Saturday, April 7, 2012

Reading reveals all problems!

We have begun our last unit for the semester, Technology. In many ways, this is also the most challenging unit for the students. In the past, this had been the first unit of level 4, but since we have ramped up the curriculum in levels 2 and 3, I am using it at the end of level 3 this year. It is not the vocabulary, or even the grammar that is hard, but some of the readings and listenings that are challenging.

We are reading a story, Rosa (for the Spanish teachers out there), that requires the students to put together almost all of the concepts that we have learned this year. I know the story is a little tough, so I broke it down into three sections, and each section has pre-reading vocabulary and comprehension questions. The first section of the story was due Friday, and I was watching a percentage (15%)of my students struggle to get through it. As usual, this made me second guess myself and really reflect on whether or not I had made the right choice using this story.

After school on Friday, I sat down and really thought about what the issues were. First, the students that struggled were the ones that have always struggled. I about 7 students in Spanish III, that should never have taken the course, and although I have been able to spend much more time with them as a result of the flipped classroom, there isn't enough time to reteach all the vocabulary and grammar concepts from Spanish 1 and 2.

The second struggling group, were some of my "middle" kids. These are kids that have found a good group to work with and have been "gleaning" all the information from other kids rather than really learning it for themselves. Many of the working students in the groups are tired of carrying these kids, and have worked ahead so that they cannot work with the gleaners.

So the real questions are, How do I fix the problem? and Can I fix the problem? (I have to say there is a small part of me that wants to say, "Sorry you couldn't be bothered really doing the work the first time!" But luckily that voice stays in my head!)

Can I fix the problem - maybe not completely, but I can make it better. How? I have told the struggling students to focus on the dialogue. They need to make sure that they TOTALLY understand that. Then, get what they can from the narrations using the vocabulary I have given them, and the clues that the book has given them. I make sure I spend more time with these students, and I give them encouragement and have them explain to me what they think sections of the story mean and I give heads up, or the sad head shake. Then, they either smile, or sigh and go back and look at it again. I have decided that I am NOT reading the story to anyone, period.

Of course these students are a small percentage, and the other students are having to work a little harder at comprehension, but they are getting it. Most of them are actually frustrated by reading the story in small chunks and not really understanding what is going on, so they have read ahead! Bonus!!

I did want to thank all my new friends out there for checking out my blog! Please comment and/or question because that is how educators always find the best ideas! I am going to write another post later about some of the listening issues we have encountered so far, and get down some of my ideas for using PBL in this unit next year.