16-17 Reflections

Wow. This school year was crazy, and it went so quickly! During the middle, I thought I wouldn’t make it out alive, but now that it’s over, all I can talk about is how “fast” it went.

I read a motivational post earlier this year that said something to the effect of, “why do we always judge ourselves based on what’s left on our to-do list, rather than what’s checked off?” MIC DROP! I’ve been trying to keep that close to my heart as the year went on, but it seems like the end of the year is just a long reflection on all the stuff we didn’t do this year!

That list could be the death of me. I actually CRINGE (and I am not exaggerating) when I think back about all the stuff I didn’t cover, teach well, or “check off” this year. My colleague and I even talked about spending time during our PLC next year sharing successes on a big Google Doc so we can remember the great things, especially during the hard times. What an amazing idea.

So, rather than showing you the list of thing I “didn’t cover,” I’m going to share my pluses and deltas from this year:

Pluses:

  • I was transparent about proficiency w/ my students this year and gave appropriate feedback to push them toward those goals.
  • Even though there were lots of downs and a limited number of ups, my students read a novel this year and did pretty well!
  • My students LOVED having pen pals this year, and while I was not the biggest fan, I’m trying to let student interest guide me in this way.
  • I was pretty good about following my motto from last year’s Camp Musicuentos: “I will not sacrifice the good on the alter of the perfect; when I find a resource that is good enough, I will stop looking.”
  • My students were using more verbs this year than ever before because I intentionally taught high frequency verbs at the beginning of the year.
  • My end-of-the-year strategy for pushing my students: “a one word answer is not acceptable for the second semester of French 1!”
  • My end-of-the-year strategy for student feedback: *me, pointing to score or feedback:* “tu es content?” If yes, I said “okay!” If no, I asked them to do it over.


Deltas:

  • I did not get through as many units as last year and I think I missed less days … I need to be more intentional in my planning so that we aren’t treading water because of me!
  • Interactive notebooks were a hit w/ students … when we kept up with them. I need to streamline these and use them more next year!
  • The LOGISTICS of pen pal letters … and then students telling me they “turned them in” when the physical copies were halfway around the world … next year there will be drafts and online submissions or I will pull my own hair out.
  • You know how you always feel like one skill falls to the wayside? This year it was listening! I need to be more intentional about listening activities for next year as well.
  • Due to my crazy number of classrooms this year, I didn’t keep up with stamp sheets or redos like I wanted to. Next year will ALREADY make this easier, I can tell.
  • I left at contract time a lot this year, which meant that grading was a slow and arduous process … but next year, I’ll have a place of my own at the end of the day, which should help with this problem.

 

I’m sure there are a million more (I have a whole Google Doc of “things to do next year”), but I will leave you with these, and with another wise thing that my colleague said to me:

“Did [whatever is bugging you] hinder your students this year?”

If, like me, the answer is no, than it’s probably not worth worrying about. After all, it is SUMMER — you can find me at the beach, or at least Instagramming about it.

Feel good Friday

Hey everyone! Sorry to be absent from the blogosphere (do people still say that?) lately … this spring seems to have been a non-stop slew of crazy things.

I used to publish a “joli jeudi” post where I’d share happy moment from each week, and I’ve got a lot to share this week that won’t fit in my precious 140 characters on twitter.

Here are some things my students have been amazing me with lately:

One girl blew me AWAY during a speaking assessment this week! She’s one of those textbook cases of someone who’s motivated to learn a language! During her speaking assessment (about homes), she told me, completely in the TL: “Dans mon jardin, il y a beaucoup des plantes et fleurs avec beaucoup de couleurs … et des grandes …*girl makes a gesture*” 
Me: “je ne comprends pas … les grandes plantes?”
Her: “Oui, les grandes *makes gesture again* … OH! C’est aussi un pose de yoga”
I was able to discover that she meant “trees” and I was blown away by her ability to circumlocute!

