Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The evolution of planning

My case might be typical or atypical. I am not incredibly sure. I first started teaching as a college graduate without any certification whatsoever. I hadn't even planned on going into teaching! I hadn't found anything as far as work a few months out of graduation and I received a phonecall from a rural school in Missouri who was desperate for a Spanish teacher and would look the other way about my lack of certification. Three or so weeks later, I started teaching Spanish.

Somehow I find myself in my fourth year of teaching. The interesting thing about my experience is that I haven't been spoon-fed anything from education classes. Instead, I have come up with all my activities on my own and learned many lessons that some students might already know about before arriving into a classroom. Regardless, I would say I am a much better teacher this year than I was when I started. I am constantly changing and trying to improve. This might be evident in previous posts and will be more evident in future posts. I am a reflective person and enjoy thinking about how to become better at something.

With that as my preface, I want to explain how my planning for classes has changed over the years. I first served as a tutor in college for Spanish students in lower level classes. The lower level Spanish classes required the students have a contact hour with the tutor and so I would usually have groups of 4-5 students for a 50-minute time slot. My planning would involve my asking the professor what he wanted me to cover with the students and then make a few activities up either beforehand or on the fly during that tutoring session.

One summer during college, I taught a summer school Spanish class for a total of six weeks. I had children from ages 6-12 in the class at one time and it was an interesting experience. My mother is an elementary school teacher and she helped me understand that planning was something that could be done through breaking down the minutes of classes.

My first year of teaching, I taught two different classes of Spanish (I and II). My plans consisted of three or so things that I planned on accomplishing. Each class had a word document and all the days of that week. Under each individual day would be a description of the activities I hoped to accomplish.
Ex: (from Week 1 2006)

El viernes el 25 de agosto

* Nota Cultural (p10): discuss Usted

*review alphabet/greetings/formality

*numbers 1-10

*VIDEO-VIERNES: Las chicas superpoderosas (Episode: “Slumbering with the Enemy”)

-answer questions on sheet after/while watching the movie

Tarea: Greetings Worksheet

I have slowly evolved this model as I teach. I like breaking it down. For the following two years I did this as well and would try to break down times when needed. I would occasionally write lesson plans as I started taking college classes last year. However, those are too impractical for my purposes. My priority is to teach my students and writing long lesson plans does not help me teach more effectively (from what I can tell).

This year is when things started changing more dramatically. I continued the class schedules as separate documents. But because I had so many different classes, I decided to create a document for the daily schedule. Each page contains a different day of the week but I have all of my classes planned on the same document. In conjunction with this, I have stopped thinking in terms of days and what things I can do to waste time, etc.

This is actually something that excites me more about teaching. I have started thinking in terms of Activities and units instead of chapters. I save on my jump drive the different units with their own folders and all of the materials that I might ever need (ppts, transparencies I make, partner activities, worksheets, etc) as well as a summary of the unit. In the summary, I plan out numerous activities and make sure to have many different activities.

In thinking in terms of activities, I can diversify my teaching. If I notice that in one unit summary that I am doing a lot of one type of activity, I can then add more activities of different sorts but keep them all in that document.

For whatever reason I have found myself more enthusiastic about teaching and the days do not bother me because I know what activities I want to accomplish instead of worrying about the time.

My planning takes much more time than it used to. I used to wing most lessons my first year. But now I plan out my lessons and try to do much more partner activities and lessons that incorporate different senses, etc.

I would say I've evolved.

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