Day 1 and Day 2

Yesterday was the first day of school in my face-to-face teaching world, and it was a very good day. Not just “good as the opposite of great,” as I was complaining about in a recent post and a recent Google+ thread … and not just “good enough,” either. It was a very happy and productive day for me and my students. Not a perfect day, of course, but a genuinely good one.

One thing that made it genuinely good, I think, is that I very deliberately abandoned my polished, “always do it this way” first-day approach. We still did many of the same activities with both the Latin I and Latin III groups, but the order of events was a bit different and, perhaps most important, my approach to planning the day was different. For the past several years I’d used a lesson-planning form, developed by my school, that really only asked for state curriculum goals and a list of activities. Thanks to North Carolina’s new approach to World Language curriculum, our curriculum coordinator developed a new planning guide … and after working with it for a while, I’m overwhelmed by its simplicity and power. It starts out with the state curriculum goals but then leads teachers to think about essential questions and learning targets and informal assessments on their way to that list of activities.

Somehow those extra steps (which I’ve always thought about half consciously, but rarely taken the time to verbalize) gave me a very different, more flexible, more relaxed perspective on the day and the week. I suppose that only makes sense! After all, when you’re looking at a list of activities, the goal becomes “let’s do the activities.” When you’re looking at learning targets, the focus shifts. Instead of “How can we get through these activities?” I find myself asking much better questions, like

  • Are my students meeting these targets?
  • What should we do for the ones who have surpassed them?
  • What should we do for those who are still struggling?

So my Latin I students still spent much of their day trying to “Match the Meanings” of basic classroom objects and procedures (which “just happen” to be labeled all over the classroom) with the corresponding Latin words. And my Latin III students still brainstormed about things they remember, then began to do a formal review of the Latin noun system. But we kept the focus on the *goals* rather than the *mechanical process*, and we felt much more like a joyful learning community building something meaningful together than first-day classes had felt in quite a while.

I think there’s a lesson for me about problems and solutions here, and I know there’s a lesson about balancing structure and freedom. But I’m not sure exactly what those lessons are. I have an inkling or two, but I’d really like to hear from you.

quid respondētis, amīcī?

Published in: on August 28, 2012 at 9:57 am  Leave a Comment  

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