My kids are getting so comfortable sharing when they don’t understand a word! The number of “Je ne comprends pas” that I’ve heard lately are through the roof! Today, a girl said, “je ne comprends pas arbre!” and I got to model circumlocution by telling her and the class that “arbres” are “big plants with brown and little green parts.” Noticing her continued confusion, I added, “some trees have oranges and some trees have apples, but some trees have flowers.”  “It’s also a yoga pose,” I added, stealing the trick from the girl from the previous day!

This week I did my first real “grammar-y” lesson that was completely in the TL. As WL teachers, we know this as the point in the year where you try to transfer kids from saying “I like, I like, I like,” to “I _____.” Instead of reverting to English to explain, I just told kids that there’s a difference between your preferences and reality. We talked about the activities that we liked to do, and then I asked them if they do that a lot “in reality.”
I figured this would work because generally, each Monday, I ask my students if they ate, watched Netflix, played sports, etc. over the weekend. I noticed that the majority of my students tell me that they don’t sleep over the weekend, so I used sleep as my first example. “Who likes to sleep?” I asked (in the TL), and almost every student raised their hand. “Okay,” I continued, “and in reality, who sleeps a lot on the weekend?” most of the hands went down. “So your reality is different than your preference?” The same thing usually happens when you ask about reading. The kids seem to get the difference, but I think I’m going to reinforce next week with more reading, and a little formative assessment about “preferences” vs. “reality.”

I’ve also been impressed with how my my students can actually understand in the TL, even if they only give me a novice level response! I’ve gotten so into PQA lately, where questions arise on the spot for different students in different classes, and everyone seems to be engaged, enjoying themselves, and most importantly, comprehending!

 

The moral of this post is that I love giving my students the opportunity to show me what they can do, and I’ll never be surprised that they can blow me away with their abilities.

Have a great weekend, and be sure to get your fill of PD with #langchat’s Saturday sequel, #OFLA17 posts, or #FLENJ17 awesomeness!

My first Movie Talk

Good morning, world!

I was actually kind of sad to have an ice storm and terrible road condition day off today because yesterday I tried my hand at my first Movie Talk, and I have to say, it was AWESOME! I was really excited to continue those activities today!

Before I tell you about my experience, you can read more about Movie Talk from Martina (who links a few others) and view the Movie Talk resources that I bought from Carrie Toth via TPT here.

So, how was it?

First off, I love that buying this from Carrie gave me a week’s worth of resources without supplementing any of my own! I did need to do the front work of changing it all to French, but hopefully that’s something that you can purchase from Carrie in the future!

Second, I was worried. The clip itself is right around 4 minutes, with about a minute of that being credits. How was I going to make a 3 minute video last for a whole class period? Being the person that I am, I had prepared an extra activity just in case the talk lasted 20 minutes I looked silly. But the first time I did the talk, which was, in my opinion, the worst of the run-throughs, it took 40 glorious minutes. We had just enough time to watch the whole video again with sound, and for me to pass out an exit ticket for students to complete. And each time, the questioning, pausing, and gesturing got better. I asked better questions. I got better responses.

Third, my kids were SO INTO IT. I was worried that they would be completely bored with it, wondering why we’ve been looking at one clip for so long. Around the end of class, they did get a little squirrely. But have you seen this video? The kid throws a completely adorable dog on the floor. And then later, he kicks it. My kids were so emotionally invested, one girl actually cried. And the plot twist ending? My room fell silent and I could see the emotion on my students faces change. It was beautiful.

Four, I am a total ham. I think I get it from my father, but regardless, I was able to capture a lot of students attention with emotions. Together, we were ecstatic when a puppy popped out of a box (I had led them to believe that it couldn’t be a dog), we were intrigued by the dog’s condition, we were devastated at how the boy treats the dog, we watched in wonder as the most adorably animated dog played and ran with no regard for how the boy treated him. And for some of us, our hearts melted when we finally understood why. I don’t know if the talk would have gone as well if the video wasn’t so emotionally charged.

