Reflection, tweak, repeat.

 

I’ve been taking advantage of our “no school because of smoke” days to re-do my college syllabus for French 101.  I’ve had a few ideas in my head since the end of last semester that I’m finally processing.  I’ve taught this class at least seven semesters and never the same way twice.  While I haven’t found that teaching community college French is that different from teaching high school French, there are some significant considerations as I update and tweak.

  •  There ain’t no time for nothing.  I’m “supposed” to cover 15 lessons in 16 weeks.  And if I have a Monday/Wednesday day class, I always lose at least one day due to holidays.  Yes, I know the whole bit about the difference between “covering” and “mastering.”  (For more on that see my post on why I’m not ready to ditch my textbook.)  Nevertheless, the pacing is fast. I’ve reduced the number of lessons we cover and I’ve paired those down to what I feel is essential for communication.  I am constantly trying to come up with ways to maximize class time (more TL, duh) and increase authentic, engaging and meaningful activities outside of class.
  • In any class, I will have students who have never heard a word of French and students who have 2, 3 even AP level French at the high school.  I’ve been moving towards a proficiency grading model for several semesters, but this poses the question- if Novice High is the goal, the students who had French in high school could easily be at that level on day one.  I don’t want to give them the impression that they don’t have to do anything because I will call BS that for any one of them, their French would not improve sitting in a class and hearing and speaking more French, even if it isn’t at an advance level.
  • There are students for whom this is their first class back to school after 25 years.  Their affective filter is off the charts.  Tell a high school student to do something new and they are like OK, whatever and go back to their phone.  Tell the student back to school for the first time in 25 years the same thing and you can visually see the panic taking over.
  • A mix of students.  Some of these students were accepted at major universities, but couldn’t go because of financial reasons.  Some of them are just out of high school and will drop out of community college in a semester.  Some of them are only there until they get their financial aid.   (That one boggles me, but it’s true.  There’s a certain amount of attrition after financial aid is released.)  In the night classes, most of them have full time jobs and families.  And some of them are finally grown up and ready to learn.  I want to have a class that is mindful of the fact that sometimes French class isn’t the most important thing going on in their life, while respecting the students who are committed to being there every session.

Here’s what I’ve decided to do this semester:

Grading: 50% Proficiency – based on three assessments at the end of each unit.  I am comfortable with the percentage because then the student who had two years of high school French will have to work on writing (homework) and come to class in order to earn a passing grade.  At the end of the first unit I’m going to forego what would normally be a formal assessment and instead, make appointments with the students so we can talk about where they would score and what they could do to make it better.  I will give them personalized “tasks.”  For the student who had French before I will tell them what they need to do to go to the next level for them.  This is where I plan on combating the student with two years of high school French who insists on pronouncing the “s” in “est” and the -“ent” in “parlent.”

I’m also giving up quizzes.  They just weren’t worth the time it took up in class.  Instead I’m going to “grade” their homework.  (Well, let’s be clear, the textbook website will grade their homework.)  They can redo any homework exercise as many times as they want until they get 100%. It’s about getting better, right?  The time I gain back from quizzes, I’ll save for the appointments and more TPRS.

I’m going to use the new quiz feature in Google Forms to do an end of the the lesson informal assessment.  I’ve had students do a weekly reflection for a couple of semesters, asking them to rate their confidence on their ability to complete the can do statements for the lesson and then asking them to do something that I would give feedback on.  It’ll be a short, ungraded (not in the gradebook) assessment that will give me an idea of what we need to still work on and I’ll use the feedback option in the quiz to lead students to what they might need to review.  I’m going to continue to ask them to do something so I can give feedback.

Last semester I started working in some TPRS.  Or just S because I didn’t have college students stand up and do gestures.  I want to continue to do this and add more because of course, it’s effective.  Feedback I got last year was that some of the students were less comfortable (i.e. on the edge of panic) because they didn’t have anything to “review” for those lessons. This semester I’m going to use screencasting to record the stories and EdPuzzle for checking for understanding for the students who want more practice.

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