providing Higher-Level thinking skills as we teach culture in English.
We need to accept being told what to do, in spite of our previous academic freedom.
Personally, I agree that the trauma of 2020 justifies these changes, and I want low-anxiety class openings.
Here is a list of Day 4, the other days were not block days.
My block scheduling tool kit includes:
1. Attendance Activity Spanish One
2. Attendance Activity Spanish Two
3. Authentic Musical Timers
5. Mindful Activities
If it is the winner, we were told to expect to be taking careful attendance the first ten minutes during an engaging “pre-class activity.” I wasted a morning searching for cultural videos, rejecting everything showing alcohol or skimpy clothing or any other inappropriate segments for my junior high students.
I started thinking more about what I want for these unknown students who already have stolen a piece of my heart, just because they are entering a new building without all of the usually welcoming activities that create community and a sense of safety.
I am already worried about all of their screen time and how to inspire higher level thinking skills beyond the ‘let’s Google translate” mindset of many students last spring.
1. Attendance Activity Spanish One
I am going to use their check-in time to learn about culture and to learn to separate what they observe from what they surmise, and to stretch and wonder about what they observe. While I hope that we will be able to return to our building after Thanksgiving, I am preparing lessons based on meeting twice a week for 40 weeks. I now have 100 slides that I can use for this attendance activity.
lo veo preclass virtualaaaa from ellen shrager on Vimeo.
In general, when teaching synchronously, I average 75 slides per class. About 20 of the slides are interactive slides for my students. They are in the daily student “guía”
While playing the catchy “lo veo, lo pienso, me pregunto” and “preguntas” songs, student will be filling out their daily Google slide. In the past they had a separate notebook for the slides, but I believe that this year it will just be included in their guía.
2. Attendance Activity for Spanish Two.
Now with Google Slides boxes.
3. Timers to pace out the longer class period.
As I adjust to longer class periods, I want to stay on track by using timers with culturally authentic music.
I like to use the following:
4 minutes – Música Llanera Pista
3 minutes Reggaeton Pista
3 minutes Reggaeton ¡Que Hoy No Hay Para Comer!
2 minutes Reggaeton Pista
2 minutes Reggaeton Lyrics Días Festivos
11/2 minutes Salsa Pista
1 minute Gaita Venezolana Pista
10 minutes Bachata with encouraging phrases
5 minutes Bachata with encouraging phrases
4. Stretches whether students are in front of you or at home – take a two minute stretch every 20 minutes. Do it to music or a soothing Spanish voice for Mindful Stretches.
5. Mindful Activities
This song was made by the three Venezuelan families I support with all of the net proceeds from my store.
Here is a video of their opening boxes of used clothing that my friends donated. We are hoping that you download this song and like it enough to check out our songs.