Five, I got a lot of advice before I did this, and I’ll pass on the best nuggets for you: personalize the questions and lean on what students already know. Since I don’t teach structures in the same way that most Movie-talkers do, I has some apprehension. There was a LOT that my students didn’t know, but I could point to the clip, gesture, draw, or write it down. I stuck with what we knew (describing things and people, emotions, activities, like/love/hate, some question words) and leaned on cognates for the rest (une balle, irresistible, entre, ignore, etc) and it went well. The things that weren’t known or cognates I wrote, drew, or gestured. There were a few things that I needed to clarify in English, but that was it. As for the questions? Personalization all the way. “The boy plays video games – do you play video games? What video games? The boy is playing on the sofa – do you play on the sofa? The boy doesn’t like the light when he plays video games – do you play video games with the light?” “Does the boy like the dog? Do you like the dog? Do you prefer cats or dogs? Does the boy prefer cats? Does the boy want to play with the dog? Do you want to play with the dog? Do you have a dog at home? Do you play with your dog?” The possibilities are endless but it stretched what was happening and kept us in the TL for a LONG TIME. Wow.

Some thoughts for my next Movie Talk:

I think next time, I’ll try to place a brain break in the middle for added suspense, and maybe a short run-through of what’s already happened in the clip. I don’t know if that will work, because a) we might run out of time, and b) my students might turn violent if they don’t get to the end!

I need to get better at giving students options that aren’t yes or no. I tried to give the either/or options since my baby novices aren’t great with open ended questions yet.  I asked a few open-ended questions and they went okay. Some even blew my mind with what they could say! I got better as the day went on, but practice makes perfect!

I’ll leave you with a few of my favorite MovieTalk moments:

One of my classes gets really into everything, they have the best attitudes, and they love to be silly. They were really in tune to the Movie Talk, but also noticed that we were spending a lot of time on it.

One student, upon looking at the clock, “Madame, what are you doing? You said we were watching a short clip. We’ve watched less than a minute of the clip and it’s been 25 minutes real time!” My response? “Je suis magique.”

Another student, who was feeling impatient at all the pausing, kept sighing. My response, “Tu as un problème avec moi?” Him, with confidence: “OUI.” In response, I kept pausing each frame RIGHT before the boy in the video opens the gift. “Madaaaaaaaaaaaaame,” my student shouts, “you’ve paused at least four frames and we are STILL IN THE SAME SECOND OF THE VIDEO.”

I was asking a lot of my students if they preferred cats or dogs. In the lead-up story to this Movie Talk that we did last we, the girl was allergic to all the gifts her boyfriend bought her. I asked a girl, “tu préfères les chiens ou les chats” and she said, “je suis allergique!” I responded, “il y a des chiens hypoallergiques! Tu veux un chien hypoallergique?” The girl nodded, but the class LOST IT. I couldn’t figure out why, so I wrote “hypoallergique” on the board. Turns out, they thought I told her that she was allergic to hippos.” Go figure.

I gave an emoji exit ticket, which asked about two things that students learned that day. One students wrote, “I learned that Madame likes to mess with us and the word for paws is pattes,” as if those two things were similar, concrete examples.

Last week, during the lead-up story, the only gift the girl wasn’t allergic to was a dead fish. Turns out, she has a huge collection of dead fish. In my last class of the day, I asked a student if he preferred cats or dogs. His response, with the straightest face I’ve ever seen? “Je préfère un poisson mort.”

I hope that this inspires you to find, look into, or try a Movie Talk in class! This was my first experience, and I promise that it won’t be my last!

Exemplars for learning

Man, this is such a simple idea, but it really helped my students this year!

Earlier this year, I went to a 3-day personalized and blended learning conference hosted at my school. I was really impressed with the keynote speaker, a middle school social studies teacher who does amazing things in his classroom. Bill Ferriter shared so many GREAT ways to have students self and peer assess, as well as looking at exemplars of different types of activities to show students what you expect.

