Saturday, April 26, 2014

Trying Centers - Part Three

So I finally tried centers with my third graders and I'm getting ready to do it again with second grade. Check out my previous posts, part one and part two in this series to see what mistakes I made in the past and the particulars of each center. Now that I've done a full rotation with all of the third graders I have some thoughts and reflections for using centers again in the future.

Pros of centers:

  • If prepared well, the centers can offer a level of differentiation that you don't get in whole group instruction.
  • We can play games in a whole group but it requires me to make more cards and have more dice and just more of everything. But in small groups it is easier prep for me game-wise and the students get more turns and chances to speak.  
  • Because every student was actively engaged, just walking around and listening in could give me an idea of where each student was at in terms of learning the new vocabulary.

Cons of centers:
  •  I would have liked to have modeled each activity in Spanish but since I have so little time I resorted to English to give them the instructions. This means I was under my 90% target but the students were speaking more Spanish so that was the trade-off. This is a con but I think it's a worthy trade-off at this point.
  • I need to figure out a system to make sure that MY expectations are the ones being observed in groups where the classroom teachers has a looser style.

  • It's a lot of prep beforehand because you're essentially preparing multiple activities for one class. The good news is that once you're ready you're good for several classes. 

Things I will try to remember to do next time:
  •  Make sure I have different levels at each activity so students can pick which level they need.
  • Add some sort of accountability sheet for at least one station so I can get a better idea of where each student is and that they are participating like they should.
  • Try to model in Spanish so I can keep to my 90% target language goal. If I do similar games with different vocabulary this should be possible the next time.

So what have been your experiences with centers/stations/carousel? Please share in the comments below. I love suggestions!

Friday, April 18, 2014

From the mouth of babes

So I'm going to admit that reaching 90% and up target language is a something I am constantly working at. And this time of year, I don't always get there. My biggest issues with it are several "problem" classes and my first graders. The former because I struggle to maintain control even in English (and it's not just me, the other Specials teachers have the same problems.) The latter because it's the end of the day and I'm tired and they're tired, they're often late getting back from library and I have to make up time, so we just don't always get to 90%.

All this to say, that I had the following conversation with a third grade girl this week. Let's call her M.

M: Ms. K, I have a challenge for you.

Me: Oh yeah, what's that?

M: I challenge you to not speak ANY English in your next class. You have to speak ONLY in Spanish!

Me: No English?

M: None!

Me: Challenge accepted! So the next time I come back I'll only speak Spanish in your class.

M: No, no, no! Not in here, just in your next class! You can speak English in here!

 I cracked up that she wanted me to do it, just not in her class. I did speak only Spanish in my next class, which happened to be kindergarten. The kinder assistant even swore to M the next day that I had completed her challenge. I told M that since I had accepted her challenge she had to accept mine - 100% in her class.

We almost  made it yesterday. We were talking about the royal family in Spain and I was doing just fine until a question came up where I had to explain the order of succession. I looked at M and said, "I'm sorry. I have to do this in English - you guys aren't understanding in Spanish!" She looked straight at me and said very sternly "You have 1 minute!" We made it 95% but I think next time we can do 100%.

M's challenge made me realize I had gotten lax about making sure I stayed in 90% Spanish throughout the day.  So my challenge is to finish the year out strong even in the first grade and rowdy classes.  What do you do to keep yourself motivated this time of year? Share in the comments below!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Trying Centers - Part Two

So after a disastrous first try at centers, I finally tried them again this year with my third graders during our Familia unit. We had three different centers each with a different game that had them practicing the new vocabulary. Everyone got one rotation at each center.

Center #1 Languages Online - I love this website and use it to play games, for worksheets, and it's posted on our school website so students can find and access it outside of Spanish class. Students got on their classroom computers and laptops to play the games. Since they love computer games, this was easily their favorite center. The only downside was getting them to the site, although I think if we did this more often they would find it faster and maybe even start getting on it during inside recess and at home.

Center #2 Dice Game - Students had big dice and a list of questions about how many brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, and cousins they had. There were also flashback questions that asked "How old are you?" and "What's your name?" Having the vocabulary available, either up on the SMARTboard or in the center box, was crucial for this center. Some students did this one with no problems at all and wanted more questions, and other students really struggled with the questions. I spent most of my time at this center, helping the kids who were struggling. If I do this one again, I will make different question sheets for different levels so kids can self-differentiate.

Center #3 Matching Game - Students had cards with pictures of different families and other cards that had descriptions of those families. They first matched up the cards working in pairs, then flipped them over and played Memory. This was another center where some students struggled to make the matches (although I pointed out that they could look at the SMARTboard to help them) and others flew threw it and wanted more of a challenge. I solved the latter problem by having them combine different sets so that they had more cards to figure out.


So there's the particulars of each center. In the next post, I'll wrap up with my reflections on what worked and what I need to do differently and how I just might have changed my mind when it comes to centers in Spanish class.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Trying Centers (again) Part One

So the first time I tried centers it was a DISASTER. I'm not being melodramatic here; it literally was the worst class I have ever taught. The students ran around the room like crazy people. They tore up one activity so that I couldn't have used it again even if I had wanted to. It was bad, very, very bad. I cried in the bathroom after it was over and  swore I would never do centers again.

But upon further consideration I realized I had made a few mistakes...

Mistake #1 - And this was my biggest - I tried centers with one of my toughest classes to control. I barely made it through a regular lesson without issues so this was not the group to experiment on.

Mistake #2 - They weren't comfortable enough with the language they needed to be set free on their own. The SMART board was down that day as well so there was nothing up for them to reference to HELP them use the language on their own.

Mistake #3 - I didn't explain my expectations clearly enough. This particular class when they were confused on what to do would just goof off instead.

So it was very hesitantly that I decided I might try again this year with a new group. Because of mistake #2 I did push it back one week than I originally planned because I wanted the students to be comfortable with the language and I still have some things I would change but overall it went MUCH better this time around.

I had three game centers on Mi Familia that had students speaking, reading, and playing on the computer. It took 2-3 classes for everyone to get one rotation at each center while I walked around and made sure everyone was on track. This time I explained and modeled each game as well as left written instructions in each box. I also explained what the signal to change would be and how they should switch. And then I took their feedback at the end to see what they thought worked and what didn't. I got surprisingly good and honest feedback.

I had two classes that went perfectly, one where they got a bit loud and one where they had trouble following directions and staying on task (but that's pretty normal for both of those classes.)

In my next post I will outline each center in detail, what I would keep and what I would change.