Back in the day…

I’m sure I’m not alone in this week’s struggle:  AP testing is decimating my classes.  Since exams are scheduled during the school day, I am missing up to 50% of my students in each of my classes, depending on which test is being administered.  On top of that, it is gorgeous here in NC–the birds are singing, the sun is out, there’s not much humidity, and we all want to be outside.

All of these forces work against the fact that there is still teaching and learning that needs to go on.  While it would be tempting to relax a little, I believe it’s time to bring out my best game like teams do in the playoffs.  If ever there was a sprint to the final championship, we are in it now!

Student choice is one of the best tools in my arsenal.  Nothing hooks a student’s attention and energy like something that they have selected for themselves.  My job is to arm them with the tools they need and then act as the guardrails on their journey.  I coach them, cajole them, rein them in when needed, but what I don’t have to do is micromanage them.  It’s so refreshing–for all of us!  I will have the pleasure of presenting a different version of student choice at ACTFL this fall with the amazing Sara-Elizabeth Cottrell and Laura Sexton.

Since our classes will be so disjointed for the next few days, I’m asking students to choose what activities they will complete from a menu of options.  Not only will it allow them to have input into their learning, it will also shift the responsibility for learning and completing assignments completely to them.  Students who are gone don’t have to worry about having “missed” something; they will just have lost the opportunity to work on their projects.  In addition, students who were here are already tutoring their friends who were gone to help catch them up on missed content.

Our current theme is “back in the day”, centering on childhood and using the imperfect tense to contrast with present times.  Students were given options to choose from two categories, and need to complete one option in each category.  The first is “formation”, where they are working with how to form the imperfect.  In addition to modeling in class and some whole group practice, I showed them this video from my colleague down the road…

They have three choices provided for them:  hidden pictures linked to conjugation, conjuguemos, or writing a Kahoot quiz for our class.  One group decided that they didn’t really like the options and that they wanted to do their own video… so that’s what they are doing!

The second category is “demonstration of mastery”.  In this category, students have 5 options for oral presentations about when they were young.

  • Option 1 is to do a presentation like I did for them where they narrate several pictures from their lives when they were young.
  • Option 2 is kind of a play on #tbt and the photos like the ones here. People are taking photos from their childhood and re-enacting them.  Students will do this with a few of their photos and narrate the contrasts.
  • Option 3 was inspired by @SraSpanglish and @tandiosa from twitter with some comic help from Jimmy Fallon.  Students will briefly retell a few favorite stories about themselves from their parents’ point of view.  Jimmy Fallon’s video of #iusedtothink tweets was a good, humorous introduction into this idea–especially the one about the * key and Santa.
  • Option 4 is talking about a few of their favorite things.
  • Option 5 is student choice–they are encouraged to create their own oral presentation project that meets our goals and show their skills.

Students completed a short survey to tell me what they planned to work on and what resources they felt that they would need.  This frees me up during the class period to just assist them in achieving their goals.  Kinda cool, huh?

This is the first time I’ve done this particular project–it’s another Aventura Nueva.  So far, so good!

What are ways that you’ve incorporated student choice into your classes?  What benefits and challenges have you experienced as a result?  I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

4 thoughts on “Back in the day…

  1. Cristina Zimmerman says:

    Ugh! Just had a “conversation” with my students today about missing class for AP Exams means that they’re still responsible for what’s going on in class. This is a good idea that I will use next year. Thanks!

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