A New Year’s Reset

Yay! December Break is finally here! I have been looking forward to a little rest and relaxation. And yet, my teacher brain just cannot turn itself off. All the Christmas presents have been opened and New Year’s Eve is still a few days away, making this the perfect time to start thinking about what I’m going to do once I am back in my classroom next week. I have two changes I plan to make to my classroom management system and a great Movie Talk I’m planning to do once I return to work. More details are below.

The first change I plan to make is to my behavior incentive system. Last year I used a timer/party points management system. I set a timer for eight minutes and challenged the class to stay in the target language (TL) with no disruptions for those eight minutes. If they succeeded, the class would get a point when the time was up. Every time someone talked in English or disrupted the class, I reset the timer. Once the class amassed 25 points, they got a reward (candy/game day/ movie).

I heard about this system at a Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling (TPRS) workshop last March. It worked really well until the end of the school year in June. But then when I returned to school in late August, I abandoned the timer and switched to a teacher versus students points system (I know…why did I give up on this system when it was working? Because I wanted to try something new. Nothing ventured, nothing gained). When students did something well, they got a point. When the class broke a rule, I got a point. This system worked well with my well-behaved class, but was a disaster with my poorly-behaved kids, because it was common to have classes where students broke so many rules that they were incapable of beating me. Once they got to that point, they realized that they had no incentive to behave and would start acting out. In addition, some kids felt that I awarded points subjectively, which is a valid comment.

So once I am back in school, I am going back to the timer/party points system. It is more objective that the system I use currently and gives students more of an opportunity to earn points. I hope this will both improve student behavior and excite them by the opportunity to earn multiple points a class.

The second change I plan to make is to the rubric I give students for self-assessment. The rubric I use is similar to ones that are found on Ben Slavic’s website. This rubric asks students to evaluate themselves based on how well they listen with the extent to understand and how well they support the flow of language in class.

Now that I have started Free Voluntary Reading (FVR) in class, I have replaced “Listen with the Extent to Understand” to “Listen AND READ with the Extent to Understand.” I don’t hold students responsible for what they read, which means no book reports, assessments, or projects based on their books, but I do want them to actually read. Most of them do but I still have a few that don’t (I have one student who purposely held her book upside down during our last FVR session, and when I said something to her about it she said, “I just don’t feel like reading.” This is exactly the kind of behavior I hope to address with this alteration).

The other adjustment I have made to my rubric involves how well students support the flow of language. Students are required to respond to my whole-class questions, usually only with a word or two. The problem is that I have a lot of students who give themselves full credit on their rubrics for answering my whole-class questions but I usually can only hear a handful of kids. As a result, I have rewritten the rubric so that students will only be able to give themselves full credit on the rubric if their answer is audible. I’m not going to give students full credit if they mumble or whisper anymore.

Along with these two changes, I’ve also planned to do a Movie Talk when I return to school based on the clip Lily and the Snowman. It is the story of a girl who builds a snowman that comes to life. It’s a perfect Movie Talk for the middle of winter, don’t you think?