Let me pause here and say something wonderfully simple that I’ve been skipping over for years – students should look at exemplars that will help them understand your expectations. DUH.

How many of you have used the ACTFL IPA interpretive template? How many of you are frustrated by students not writing what you expected, or worse – leaving sections blank?! I mean, COME ON, the answers are actually in the text! Or, when asked to guess, they leave me a giant, “Idk!”

In my department, instead of the, “main idea,” section of the template, we ask for the “purpose” of the text, and the “audience,” both asking for specific textual examples. Last year, I had such an issue with students writing about the purpose and the audience – students were always writing, “for me to learn French.” I realized this year that even though I explained my expectations globally, I had only given individual feedback to students who had the same errors across the board.

This year, I decided that was no more! I used Bill’s template for high/low exemplars to communicate my expectations. (It looks like Bill’s link is broken, but I will share one from the conference here.)

First, I had my students complete an IPA-style set of questions in class. They finished for homework if necessary. The next day, we went through the answers for the key word section, and I told them how many I expect them to get correctly to meet expectations. Then, we looked over the guessing meaning from context section. I explained that as long as they guessed something that was vaguely as many words as the phrase, and they gave a reason that wasn’t, “because I thought so,” I would let them count it as “meeting expectations.” (I gave individual feedback after they turned them in!)

Next, we looked at the purpose section. I told them that a good purpose statement:

  • states an appropriate purpose
  • gives an explanation of the purpose (details)
  • cites evidence from the text

Then, we read two purpose statement that I created (but will replace with student examples for the future!) and completed the feedback grid. We evaluated if the two statements did each of the three things listed above. They also answer those questions about the purpose statements that they wrote for homework.

After they completed the grid, they shared their answers with a partner that they trusted, and talked about why. They also said how their purpose statement fared. We then had a few minutes to revise our purpose statements so I could give students individual feedback.

What did I learn? When we completed our first mini-IPA, students had AMAZING statements and they cited evidence from the text. It was beautifully amazing and I was beaming with pride as I graded them. We were reading 3 different “je me présente” (I present myself) posts to an online forum for teens.

Just look at this one, written by an eighth grader:

What is the purpose of this text? “The purpose of this text is that 3 people are describing themselves on a website, maybe for their followers to get to know them better, or to introduce themselves to a different user.”

How do you know that? Sandy (a user) tells about her interest, like rap music. Whiteberry (a user) introduces herself and tells her age (15). Doriane uses words that describe herself. (unique and tall)

And look at this one, written by a high school student:

What is the purpose of this text? “The purpose of the text was for people to give a description of themselves to others on their profile.”

How do you know that? “I know because the profiles are set up like a social media account and they are giving smalls facts about themselves. One person wrote, “J’adore la musique,” which means “I love music,” so they were describing things that they like to others.

WOW. I am so impressed by these, and excited to see how they go in the future. Next up, we’ll be looking at exemplars of an “audience” statement, because I’m so impressed by the results of this activity.

Resource time:

In case you missed them, or just scrolled past my explanation to look for resources (don’t worry, I’m guilty of this ALL THE TIME,) here they are:

As always, if you have questions or suggestions, I welcome them. I openly admit that writing IPAs is sometimes a struggle for me.

First week reflections 2016

Wow. This year has been amazing and I’ve only been in the classroom for 7 school days!

I wanted to reflect on the pluses and deltas of my first week, as some of you are starting your school year soon, and as a place for me to share what’s going well for me!

Pluses:

Saying the I can statement every day!
Last year, I gleaned some wisdom from Thomas Sauer: it’s okay to plan the 90% TL we use, but it’s also really important to plan the 10% L1 use. While, I’ll admit, my class is not currently 90% TL, I’ve been using the first few minutes to go over the I can each day, and a check up or formative performance assessment each day for students to tell me how they feel about each I can. I think it’s had a really positive effect for my students – they can tell that they’re learning, and they get excited to give me a “I can” rating on their “thumb-ometer” (from a thumbs down to a thumbs up and anywhere in between! I stole this from a friend of mine who teaches middle school – thanks, Jess!) You could also use “fist to five” but I find that the variations on the thumb-ometer are more discrete to share, and tell me more than the difference between 4 and 5.

