I have wanted to establish more independent learning pathways in my courses for years, but always envisaged it would need an enormous amount of time to create resources. Some units and Task Based Learning I have undertaken has approached this, for example asking Y9s to collect pictures of themselves showing different moods and label these in Spanish to use with estar, or collecting sports vocabulary, making an animal documentary or a Spanish calendar. However, these were one off activities rather than a whole unit of work. I had plans for stations, have collected furniture to facilitate this idea of reading and listening stations etc. but somehow, it never actually happened.
This year, having prepared a mix of online and paper resources for a small Y10 class, I decided to ask them how they would like to approach the topic. It is a very small class of only 10-12 students (some are often absent or on exchange) so it was easier to take the plunge and think of managing stations and producing multiple resources. The response from students was unequivocal. I presented them with the prepared resources and they took off. The only thing I then did was establish that they had a goal sheet up on their blog, and the time and reminders to set a goal and reflect on their progress each class.
I then created a unit plan with two objectives for students – a written description of their house and room and an interview, both to be posted to their blog – and specific grammar (estar, prepositions of place, demonstrative and possessive adjectives) and vocabulary (furniture and rooms, adjectives to describe both) I also separated out the city component of this unit, to cover as teacher directed, so I could ensure that students had a comprehensive understanding of the grammar I had asked them to cover.
Currently students are really focused on their individual tasks. The weakest students are mastering material really well, as they are working at their own pace and can select from online resources.Mid range students are also showing greater confidence as they have time to consolidate what they don’t know, instead of moving at the teacher’s pace which is often too fast for them to feel they actually know vocabulary thoroughly. Strangely enough it is the strongest students who have made least progress, I feel, as at least one is not strongly self directed, and the others seem less willing to push themselves without a teacher challenging them. Very interesting.
Overall, this step has encouraged me to introduce VideoEle.com units to my Year 9 students, who immediately took off, with some students racing ahead, and others needing help to complete the first pages. An excellent tool for differentiation, but one which I had previously only used with senior classes.
TAI template for this inquiry coming.