Thursday, November 19, 2015

Thematic Units

One of the things I have often struggled with when working on thematic units is how to make them build upon one another. Too often, I feel as though the class really gets one theme and then all is abandoned as we move on to the next one. This has a variety of impacts, but the largest one is that students perceive that they know longer need the knowledge and vocabulary that they have acquired as we move to new material.

One of my goals for my Spanish two class this year was to try to improve the flow between units while still covering the necessary material. I love the flipped elements of my class and being able to know that the majority of the "why?" is covered before students come to class. I have needed to improve on the activities that go on during class time. Although I still have plans to implement PBL, it has not happened yet and my class activities and practice have become stale and aren't as interesting to the students as they once were. And, as we all know, when students don't find the material presented interesting, they lose the interest in the class and it goes back to something they have to "check off" their list.

In my Spanish 2 classes, I have revised the thematic units and it seems to be working. I have also found a class schedule that is working more efficiently and helping change things up often enough to keep students engaged. Here is what I have done this semester:

Review unit - Self and Family

Each year I begin with a review unit. This gives me the opportunity to asses the students as a group and begin to assess them individually. We use a familiar topic - self and family. I include activities in each of the communication areas - listening, reading, speaking, writing and a little bit of culture.

Can do statements for this unit include
I can describe myself and my family (orally and written).
I can tell someone what my family and I like to do.
I can ask someone about their family.

Grammar concepts reviewed/practiced
Present tense
Word order
Agreement

Culture
Appropriate addresses (formal v informal)

Assessments
Who am I writing
My family presentational
Speed dating - describing myself and family
Reading - Piratas by Mira Canion - Orally in class and in small groups

Unit 1 - Where I live

Can do statements for this unit include:
I can talk about where I live.
I can describe my house.
I can ask questions about someone's home.
I can compare my home with someone else's

Grammar concepts introduced/reviewed/practiced
Comparisons
Present tense (focus on irregulars and stem changers)
Word order
More complex sentences using cuando

Culture
Spain webquest
Euro v dollar - conversion
Comparing home types in US and Spain - House Hunters International
Comparing home listings in US and Spain - Internet search

Assessments
House plan creation and written description
Selling my house presentation
Comparing my house to yours - conversation
Listening to house descriptions and drawing floor plan
Reading in small groups (aloud) - Mi propio auto, Problemas en paraiso, Fiesta fatal

Unit 2 - My neighborhood and how to get around

Can do statements for this unit include:
I can describe places and services in my neighborhood.
I can give directions to someplace in my neighborhood using a map.
I can listen to directions to get to a destination on a map.
I can compare my neighborhood to someone else's

Grammar concepts introduced/reviewed/practiced
Informal commands
Present tense
Asking questions
Comparisons

Culture
How to move between tourist attractions in Spain on map
When to use formal v informal commands
Structure of towns - plaza, church

Assessments
Using student created neighborhoods students- give and follow directions, make comparisons between neighborhoods.
Reading in small groups (aloud and silently) with comprehension checks

Unit 3 - What I do in my neighborhood/free time

(This is a unit covered basically in Sp 1, but my students are struggling with vocabulary. Therefore I went back to this theme using more advanced vocabulary and high frequency verbs)

Can do statements include:
I can talk about what I like to do in my free time
I can have a conversation with my peers about what I did last weekend
I can talk about places I like to go
I can write about a favorite event in my past

Grammar concepts introduced/reviewed practiced
Difference between preterite and imperfect
Beginning use of past tenses
Asking questions

Culture
Cuba webquest
Music and leisure activities in Cuba
Cuba and US relations

Assessments
Conversation with peers about free time activities
Movie/ book review written
Reading in small groups (aloud and silently) with comprehension checks

Final exam
Listening, reading, writing, culture

Class schedule
In my school we have 90 minute blocks, and structuring them for success is an ever changing puzzle. This year, my students work best with a short warm up activity to practice unit vocab and concepts, then 20-30 minutes of reading in small groups. Then, they work on some written practice as well as conversation and listening practice in class. As always, grammar is done for homework by watching videos and students taking notes.

Student do work independently for the majority of class. I am facilitating learning and helping the struggling students individually. I have many more students on IEPs this year and it has made class more challenging to help those students with accommodations and keep the rest of class moving at a good pace.

Reading is still my favorite way to differentiate in class and I love when I get students grouped correctly so that they can work with their peers and continue their learning process. Giving students that opportunity is what makes the class more engaging to them. I try to give as much choice as possible with the assessments as well so students can personalize their learning. In every u to students must find personalized vocabulary which they must use successfully in assessments. This allows me to keep the required vocabulary lists short and the students to be able to invest in their own learning. It is also a great way for me to get to know my students better through the vocabulary that they choose. I have also expanded my own vocabulary learning the words and ideas that are important to my students.