Streamlined Feedback for AP FRQ (Structures to support student learning and teacher sanity, part 13)

This year I am blessed to have over 90 students in my AP classes.  Sometimes this blessing can be a bit daunting, especially when it comes to providing the timely, personalized, actionable, & effective feedback that students need in order to grow. Today I took advantage of the collective experience and generosity of my Twitter PLN to create a streamlined document tied to the cultural comparison task.  Many thanks to all who weighed in with suggestions & recommendations!  Multiple people from a variety of languages shared excellent advice in polishing the drafts of the document.  You can get a copy of the final (?) document here.

30 Circles

My Twitter #PLN is the best!  This idea originally comes from Samara Spielberg (see original tweet here) and is posted with her permission.

The idea is to use a sheet with 30 circles to spark ideas from students about their activities.  They will draw an activity in each circle, and can connect circles to create their images.  My students will then post their pics around the room and will browse them, gallery walk style.  They will use the handout provided to take notes on what they see on their classmates’ pictures.  Then we will follow up with some comparison and contrast.

In the linked document 30 circles, there are two versions of the student note-taking handout–one for past (what did you do over break?) and one for future (what will you do in the new year?).  Since most of the students who will be doing this activity in my classes are seniors, I’ll use the future version.  It also helps to remove stress for students whose break might not have been a highlight.  (Thanks to Adrienne for this reminder!) I’m looking forward to seeing what they have to say!  I’m hoping it will ease us back into speaking Spanish after a long break, and help us to look forward to what’s to come.

5 Little Things (Structures to support student learning and teacher sanity, part 12)

As we start the second half of the school year, I’d like to share a few little things that make a big impact on the positive tone in our classroom, especially when it comes to including every student in the conversation.

Cosas Buenas:  as a regular part of our class-starting routine, we have “cosas buenas” (good things).  Simply put, students share something good going on in their lives.  It commonly is shared with table groups first, then we call on a few students to share with the whole class.  In mid- upper- level classes, we do this in TL; in lower level classes it’s in L1.  Here’s what makes this activity a keeper:

  • it focuses our attention on positive things
  • it builds community as we celebrate one another
  • it gets students talking about their real lives –in TL– and organically injects relevant vocabulary & structures into our class conversations like “beca” (scholarship) and “pasantía” (internship)

Pick your favorite: We don’t do a lot of work where we are reviewing answers of an exercise, but when I do call on students, I ask them to pick their favorite question to answer.  While this often means that we do not go in sequential order, it does mean that each student who contributes is also (usually) successful. This helps to encourage more reluctant students to join in as well, as they have more control over their likelihood of getting an answer right.

Comodín: I learned this word while in Spain this summer, thanks to the amazing tv show Boom.  It means “wild card” or “lifeline”, and when we are reviewing or discussing and a student is stuck, I’ll offer them a comodín and come back to them.  Sometimes this means that they are able to consult with the people at their table and then answer; other times, it may mean that they review their work and try again.  In the end, the most important thing is that it emphasizes continuous effort, offers second chances, and doesn’t allow “I don’t know” to stay that way.

Puedos  this year I’ve introduced them in Spanish 4, and have been pleasantly surprised how they’ve been embraced.  One of the tasks for this unit: locate and identify on a map each of the countries for the legends we’ve read in our myths and legends unit.  While students have certainly been asked to do a maps or countries/capitals activity in previous classes, it doesn’t seem to stick long term.  However, this seems to be helping.  The best part of this time is that I am able to facilitate and respond to questions as needed–again, especially with reluctant learners–rather than let the questions linger.

Eliciting regular student feedback: Using our warmup sheet as the vehicle, every two weeks I ask students to provide me feedback about what’s going well, what would make it even better, and what they need from me for support.  By having the structure already created (on warmup sheet, questions pre-printed), it greatly improves my consistency in requesting this feedback from students, which in turn makes it more effective.  I comment on each feedback and return it to students so that they know that I’ve seen it and considered it.  There are so many issues that have been brought to my attention this way, and I truly value their input.

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