The second semester is 2 weeks in, and I've been reflecting on some of the changes I have made after the winter break. Like the football coach who adjusts playcalling and personnel at halftime, I needed to adjust my game plan to address some areas of loss from the first semester.
Loss of learning time
This is the first year that our district has implemented an A/B schedule, with 3 100 minutes blocks each day. But we aren't a true A/B schedule - the days are fixed (Mondays A, Tuesdays B, alternate Fridays) and as a result, we may go 5-7 days without seeing a class- we are now a whole unit behind in levels 1 and 3. Obviously this is not ideal for language acquisition and progress through the curriculum.
I'm committed to no homework for equity reasons so that is ruled out as a means to maintain input outside of class. I decided to revert to an old practice of quick quizzes at the start of each class, which requires students to spend some time with reviewing a small set of expressions (10-12) and then taking an interpretive mode quiz when they arrive. But isn't this "homework", you might ask? Well, all of my students have cell phones and internet access as well as Quizlet access, so I feel it's reasonable to ask them to spend 15 minutes interacting with French on that phone that they are on all the time anyway! Literally ALL THE TIME. Hopefully this little bit of engagement with the language outside of class will help offset the gaps. On the whole, however, I'm resigning myself to the fact that I cannot control the schedule and the curricula will have to be adjusted and expectations lowered as far as target proficiency levels.
Level up writing
Level 3 has a year end target of Intermediate Low for a B. Many of them are struggling to write at a level above Novice Mid - simple chunks and sentences that they throw together without much thought. They are constantly given intermediate level input via authentic resources and materials from Gianfranco Conti. The Conti materials especially contain sentence builders and lexical chunks that are designed to build more complex writing...and yet...many simply do the minimum. To encourage them and lower level of affect about writing, we are starting every class with 10 minutes of journal writing; I suggest topics but they are free to write what they want. In two weeks, I've already seen growth.
I've been starting class in levels 1 & 2 with a soft start designed to help build relationships - Questions on Google Classroom that usually required students to share personal information or preferences. Unfortunately it didn't hook students in well - many dawdled and had to be nagged to respond - and we were losing prime time for engagement at the start of class. I'm now starting out with something more intense that requires more attentive processing - Pear Deck, Edpuzzle, an authentic resource. I'm hoping by raising the affect level I can hook in more of the students who do not transition well of their own volition.
So far the changes I've implemented seem to have increased engagement and improved writing skills (level 3) but I will tracking results on assessments and make further adjustments as necessary. I'm a proponent of changing my methods to meet the needs of my students, rather than trying to fit my students to my methods.