This year, I have struggled with my Spanish 3 class. For some reason, this group of students really struggles with the idea that they need to do their own work. They don't want to read, which is always a big part of my curriculum. They certainly don't want to do any kind of homework. So, for the new semester, I am trying a new approach.
Our first activity was based on the letter they had to write on their final exam. I passed them out and gave students the point breakdown that I used and then had them grade a letter. Not surprisingly, the grades that they gave the letters were quote low. We then had a discussion about why that was. Thankfully, most of them caught on to where I was heading and we discussed (not for the first time) about how to be successful in my class. You MUST do your own work. You MUST review, student and practice for assessments. You MUST begin your unit assessments early to have time to do your best work.
Then, with that reestablished, we got to work. I put them in ability groups for reading and managed to be able to do this and keep the friends in separate groups as well. (A minor miracle!) Then they got down to reading. I didn't give them any other work for the first week. So I could monitor the reading and they could get through the first chapters and get interested in the story, we ended class by playing scategories, which the students absolutely loved. One of my classes said we should do it every day for their warm up, and a few students were suggesting other categories.
I also came to a curriculum decision. Usually in this unit, I begin teaching the subjunctive, however since these students couldn't even talk to me and tell me about their vacation in the past tense when we did conversation on the first day, I decided another review of the preterite and the imperfect was more appropriate. I was glad to see so many students really taking advantage of this and finally taking the time to watch the video, take notes, and apply their knowledge. I also assigned one of my favorite projects, the skit/song/game. Students are charged with coming up with a skit, song, or game and accompanying practice activity. I decided that I could not do a full court press with them to try to force them to improve their use of the last tenses because they would shut down on me. So a better idea was to have them review and then teach themselves. I believe that being able to use the past tense is a crucial skill for communication, and in can't let them leave my class without being able to communicate in the past. Hopefully if this goes well, we can cover the subjunctive in the next unit.
I am hopeful that this new/different approach will help the students to finally realize that I want to help them, but I can only do so much. If they want to learn, they have to put them time and effort in themselves.