Saving a reflection space in my planner
Maybe you’ve heard that I prefer paper planning to online planning. I love technology, I am a millennial, and so much of my life is tied to the internet, but planning is NOT, or I scramble each morning to remember what I planned for each day. I have a Plum Paper Planner for the second year and I LOVE it – since I’m teaching 1 prep this year, I saved two boxes for a reflection of the lesson. I give the pluses, minuses, and obvious changes for next year. I love this short reflection each day!

Brain Breaks!
Gosh, I love the brain breaks I’ve been stealing from around the internet. Most of them come from Sara-Elizabeth, but Martina has a great list as well! It’s really nice to reset in the middle of the class before moving on to the next input stage. On a feedback form today, one of my students said he loved the brain breaks because it “relieves him” from one activity to another. Since that’s the point, I am glad that they see it that way.

Primacy/recency
My (short) teaching career has always started with bell ringers. Kids come in, sit down, and start whatever activity I have … orrrrrrrr they try to play games on their MacBook/iPad and tell me that they’ve done the work “in their head.” Since I start the class, there’s no wrangling kids who are trying to play “Slither,” pushing kids to finish quickly, or wondering what to do when 10 kids have finished and 15 haven’t. I will say that I started off terrified of starting the class with input, and I still get a little nervous, but it’s been going really well. I’m excited to expand input with songs and readings soon!
For a breakdown of what I’ve been doing:
(Say I can = no more than 1-2 minutes!) –> input activity –> processing activity –> administrative activity, if necessary –> brain break –> input #2 –> interactive activity/formative PBA

All of my classrooms
If you didn’t know, I teach in 4 buildings this year. I love all of my classrooms, not because of the furniture, infrastructure, or space, but because that’s where my students and I interact. I’m not shy about picking a favorite classroom, though. I have the amazing opportunity to teach in one of the model classrooms at the high school this year and I love every single thing about it. It really starts my day off on an exciting note. (The picture on the blog title is also one of my classrooms; I love it too!)

IMG_5324

Friday feedback
Last year I stole the idea from Allison (who stole from CLC, I think!) to get feedback from students on Fridays … but I never actually got around to implementing it. Such is life! I did it today for the first time, and I loved it. It gave me insight – not just to the popularity of activities (I can usually judge that by the excitement level) but also by the reason why, which is so important. These were two of my favorite examples from today:

Screen Shot 2016-08-26 at 4.32.28 PM Screen Shot 2016-08-26 at 4.32.55 PM

I could give a million more “pluses,” but I will save you the excessive exclamation points (or maybe not?)

Deltas:

Last class
My last class of the day is 15 students. This makes me simultaneously jump for joy and weep. I love the class size, but maaaaaaaaaaan, do we get through everything about 10 minutes faster than my other classes! I’m trying to use my own daily reflection to really make sure that we have the best lesson possible, but I’ve gotta figure out how to have equitable activities in this one!

TL use
I still don’t know how to hit the ground running with starting the year well. You might think that I have it all figured out because of the wild popularity of my 90% TL post last year, but I don’t. I’m still getting my bearings on that, but hope to switch my own TL use to 90% next week.

I guess another delta is that I don’t have more deltas! Whoops. I’m sure I’ll think of some along the way – nothing I do is perfect!

I’d love to hear about what’s working in your class so far this year!

Don’t fit the mold

I will start this post by clarifying what you may have already gathered: I do still exist! I’ve been really caught up in taking a load off this summer. This is my first summer where things are “staying the same,” meaning that we’re not moving, I have no big trips planned, I’m not trying to redo everything, and I’m really trying to focus on relaxing and not thinking about school with every waking moment. Conclusion? It’s been going really well.

