The POWER of Positivity! From the mouths of babes….

Paul Kirschling is one of my incredible mentors, and inspirations in the teaching world. This year, he was honored as the Colorado Foreign Language Teacher of the Year. I had the opportunity to sit in on one of his presentations at CCFLT in February. It was called “Managing the Classroom with a Positive Environment in the TL”. The underlying message of the hour we spent with him, was that we, as educators, should do our best to remain positive for our students, “NO MATTER WHAT!”.

It is the end of the year. Patience is waning. Kids are insane. We are even more so…. I thought that now is as good a time as any to finish this blog, and remind us to STAY POSITIVE! 🙂 For everyone’s sake!

In February, I gave this survey to my kids  after I came home from hearing Paul. Many of you know I am not returning to my current school next year. I gave them this survey about 3 weeks before sharing that with them because I didn’t want their answers to change in any way with that news. PLEASE NOTE: If you DON’T make a copy it will change the survey for everyone reading my blog…THANK YOU!

*** Update 7/26/2018 Unfortunately, it no longer allows you to just make a copy because I made the survey under my old work email google account. Now that I don’t have access, it says you can “request access to edit” but I don’t have access to approve that anymore! 😦 My advice is to recreate something similar to this one in Google Forms, or wait until I do it again next year and I will repost with a new link!

I told them that every language teacher in the Nation was giving this survey to their students that week. Sigh….I am a little white liar, yet again! I told them it was completely anonymous and they should answer honestly and I also told them that their answers would be rejected if they didn’t write in complete sentences. (I don’t even know if Google has that capability! haha!)

The results were AMAZING and in my opinion, perfectly capture the culture and community of my classroom, as well as the importance and POWER of teacher positivity in student performance, effort, and attitude. If you want to see the results in one huge (hard to look at) document you can click here. Otherwise, read on and I will go through each of the questions here and share the answers. I haven’t edited ANY of the responses, they are completely un-filtered and still full of spelling and grammar errors. 🙂 FULL of errors….I really wanted it to be exactly as they wrote it though…

Question 1:

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Question 2:

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The sliver of blue is concerning but I LOVE that the majority recognize our effort as a class to stay IN the TL 90-100% of the time.

Question 3:

How does your teacher help you understand what she/he is saying when they are speaking in Spanish? BE SPECIFIC….

My goal here was to find out how students observed me making things “comprehensible” and what strategies they thought were most helpful. Here are some of their answers followed by my observations in red. Read the rest of the 75 responses here. 

  • She helps me understand by putting the Spanish word into understandable context, then allows us to guess that information based off of the context. She also puts the word up on the board And circumlocutes that word with other words we understand. I LOVE THAT MY KIDS KNOW the word circumlocution. Input must not only be comprehensible but also presented in a compelling CONTEXT for them.
  • She helps us understand by using gestures. Let’s say if we don’t know quierro she would motion her hands to make it look like she wants something and then she would count to 3 and we would all say the word. Also If we don’t say the word we would do a gesture with our hand and she would say the word. TPR is awesome… Seriously… and they know the importance of me counting to 3 is for think time for ALL students to be able to answer my comprehension checks in unison
  • So what she does is either one of three things. One thing she does is makes the gesture of the corresponding word that she is trying to tell us. She also, if she sees or thinks that we will have trouble thinking of this word, she will write it up on the board next to it’s english translation. Another thing she does is if she sees one of us having trouble understanding the word and the rest of most of the class seems to know it, she will ask the class, “Clase, como se dice ________ en englais?” I like using my students as a resource to help each other. It is also another way to avoid ME speaking in English. I also do this so that they don’t feel singled out when they don’t understand. I know when my students don’t understand because I teach to their EYES…

Question 4:

List THREE ways (complete sentences) that Spanish class is different from your other classes…

My hope was that they’d mention strategies unique to teaching language vs. other subjects. The majority of the kiddos focused on use of Brain Breaks in class as well as the lack of homework 😉 Two answers below and the rest can be found here. 

  • Spanish is different because we usually dont sit at desks. We dont have a lot of homework. And its really fun with brain breaks and games. Deskless is bestest! 
  • We speak in Spanish about 99.999999999999…% of the time. It does not feel like we are learning ,but we are. There are no test or quizzes, and we do not learn from the textbook. The illusion of them “having fun” and not really learning is the beautiful thing about acquiring through CI! 

Question 4:

List TWO specific ways, this language class is different from other language classes that you’ve had (at your current school or previous schools)

Many of my current students were previously students of legacy teachers. They studied Spanish through textbooks, learned linguistics, and spoke about Spanish in English. I wanted to hear these specific comparisons from them. Here are the rest of the answers that aren’t detailed below.

