I generally park in two places on campus. If I’m on time, I park just a hop from my office in the lot outside Campbell Hall. If I’m running late, however, I have to drive around the building, up the hill, and park behind Askew. Sometimes, after a particularly absorbing day, I walk down the small flight of stairs to the Campbell lot, get halfway through the parking lot, snap my head this way, then that. It is at that moment that I have no idea where my car is. But moments later, a foggy recollection of ten hours earlier creeps into my head. I spin around and start walking up the hill to look for my car in the only other place that it can be.
When I started this semester something interesting happened. My head was definitely in a fog fed by gingerbread cookies, car rides, and a snow-dappled horse farm. However, as I turned my attention toward planning my classes, something astounding happened–I knew exactly where I wanted to go. I wanted my Spanish 2 students to use their shared Google Map as a sort of Culminating Group Project (this was before I had received Brandi and Laura’s email announcing our Culminating Projects, so my integrity is intact–redundant, I know).
I’m very excited about this semester, as I’m starting to find the balance b/w traditional classroom instruction and more student-directed, creative, collaborative, communicative activities. The transition has been awkward in the first two attempts, but I’m sure with better planning, it will blend nicely.
During first semester students looked at “city life” and the environment as themes. This semester they are starting on health and nutrition, and will finish the semester studying professions (which I’m going to stealthily convert into a unit on economics). In the end, students will research a Latin American country as it pertains to the environment, urban poverty, health and nutrition, or economic duress. They will choose one or more topics, and they will “build their case” for helping this country, and present it to the class as a sort of “Model UN” project. That idea I stole from Wagner’s book. No apologies.
So, 21st century learning is sowing seeds in my Spanish 2 Experienced (Honorsish) class. However, I’m still on baby steps with my Spanish 1 Intro (not-so-Honorsish) class. I have stuck to the traditional routine of teacher-centered content delivery for the grammar, and once they’re comfortable, they engage one another in groups (in very scripted activities). Again and again, however, I’m finding that I’m not getting the results I hope for. I suspect that I need to communicate better, “This is what I expect, this is what it looks like, this is how you know you’re doing it, and this is the consequence if you don’t do it.” Or is that belying the process?
How to evoke honest, developmentally appropriate work from kids, about half of whom have learned that to give off an aura of incompetence results in low expectations from all?
And where on Earth is my car?