This summer I’m trying to update my curriculum, from all the tips and tricks I learned at #CampMusicuentos in June. It’s been a little rough, because not only am I reading The Keys to Planning for Learning, but I’m working with basically nothing except the outline of a former textbook. What I mean by that is: I’m not sure if my school has a set curriculum. I mention this, not to shame my school (I really do love it there) or to make myself sound impressive, but because I know there are TONS of young teachers in this position. My first year of teaching could have gone much more smoothly if I would have ASKED for our curriculum before school started. Now that I’m entering my second year at my new school, I’d feel silly asking about curriculum without raising questions like, “what exactly were you doing last year?” (Answer: “my best”)

I finally feel like I’m in a place to do some actual curriculum mapping and planning this summer. You might not feel like you’re in the place. Use an already set curriculum, and don’t let anyone make you feel bad about that! This brings me around to the point that I’m trying to make here:

Don’t attempt to fit a mold that someone “who knows what they’re doing” laid out for you.

What I mean by that is that there is a FINE line when you’re using someone else’s resources. I am ALL for “not reinventing the wheel,” “working smarter, not harder,” and “sharing is caring.” I am constantly reminded that teachers (especially us young ones) might not have the time, experience, or resources to write curriculum by ourselves. Heck, up until this year, I clung to the Jefferson County Public Schools curriculum tighter than I’ve ever clung to a textbook. But there’s a danger here, and that danger is losing who you are as a teacher.

Case in point: I looked at other teacher’s successes (JCPS/The Creative Language Class, Shelby County, etc) and thought “if they are successful, all I have to do is do exactly what they do, and I will also be successful.” WRONG. Even this school year, I had another French teacher to plan with for the first time. I spent a lot of the year trying to be more like her. Why wouldn’t I want to? She’s got tons of experience, stays relevant, tries new things, and is a good teacher! Of course I would want to emulate her and her practices. In the past, I spent so much time trying to do exactly what JCPS outlined that my teaching suffered. My students suffered. My mental health suffered.

You’re not meant to be someone else, no matter how great they are. I can’t shove myself into a colleague-shaped box. I can’t fit inside the crime scene-style chalk outline of anyone else. I can’t force myself into a curriculum that might not be right for my student population.

Did you know that the JCPS curriculum caught some flak for some of the units that they did? As far as I know, it was a curriculum compromise to include things like the “have a good day” unit. I didn’t know that until this year. I just assumed that they were the be all end all of curriculum! And it’s GOOD, regardless of these facts. Knowing this puts it into perspective that not one element contributes to your success as a teacher. A lot of it rides on you, your personality, your management, and so much more. So this year, my goal is to not lose myself in the quest for “better.”

I hope that your goal, while picking and choosing resources to help further your students towards their targets, is to remember who you are along the way. You were hired by your district for your expertise, your personality, your attitude, and your ability to do your job. Don’t let the promise of success with any one curriculum, method, or style tear you away from the great things that you bring to the table as an individual.

Why “easy” doesn’t bother me

Okay, so there’s been some talk amongst my friends, online and real life colleagues, and on twitter recently, and here we go, it’s #confessiontime:

I think that we should stop being so quick to label our class or other classes as “easy.”

There. I said it. Recently, I’ve heard a lot of chatter about how if lots of students get an “A” on something, there are two gut reactions: either the assignment was “too easy,” or “word got out about what was on it/they cheated.”

This really makes me think. Sometimes I hear feedback that doing “x, y, or z” makes a class easy, and sometimes I panic, thinking, “what if my class is easy?” “What if I’m not pushing students?” But then I get into conversations where colleagues ask me “how many failures I have” that I remember: I would rather my class be perceived as easy than lament about how many students are failing. I rather have 80-100% of my students learning, acquiring, and doing well than worry about if I’m “covering enough material.” And I don’t think that should be the #unpopularopinion.