  • One way that her class is different than the other classes is because, well, its fun! She dosen’t try to take the learning to home, but does it all at school, where it should be! Also, she makes the learning really fun, making us laugh, having us play games about the lesson, heck, we even have conversations that take up the entire class in spainish! Using grammar and textbooks on the other hand is boring and you get nothing out of it besides this goes here, and that goes there, and uhhgh… *snore* Another way it is different is because it takes participation and paying attention to learn in her class. I love all of this so much! LOL
  • One way it was different from my French class was that we talk in the language and we don’t just sit there and watch a French movie and don’t understand what they are saying like at my old school. Another reason is that we use hand motions while talking. At my old school, we just repeated the same words over and over and didn’t even learn what they mean. We kind of had to figure it out on our own. Just because they’re parroting doesn’t mean they’re understanding!
  • In this class, I learn to speak the language, but in my other Spanish classes, I just learned Spanish words. Memorizing words doesn’t lead to production of those words. Input, input, input  (compelling comprehensible input in a context!) will lead to output output output!

Question 5:

Screen Shot 2018-05-14 at 9.28.38 am.png

LOOK AT THAT!!! ❤

I say it ALL the time…. if your students KNOW you enjoy what you’re doing, or what you’re teaching about, they are FAR more likely to buy in than if they get the feeling you don’t care, or you’d rather be elsewhere. If you don’t want to teach about the Spanish Civil War or about Mexico’s Independence Day, then don’t do it! Teach what YOU are PASSIONATE about. 

Question 6:

In what ways do you KNOW she/he enjoys or does not enjoy what she does?

How do I show my students I love what I do…?! How do they KNOW?? Here are all of their answers.

  • She seems constantly cheerful so I can only assume she enjoys it. Relentlessly positive
  • I know she enjoys because she really cares about and tries to form relationships with And teach her students. Personalization matters.
  • She talks to us with enthusiasm and she feels interested in what she is teaching. That is because I AM interested in what I am teaching!
  • I know she enjoys what she does because she is always excited for every class, and she is always in a good mood. Even though she has to teach every period of the day, she never complains and is happy doing it. Maestra also shows a lot of love toward her students and is very passionate about Spanish. She is very eager for class everyday. We all know this year has been a challenge for me. My kids though, they don’t know it….Nor should they. It isn’t their problem. My job is to make their language acquisition journey an exciting one, and one that they desire to continue well beyond my classroom. 

Question 7:

How does your teacher feel about his/her students? How do you know?

This is something else that I think is imperative to building a community of respect and love in your classroom. Your students need to KNOW how you feel about them. Reading their responses made me cry. Here they are, and below are some of my favorites… Sigh… they are ALL my favorites

  • She absolutely loves every student. She doesn’t show favorites and tries for everyone to be included in everything. Sometimes she shows some tough love, but its only because she cares about you and your education. I have HIGH expectations of all of my children. When some of them aren’t meeting them I have to have a conversation of support and remind them of those expectations (I do this outside of class, and one on one) That is probably the “tough love” this kiddo is talking about
  • Maestra cares very much about her student. I have never heard the she dislikes a student even if they are difficult. Maestra is always willing to help her students with anything they need. What I’ve found is my most challenging students need the most love. Period.
  • She loves, I know this because you can see it in her eyes, and hear it in her voice, she also tells us every day. melt me ❤ 
  • Maestra cares about her students because no matter what she always tries to build them up. In the same way that they don’t know what stresses are going on in YOUR life beyond class, you may not know what stresses THEY are experiencing outside of school. Be the bright light in their day!
  • She loves all her students. She asks them how their day is and what’s to know what is going on in their life. She tells us she loves us everyday and if you need someone to talk to she is there. I do… I tell them every day. It is the last thing they hear when they leave my room. 

Question 8:

In what ways does your teacher try to make learning fun?

Here are all of their answers.  They focus on Brain Breaks and “games” I think the games they are referring to are Mafia and Loup Garou, based on answers that come later on in the survey

  • She plays games, and makes learning really fun by doing her own thing. You do you, boo! I do me! You do you!
  • Everything she does is fun. Like is said before, when you enter Spanish class it doesn’t feel like you are learning. You are playing games, talking in Spanish, and learning about Spanish songs. It is just all fun. Part of the “fun” is ME believing it is all FUN. If they see ME having fun, they are more likely to…(yes, in HS too)
  • We take brain breaks; we do movie talks. There you have it. 

Question 9:

If you had to give a new student advice, who is starting brand new at the beginning of the year in a beginning class with your teacher, what advice would you give them, to best succeed in Spanish class?

What do THEY see as the key to succeeding in my class? I am pleased to see that they recognize the IMPORTANCE of listening with their EYES AND their ears. Here are the rest of their answers. 

  • I would tell them to keep raising their hand and asking questions. Also to keep their eye on Maestra. And I would tell them to use circumlocution. NO MORE CÓMO SE DICE!
  • Just participate and listen and keep your eyes on maestra. That is the key to success in her class. Yes yes yes!!!
  • I would tell them to listen and to try to talk in Spanish, and that they should come in with a positive attidtude. Having a positive attitude and participating with enthusiasm is part of my rubric.
  • I’d say just go with the flow. or that… that sounds like a good plan….

Question 10:

If a language teacher came to you, and asked if they should teach using the same style/method that your teacher uses, what would you tell them and WHY?

Listen up! This question was for those of you on the fence about diving in to CI! There was ONE outlier in the answers, but the rest of the student’s answers didn’t correlate with this one so I think it might have been a mistake. Here they are. 

