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Teaching with Novels

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Meet Sra. Wienhold

Survey Results

After being inspired by the great idea here by Melanie to do a Google form survey of my students, I did just that. **If you have not used Google Forms, DO IT!** I used a lot of the same basic questions to get a better feel of the strengths and weaknesses of my classes. While some feedback was amazingly complementary about them not wanting me to change school, others were brutally honest and revealed gaping holes that I need to work hard to fill. I did the survey in all levels with the students who were present that day, so these results are a mix of all classes. 

 90%+ Spanish

The question below is the one that was the biggest sucker punch and eye opener for me. I have tried VERY hard this year to try and reach the 90%+ goal for target language use. I have grown leaps and bounds in the last three years, moving from a textbook, grammar-taught-in-English class to a more comprehensible input and novel focused class. I think that I was close to 90%, but the key was that the STUDENTS were not using Spanish 90% of class, and this is my fault. I need to create activities, and the environment where EVERYONE speaks Spanish together. Only 3.6% of my students were over 90%, and that needs to change. 
On the positive side, we are making progress. If I were to have done this survey year 1, there is NO WAY that 92% of my students would have said that over half of the class time was spent in Spanish. It is a sad but true fact that I used to teach ABOUT the language and not IN the language. Once again, here is a big goal to learn and grow from next year. I heard an idea at #CSCTFL15 to SHOW ACTFL's position statement on target language use in the classroom and explain that as a team we need to work together to get there. As you can see from the results below where 1 was highly disagree and 5 highly agree, my students have not been on board with only speaking Spanish in class, and we need to improve. 


On a positive note 87% of my students are planing on taking Spanish next year, and this includes seniors who are graduating! Retention has gone way up and I am so excited about those planning on pursuing Spanish at the University level!

Perceived Confidence

I also had students rank their confidence in ability to understand what they read, listen to, speak, and write in Spanish. Reading was the highest perceived ability, probably due to our novel studies. listening, speaking, and writing were all a pretty similar bell curve with room to improve. 

Listening, Speaking & Writing were very similar

Favorite Things

One of the most fun things to read were their favorite things in class. I asked for favorite book we read, book they read during free reading, song to listen to, song to dance to, and movie we watched. I also had an open ended question to name 2-3 activities that helped them to learn most Spanish, as well as another to list what they would get rid of in class if they could. I also listed off 15 typical class routines or activities (baile viernes, doing cultural unit, free reading, etc) for them to click their favorites in one question, and to chose what they would eliminate in another. 

The overall winner of everything was watching El Internado. 86% of all students chose watching movies/El Internado as their favorite part of class, and not a single person said they would get rid of it. Other top activities were Música miércolesBaile viernes, Kahoot quizzes, and reading novels as a class. 
The items most students would get rid of are using a textbook (which most classes never touched this year), worksheets, and choice real world homework. It is interesting that one of the topics that has been most popular on the blog lately, choice homework, is the item the students want to get rid of. To be honest, it is pretty much the only homework I give, so they think that by getting rid of it, there would be nothing outside of class time:) In theory it is a great idea, students choose something, anything, to use their language outside of class. It is the accountability piece they hate. Many students have found things from this list, and now do them without even requesting "credit" for them. These favorites include listing to Spanish music, binge watching El Internado, and participating in #spanstuchat. It has become an issue of heart and motivation, that many others simply screenshot activities, reuse weeks, or copy, just cheating themselves out of language practice. This is something else added to my to work on list, so if you have any ideas, let me know!

Even though I know I still have a long way to go, comments like the one below from Abby S. really remind me why I am a Spanish teacher. 

"I just want to say that I loved Spanish 4. It was awesome. I can't say enough good things I don't think. When people ask me what my favorite class is I say Spanish because I feel proud of how much I've learned this year. At the beginning of the year I had to really pay attention to the subtitles on Internado, but my listening has improved so much that I don't need to. I love love love getting to free read in Spanish. I love to read and I just feel so accomplished when I read something in Spanish and I understand it. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to learn and grow so much. I'm going to miss you but I wish you all the best of luck next year. And thank you for making me feel confident enough in my Spanish skills to feel that taking Spanish in college was even an option for me. Abrazos!!"
 Survey your students, through the good and the bad, it is how we learn and grow. Abrazos!


  1. I'm so glad you shared this. It's always fun to see into another foreign language teacher's world, especially one that is working toward 90% use of the target language. I'll be doing something similar and now I'll be using google forms because of your suggestion. Congrats on the sweet, intelligent note written by your student!!!

  2. Thank you for sharing your results. Makes me want to do something similar with my students. Like you, I've been doing real world/choice homework with my students. I am seeing benefits with those who are doing the work, but am struggling with getting 30% of my students to do any of it. I think for my students, it is tough for them to see the validity of using Spanish as a skill when the kids live in a rural area, most of them will not leave that town, and there is very little/if any diversity or need for Spanish in the community. For students who will "get out of dodge," so to speak, they don't have a problem doing the activities. So I have been thinking a lot lately about how I can make things more "real" for those other students, maybe having them do some reflecting on the activities they are choosing, and planning ahead for what their next choice activity will be. I need to do a better job of showing the students that this real world homework is so much better than homework they are doing in most all of their other classes, in that it is relevant and purposeful, versus doing 30 math problems in one night, outlining chapters, or doing pointless worksheets. On another note, I am seeing more of my students coming to me and saying that their parents are helping them with this stuff, and to me, that far outweighs any negative - we don't involve parents enough in high school, and this is a way for students to interact with their parents (at least many of the choices I have set up). Even if it is just having their parents record them using the self-checkout in Spanish at a local grocery store. It is opening up dialogue, making them talk about something, and they can work together to accomplish a task.

    1. Thank you so much for your own reflection and ideas! Please let me know if you come up with anything for those who still see no purpose in real world homework!

  3. How often do you assign real world homework Allison? Every night? Once a week? A couple times a trimester with proof? I've tried doing this (but only over spring and winter breaks) but would like to get into the habit of incorporating it more often. I just don't know how often..


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