Friday, December 30, 2011

Final Success!

So, the race to the end of the semester is finished and all of the grades are in. The last unit assessment and the finals went pretty well.

First, let me talk about the unit assessments. The assignment was for the students to have a conversation with another student about their future plans. The idea was that they would use some of the vocabulary from the unit and the future tense. However, I found that only a small amount of vocab was used and virtually no future tense. I got a lot of, "en el futuro, quiero ir a Harvard." However, the students did have CONVERSATIONS! There were virtually no awkward pauses and dead silence. I did have stronger students whispering hints to slower students. I did have quite a few conversations that seemed to involve very few verbs. But, one of my main goals was for the students to have a conversation, and that did happen. I think in hindsight that thinking I was going to require a specific tense was probably ridiculous....I mean as long as they are communicating, what difference does it make what tense they are using?

Final exams went really well. The average was about an 82 across all of the classes. The students performed at the level that I expected for each one of them (i.e. my lowest students got Ds, high students got As.) The final consisted of listening, writing and reading. There were 10 multiple choice and 5 short answer questions. The students seemed to do well on all of the sections.....however, it was amusing to see some of my 8th block kids provide written answers to the question I had asked my 6th block

I am working on my start for next semester. I am looking at using Google Voice for weekly speaking activities and having 15 min of reading time at the beginning of each class to work on a short story reader. I am still toying with the idea of taking the last 15 for wrap up......might save that for next year when I see how this semester goes.

Can't wait for Spanish Civil War Unit....the hard part will be not going overboard with the history facts. Since the kids have no idea about the Spanish Civil War, I want to give them main players and broad strokes. Maybe it will even help them out in history class!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Finally, finals!

So, after almost an entire semester (finals are next week), the majority of complaining about the flip has ceased. Students grades seem to be spot on, in comparison to past years and the students performance in Spanish II. There are a few exceptions, but they have extreme circumstances. For instance, I have a student that is usually an A student who has a C in class. But she missed some class and never came in to do a retake of a quiz.

I am looking forward to our last Unit Assessment, which is a conversation about the students futures. We have done quite a bit of practice, and I love hearing my students say "Hey I can say way more than I thought I could!". I feel like their listening and speaking have improved quite a bit over the semester....much more than their peers from previous years.

I will say that since there are so few quizzes (6 for the semester) and only 3 Unit Assessments, the kids can be in big trouble if something goes badly wrong. For example, I have 6 students that wrote their fairy tale (the Unit Assessment for the last unit) with a translator and they received a 0. They are all looking at Ds right now. After the Unit assessment next week, there grades should improve, but they can never truly recover from something like that happening.

Some students have asked for more quizzes, shorter vocabulary lists, and there are a few holdouts for a word bank. However, I really don't believe that 35-40 vocabulary words every two weeks is excessive. I keep hoping that they will choose to study over the entire 2 week period instead of always waiting for the last minute.

As I believe I have mentioned, every student can retake every Benchmark Assessment (or quiz). They are required to have "a ticket" which is more practice for grammar, or writing vocabulary words a certain amount of times. I have increased the "price" for the retake as we have continued through the semester, hoping to encourage them to do it right the first time, and for many of them, this has worked. Still, I am surprised by how many students never take advantage of the retake. When I talk to them about it, the answer I usually get is that they are too busy with sports or their other classes. Sad :(

The Final Exam for the semester is going to be an application of the material that they have learned this semester. This is making some of my students crazy, because they want a study guide, a list of exactly what will be on the test, etc. I have told them I am not giving a grammar or vocabulary assessment. They are going to do a writing sample, which will be a letter based on our fairy tale unit. The prompt incorporates fairy tale vocab, future tense and direct and indirect objects. The example I gave them to try was as follows:
  • Cinderella lost her shoe again and the prince found it. Write an email that says: 1. When you will return it, 2.  When you will get married, 3. Where you will live after the wedding.
The listening section will be a listening that I gave them earlier in the year. (I have told them that the listening would seem familiar, but the majority seem to not get it). It is from the Challenges in teen life unit. It is a video where a girl is telling about her life. The first time I gave it to them, I had them make a list of unknown words and define them. This time, I will give them some open ended questions that they will have to answer. When I write them, the questions will include verbs in the perfect tenses.

The reading selection has presented a bit more of a challenge, and honestly I am still wavering between a government reading and a legend. I am probably going to use the government reading but ask simplified questions. I have decided that I am going to give them the reading first and then after 10 minutes give them the questions. I am SO tired of students not reading things, just finding the answers to the questions.

So, my plan is that the final will be fairly easy if they did their work all semester. I think it will be way better than my exam of old which had the reputation of being "scary" and a "monster". I'll keep you posted!