Meaningful Feedback is Critical for All

Any business or well managed company relies heavily on customer input and comments to help guide the future of their establishment. Teaching, believe it or not, is no different. 

After stepping away from a conference today titled, “Shifting Gears” presented by the New Jersey Department of Education, a point that resonates with me as an educator is the importance of meaningful feedback. In order to continue to develop my own skills and practices as a teacher, I require feedback from all the stakeholders involved my classroom. 

Educators must have valuable and insightful comments made by their administration team based on the lessons observed and day to day interactions witnessed. By stepping into my classroom for one lesson at one point in the year, the administrator has a limited amount of feedback he or she can give to really help the teacher to grow and develop. With the new evaluation model, good teachers welcome the presence of their administrators on a more frequent basis because they want to be seen at different points in the year. This will allow administrators the lens they have been missing from past evaluation models- more time in the classroom + meaningful feedback for the teacher = effective teaching practices which help to develop student achievement. 

A few more points of feedback that came to mind are student feedback for the teacher and teacher feedback of other teachers. Teachers can welcome their students at different points in the year, to share their own (anonymous) comments about how the class is organized and running. Teachers can set up online surveys or a Google form, to have this feedback take place in an environment where students feel comfortable to share their honest opinions. Another idea that comes to mind is with a professional development model of teachers learning from teachers. Using whichever evaluation model a local district has put into place, teachers can observe each others lessons and provide realistic feedback as to what they feel went well during the lesson and what maybe did not go so well. Teachers can help each other by targeting specific goals that they may have for themselves. Teachers can also learn new strategies and techniques from each other, by watching model lessons and providing constructive criticism to one another. 

My final point in generating an environment which is structured around meaningful feedback is one which involves self-reflection. I often ask students to be self reflective in their study of the foreign language at the beginning and at the end of a unit of study. Consider a K-W-L chart to be used with students and then, transfer that same idea and apply it to the art of teaching. As teachers begin to reflect on their own practices, they can provide feedback to themselves by taking a closer look at their lessons, assessments and techniques used to engage student learning. Posing a different question/comment each month for a teaching staff to consider, may be a good starting point. Then, allowing for the articulation of these self reflective ideas & practices during department meeting time, may allow for these professionals to really make meaning of what they do each day and realize whether or not it is deemed to be effective or how it can be improved. 

Ultimately, we all need feedback as to whether or not the job we are doing is the best it can be. When it comes to teaching, there is always room for improvement, no matter how many years one has been teaching. Just as our students, we must challenge ourselves to learn each day and better the everyday experiences in our classrooms. 

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Keep Students Practicing This Summer!

As the school year begins to come to a close, I pondered about how my own 8th grade students can keep their Spanish language abilities going in a time when I will not have them in class each day. I came up with a long list of “activities” that they may do on their own or with their classmates to keep themselves immersed in the Spanish language, in hopes that the two months away from the language will not hurt how far they have each come this year.

I plan to share this summer activities list with the students next week and also hand out my traditional, “Success in Spanish II” packet for the individuals moving onto level two as freshman in high school. The packet serves as a nice transitionary tool for students and I have received feedback from former students who were grateful to have it as they continued their Spanish learning journey.

I encourage other teachers to also consider how to keep their own students motivated and engaged in the study of a foreign language throughout the summer. I’m certain that there are additional ways than what I have listed and encourage any readers of this blog to add more suggestions to this list. Also, please feel free to share with your own students or other teachers!

Keep your SUMMER/VERANO sizzling with SPANISH/ESPANOL!

A variety of ways (and some techie)  to ensure that you keep practicing your Spanish over the summer break!

(1) Download a Spanish Learning app onto your mobile device. (iTunes University*)

(2) Set a calendar reminder to view or play a game in Spanish each day!

(3) Send a message to a friend on Twitter, Instagram, etc. in Spanish, see if this turns into a Spanish conversation 🙂

(4) Tweet to Srta. Rodriguez in Spanish @srtanrodriguez

(5) Log into Edmodo and post to our classroom page in Spanish.

(6) Listen to a Spanish music using the radio or internet. (Pandora, iHeartRadio, Songza- all have custom “Latin” stations to choose from)

(7) Watch television in Spanish, Univision, Telemundo (check your cable provider for channels) or watch online! (TV en directo: http://www.rtve.es/alacarta/tve/la1/)

(8) Send an email to a friend, family member or Srta. Rodriguez about what you did during the summer srta.nrodriguez@gmail.com

(9) Visit quizlet.com and do a search for “Spanish flashcards” (topic is your choice!)

(10) Go to weather.com/es and view your local forecast or international forecast in Spanish.

(11) Create an original meme in Spanish. Later, publish on Edmodo so we can all see!

(12) Create a Spanish speaking Voki by visiting www.voki.com.

(13) View “Plaza Sesamo”, “Doki”, “Oh Noah!” or “El Perro y El Gato” on youtube.com (all childrens series in Spanish!)

(14) Create your own “Spanish learning” Pinterest board.

(15) Visit your local library and stop in the childrens section. See if there are any Spanish childrens books that are of interest and check them out!

(16) Text or call a friend to communicate in Spanish- make it part of your weekly catch up!

(17) Test your knowledge & try out a National Spanish Examination (Exam Preparation → Past examination →  Level 1).

(18) Sign up with the BBC for free, online learning classes in Spanish. http://www.bbc.co.uk/languages/spanish/ or with Verbling: https://www.verbling.com/

(19) Play “I spy” but in Spanish! (try any other fun summer games but in Spanish, too!)

(20) Visit a local art museum and see if you can identify works by Spanish speaking artists we have studied in class. (you can visit art museums virtually too!)

(21) Re-create a song that we learned in Spanish with some of your friends. Record your performance, edit & share it with the world! (or post it just to Edmodo so we can see!)

(22) Create your own digitally animated story. Collaborate with your classmates, if possible! Some free websites include: Little Bird Tales, Animoto, StoryBird, Kerpoof

*No matter what your summer plans are, you can always find a way to listen to or communicate using the Spanish language. Remember to practice each day when you can!*