Friday, October 14, 2016

Setting proficiency goals

Goal setting is a powerful tool. And there's research that setting goals not only increases student motivation but can also impact achievement. One of my goals is always speaking in the target language 90% or more during class. I measure that goal by timing myself.  You know your students are getting the whole 90% target language goal when they freak out on you when you don't use the timer and the flag is flipped too long to English. But we did speak more English a few weeks ago because we were setting our proficiency goals for the year.

I blogged in the past how I've used the Chichen Itza graphic to explain proficiency to my students. I have that poster right over our Si Se Puede bubbles and they know that a yellow bubble is novice low, a green is novice mid, and blue is novice high. But I also wanted them to set their goals for the year. Since we start interactive notebooks in third grade it made sense to put them in our notebooks.

The students had already seen the Chichen Itza graphic so we quickly reviewed it and what each level looked and sounded like. In my first class, a student asked me if I was at Intermediate & beyond, which was an opportunity for me to share that I am Advanced and my goal is to get to Superior (that darned subjunctive still gets me in interpersonal conversations most of the time!) I made sure to share that with the rest of the classes.

Chichen Iza graphic - Setting proficiency goals in Spanish class.

What struck me was how many of the students saw themselves as Novice High already. I had to crush some of their dreams by explaining we needed to add more topics but they were pretty confident they could get there soon. But the best was when I asked them if they wanted to share and a new girl told the class that she Novice Low and she was working up to Novice Mid by practicing at home using the newsletter I had sent home. I melted y'all. Absolutely melted. Like I said, powerful stuff.

I also had small group conversations with my heritage speakers about what their goals should be. Most of them are intermediate in speaking and listening (with some even being advanced) but most of them, unfortunately, can't read or write well at all. It was a great opportunity for me to talk with them one on one and encourage them to do more at home too in their L1. I'll also be printing out RAZ books for them in Spanish to take home and read.

So even though we missed our daily goal of 90% target language, the quality of work and conversations we had about language learning, proficiency, and how to get there was well worth it!

Get your free copy of the goal setting sheet here!

Do you set goals in your classroom? How do you explain proficiency to students? Share in the comments below!


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  2. Great idea! I think such activities can become a great motivators for students to do first steps toward reaching their goals. If some of them want to be engineers, someone – an athelete, they need to devote their time to maths and sports, for instance. Unfortunately, too much homework can prevent them from doing what they enjoy. Some students will prefer to choose college essay writing service instead of writing an assignment on their own. I guess, this is a totally reasonable decision and I also support such service.