Criterion number one is: Centering instruction on high expectations for student achievement.
The teacher coveys high expectations for student learning. Communicating expectations to students is crucial. One way this can be done is by posting and reflecting on objectives. Objectives are stated at the beginning of the chapter in most textbooks. The I Can statements from Jefferson County Public Schools, in their World Language Assessment Documents, are in a stamp format and student friendly. Linguofolio is also a good place to get I can statements and record evidence for many levels. On December 31, 2013 ACTFL announced the publication of their Can-Do Statements: Progress Indicators for Language Learners available at actfl.org.
Another way to set high expectations is teaching students to serve as resources for one another. I introduce this concept the first week of school by giving students packets of 10 weather pictures and 10 weather expressions all mixed up. They dump them out on cue and race to be the first to match them up correctly. When the first student gets it correct, I tell them to get up and be my assistant and help me check other students. There are now two of us checking answers and then 3 and so on. Students are as excited to get to help check each other as they are when they win a prize. This activity can be used to practice any vocabulary, for sequencing to review a story, to sort descriptions of characters, if you think of others post below.
Next I pass out red, yellow, and green squares cut out of construction paper clipped together. When I give an independent activity, they display the green square on top if they know what to do. If they are a little confused or have a clarifying question they show the yellow square. If they don’t know what to do or how to get started they display the red square. I go to help the kids with the red squares. When a green has finished, I check their work and tell them to go help a yellow. As I continue to help the reds. As more kids finish we are able to help all the yellow and reds until everyone is successful. These squares can also be used to hold up answers, give them three choices assigned to a color, have them hold up the color of the answer they pick.
I was in a workshop on how the brain learns by Pat Wolf in the 90’s when she said “Partner A turn to partner B and tell them what we have been discussing for the last 12 minutes.” Both my partner and I were ashamed to admit that we had not been listening all that closely. You can bet the next time she stopped and said “turn and talk” we were both able to summarize and connect our learning. Remember to stop every 12-15 minutes or less and have students help explain concepts to their classmates. Under the distinguished category in the state document it says ‘The teacher invites students to explain the content to the class or classmates.” I think turn and talk is one low tech way to achieve this.
Make sure all students are intellectually engaged. “Virtually all students are intellectually engaged in challenging content through well-designed learning tasks and suitable scaffolding by the teacher and fully aligned with the instructional outcomes.” Ideally this happens because the lesson is inherently interesting and compelling, but I teach middle school, and I don’t know about your students but mine don’t always arrive prepared to focus. To do this I have them sit up, and make eye contact with the speaker. I have them put away all distractions: Chromebooks, phones, homework from other classes, and reading books. I frequently have the students gesture and use quick formative assessment techniques to make sure everyone is paying attention. Remember that engaged does not have to be enthusiastic!
I teach students to recognize efforts of their classmates by clapping after the greetings, and skits. I teach them to use compliments. For example, after a partner reading student 1 says “you’re a good reader.” Student 2 says “thanks, I know.” You can teach students phrases to ask for help. Student 1 says “Can you tell me how to say this?” Student 2 says “Sure that’s super simple!” Student 1 says “thanks, you’re really smart!” Student 2 says “you’re welcome.” I found a cool handout on Facebook 99 ways to compliment your classmates in French.
The pacing of the lesson provides students the time needed to intellectually engage with and reflect upon their learning and to consolidate their understanding. Plan reflection time into your lessons. Graphic organizers are good for recording knowledge at the beginning of a lesson and returning to them to reflect and record new knowledge at the end. Students could use different colors, draw a line, new column or other method to distinguish old from new.
“The classroom culture is a cognitively vibrant place, characterized by a shared belief in the importance of learning.” How are you establishing a culture for learning? Are your students helping each other learn? What are your routines for when students have finished their work? In my room, I encourage silent reading in the target language, working on language related websites, or helping each other. Students almost always choose to help each other. Share your comments and ideas below.