As I have previously blogged, I am currently trying new things. One of the things that I have changed the most is my approach to teaching year 7. At my school we are lucky enough that students get 6 hours a fortnight on their first language in year 7, so it's a great opportunity for us to really build some solid foundations for language learning straight away.
In the past my approach to year seven has been very much led by the textbook, meaning I'd teach a chunk of vocabulary on a set topic (maybe animals) and then do reading and listening exercises from the book and sone simple writing based on that topic. I think this will sound familiar to quite a lot of people when they think about their own experience of learning a language. As a department this year, we changed our schemes of work to build year 7 up to a higher standard earlier on in the year, and to try and skip over some of the units of the text book that really didn't add much to their knowledge other than a few words for items of food, for instance. This alone has definitely made a difference. Add to that the fact that we aren't on the constant assessment treadmill of 'teach the unit, do the assessment, teach the unit, do the assessment' that we had been on before. We hVe now selected a number of common assessed pieces, reading, listening, speaking or writing tasks that we can do across the length of the half term to measure progress and give some comparison across classes but without the students feeling like every unit ended in an assessment. This is another thing that's helped greatly, as students aren't expecting assessments at the end of each unit and we aren't having to waste valuable time conducting assessments that aren't needed. We still have the data, we are still showing progress, we are not an exam factory any more.
On top of these departmental changes I have been doing things a little differently in the classroom. In general, these are things that have been inspired by books and blogs that I've been reading, mixed on with things I was already doing. For instance, I an still using the textbook as a guide, and using it for listening activities and for suggesting to students the vocabulary that they need to learn. But I am not rigidly using it. I am supplementing much more with longer, more challenging texts that I have written myself. When it comes to grammar, the book covers the rules but then just teaches the activities in the first person. I'm steering away from getting students to write down verbs in the first person, in favour of writing down the term nfinitive and apply the rules to conjugate it. This has worked well so far I think, and I have been encouraging students to self-quiz (brought on by the many blogs on the topic). The students are reading much more aloud and working on their probounciation. They are doing lots more explicit grammar exercises and lots more translation. I give them difficult tasks and they constantly surprise me with what they are able to do. I can't wait to see this class when they get to GCSE, I can only hope that we can maintain this enthusiasm.
I had a 30 minute PMR observation with this class yesterday, and I was so pleased with what they showed they could do! My HOD commented on the level of challenge, the high expectations I had of them, the logical ways they were discussing the finer points of reflexive verbs and stem changing verbs and their enthusiasm for learning Spanish. Obviously this isn't all down to the different approach I have taken, but I think it's certainly helping.