Thursday, February 12, 2015

Make every minute count!

I NEVER get to everything I have planned for the class period.  Anybody with me?  When I'm trying to refresh topics from yesterday, conference individually with students, practice listening/speaking/writing/reading, have the students moving around, use authentic resources AND assess students along the way...I just don't know where the time goes!

Some people use "exit tickets" to double check that their students got that one main thought from the day.  But, if you're like me, you have come to the conclusion that you are incapable of stopping class in enough time for the students to successfully complete their exit ticket. So, I decided to do the exact opposite...come up with a super quick assessment that is their ticket IN the door.

If we have just introduced new vocabulary, for example, the following day I meet the students in the hallway before they get a chance to walk in the door.  I have a stack of pictures in my hand, along with my gradebook.  I show the students a picture, one at a time, and have them recite the word to me in Spanish.  If they can do it on the first try, they earn 3 points and they can enter the classroom.  They then can begin their "Para Empezar" on the board.   If they cannot answer the first question, they go to the back of the line and wait to try again, but now they can only earn 2 points...and so on, until they are out of points to earn.  Those students enter the classroom after repeating after me and receive a 0 for the day.

I have noticed that this practice takes care of 4 objectives:

  1. Students are held immediately responsible for information they learned the day before.  It is not a test next week, nor a homework assignment they can look up information for, but rather a quick "got it or don't got it" type of wake up call.
  2. This has all but eliminated my tardy issue.  If you are late to class, chances are you are still waiting in line to enter and you are already mentally rehearsing your vocab.  If you are so late that we are already finished, you have earned a 0 until you have made up your word.
  3. It feels fair. It's straight forward.  No tricks.  No test taking strategies.  If you mess up, you get 2 more chances.  If you bomb a whole day, it was only 3 points.  But, after you consistently do well at this for a week, you have a 15 point assessment in the gradebook to be proud of.
  4. It helps me conference one-on-one with my students.  I get a brief moment with each individual to hear them pronounce a word or two.  I can see how long they have to think before they respond.  I no longer have to wait until a paper quiz to see how students are doing...I know before they enter my classroom.  And, oftentimes, I base my instruction on that!
As the week progresses, I typically stray from rote memorization to more complex things.  Sometimes they have to translate a sentence.  Sometimes they have to answer a question.  Sometimes they have to simply pronounce a word.  It varies.  This idea could work for all content areas, too!  It is a great way to assess students in a non threatening way, with very little prep for the teacher.  Plus, it gives me a few minutes of classtime back...and I need every minute I can get!

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