I do not believe that homework, trickery, or “unknown” components of assessments are necessary or make my class challenging. I do believe there is a case for “grit” or “stretch” or “challenge” in the classroom.

I am here to say that I am 100% for transparency as far as assessments go. Students should know what they’re expected to do on each assessment. It should not be a secret. Students shouldn’t wonder just seconds before the assessment, “what will the format be?” “Is it going to be x kind of assessment, or y?” “are we speaking this or writing it?” I think that’s unfair. If my students are expected to do an interpersonal assessment, they’ve had practice. If they’re expected to write what they need to say, then goodness knows we’ve written something similar before. If they’re reading or listening, I expect them to recognize well-known key words and then get the comprehension based off of those key words. There is also place for stretch and for “grit” on my assessments.

So, on the day of the assessment, I expect that students do well. I expect that they know the vocab, can express what I wanted them to say, and/or write a beautiful composition that is comprehensible, even if there are errors. When my students receive a score in the 3-4 (90%-100%) range of my standards-based rubric, I do not question the validity of my assessment or my grading practice. I do not wonder if my students cheated. I smile, jump for joy, and get excited about what students can do (actually, sometimes I cry.) When students don’t reach my expectations, I’m sad, ponder what I could have done or can do better for them, and thank the heavens that retakes exist. I do not blame the students for being unmotivated or for being “lower” than their peers or previous students. I do not think that retakes make my class easier, or that they “inflate” students’ grades. I think a rolling grade book shows progress, and what students CAN DO.

I, personally, do not think that this makes my class easier. I think that I grade fairly, and that I recognize when my students are being all-stars. I do not wonder, even for a second, if students told each other what’s on the test and that’s why class period X did better than Y. I’ve given them the information that they need to do well; the rest is up to them.

I am saddened by the thought that other teachers out there go into grading looking for mistakes. That is not my mindset. If it is yours, I urge you to ask yourself, “is grading is miserable for me? If yes, is that because I hate grading, or because my mindset may need an adjustment?”

I know that this will raise questions and/or comments. “But what about grit?” “You must not value accuracy!” “You’re still so young, you have a lot to learn.” “You don’t teach level 1 Spanish, it’s different than your class.” “What’s ‘easy’ for you is clearly different than what I perceive as ‘easy.'”

Case in point: Today I gave a random, 6 question, cumulative interpersonal assessment that I could not give students explicit practice for. Due to student growth measures in the state of Ohio, I couldn’t even hint at what would topics would “be on the test.” Against my normal assessment procedures, I just told students we’d be having a conversation. This made them more nervous than usual. Against proficiency procedures, I didn’t attempt to negotiate the meaning of the questions (I’m not sure if I’m allowed to negotiate because of the nature of growth measures.)

But I will tell you that around 90% of my level 1, novice mid-to-high/bordering intermediate low students answered all of those questions wonderfully, expected grammar errors aside. They answered in complete sentences. They pulled out vocabulary that I thought they’d long forgotten. They added detail that wasn’t necessary to answer the question. They impressed me with every word, phrase, self-selected vocabulary addition, and “light-bulb-I-finally-understand-this-question-and-I-can-answer-it-beautifully” moment. There was a question that we hadn’t gotten to in the curriculum and for most of my students, it didn’t even phase them. And this wasn’t an assessment that they studied for. 

A few of my highest-scoring students told me after that it was really bad. They asked me if they failed it, or if they could redo it because it was “terrible.” Do you know why? Because they’re so used to focusing on what they get wrong, on what they can’t do, on what they’re missing, that they don’t know how to celebrate what they CAN DO.

I do not think that focusing on what my students can do makes my class easy. I do not think that it makes me an “easy grader,” a “grade inflater” or a “softie.” I would rather celebrate successes than cultivate failure.

If somehow my beliefs make my class easy, than so be it.

As always, I welcome your comments, questions, and feedback in the comments.