  • I would say absolutely becuase I have acquired more vocabulary and spanish knowledge from my 2 years with Maestra then from my 8 years of textbook learning. YAYYY they used the word ACQUIRED!
  • Yes because i took about 3 years of Spanish and only knew like the colors, and the numbers. I know so much more now. For having her for two years So many of my kids learned colors, numbers, and months of the year, YEAR AFTER YEAR in their elementary language programs! They can do SO much more!
  • YES because it is a lot better especially for me since I have ADHD AND ADD so it really helps. I think Brain Breaks are HIGHLY effective here. Everyone benefits!
  • I would tell them that they should teach the same way she does because it’s the best teaching method ever. YAAASSSS! PREACH!

Question 11:

What is your favorite thing we do in Spanish class? You can pick up to 3….
I gave them a list of all of the things we do in class. Since they picked up to 3, the percentages that Google tracked for me in the form are off. Here are the top 6 choices.
  •  In 6th place: Song of the Month
  • In 5th place: Señor Wooly
  • In 4th place: Legends  (I have two units on my TPT and a third coming soon)
  • In 3rd place: Non-targeted, unplanned Input! We call them pretzel days!
  • In 2nd place: Movie Talk
  • In 1st place: Mafia and Loup Garou (I STILL haven’t blogged about Loup Garou but i have loads of videos on my YouTube)
Question 12:
What is your absolute favorite thing we do and WHY?!
I just wanted to see more specifically what their favorite thing to do was and WHY they enjoyed it. OVERWHELMING response for Mafia and Loup Garou. Here are all of their responses. 
  • I like playing Mafia, because it is the best game ever!!!!!!!! My enthusiasm is rubbing off!
  • My favorite thing is just talking about random stuff becuase it feels as if we aren’t even in a class and we are just acquiring spanish by talking with friends. YAYYY! Non-targeted input for the WIN!
  • My absolute favorite thing we do is FVR because it helps me comprehingd more spinsh and it helps me understand the spanish I know better If you can read beyond the spelling mistakes this is totally AWESOME! Yay for reading!
  •  My absolute favorite thing to do is write our own stories because I love writing stories and have fun writing, also I have around 20 or more stories that some are finished, in progress, or canceled. (Maestra please let us type our stories on the chrome books.) This student totally gave away who she was… She writes in Spanish at home almost nightly… She is remarkable

Question 13:

Why does your teacher DO Brain Breaks in class?

Do they REALLY know why I do Brain Breaks? YES! YES THEY DO! Here are their answers.

  • To give our brains a break from learning becuase learning a new launguage is tough work. YES! It is SO rigorous!
  • I think she does brain breaks to keep our brain awake and to keep us alert the entire class. Truth!
  • If we did a lot of Spanish in one day it is to give our brain a break from all the learning and play a little 30 second game. See! Short and sweet! 10-30 seconds is all it takes!
  • So your brain won’t “overheat” That just sounds painful!

Question 14:

What is your favorite Brain Break? Choose up to 3…

Again, this chart looked funny. Here were their top 5 Brain Breaks:

  1. Mafia (hand/eyes/and tongue)
  2. Squirt (no blog yet but coming soon. Here is a video of a LONG game on a field trip)
  3. Evolution
  4. Mannequin Challenge
  5. Dance like Maestra (yay! My fave and the very first I blogged about!)

Question 15:

I provided them with a picture of our Interpersonal and Interpretive Communication Rubric.

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Not surprised. Side conversations is ALWAYS the biggest challenge. 

Question 16:

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I think that it is easier to remain positive if the environment that you’re in is enthusiastic and positive.

Question 17:

Is there anything else you want your teacher to know!?

Lots of them were really silly here and decided it was an appropriate time to inform me that unicorns aren’t real (silly kiddos, what do they know!?…) while others took time to let me know what they think of my Broncos, or Fortnite… If you’d like to see their answers click here. Others wrote really sweet notes like these, that made me start to cry all over again.

  • She is a really great teacher and I have learned way more than in any other Spanish class. She also isn’t even my advisor, but I feel like I can talk to her about everything and she helps. She’s also one of maybe two teachers that actually encourages us and makes me want to do better. I loveee her sooo much.
  • your lit look beyond the spelling 😉 
  • You are the best teacher EVERRRR!!!!! ( You can become a unicorn if you want to and unicorns are real don’t listen to people who don’t believe in them)
  • I love you so much and you are the best teacher I have ever had. You always have a positive attitude and your class is the best part of my day.
  • you are doing a good job- We ALL need to hear this more. YOU are doing a GREAT job my friends!

I know this was long, but it feels so good to have it all documented, even just for me to look back on when I need encouragement.

So, again, I know I said it last week but THANK YOU for all that you do. They NOTICE and appreciate it! Clearly! 🙂

Until next time,

HAPPY TEACHING!

Love,

La Maestra Loca

3 comments

  1. Thank you for this! I gave the first survey to one class today and I was so touched by their responses! It’s amazing what the students notice when you don’t think they’re listening! It is a great reflection tool for both students and teachers. Thank you!

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