The Next Right Thing

This is Mid-Quarter Proficiency Check week for the Latin Family at District Q and District Y.  Almost all of us have finished the pronunciation check and the interpretation check, and the scores were uniformly excellent.  We all seem to be right where we “should” be or slightly beyond that, at least if you assume that a language learner should reach Novice Mid to High interpretive proficiency by the end of “level one,” Novice High to Intermediate Low proficiency by the end of “level two” and Intermediate Low to Mid proficiency by the end of “level three.”  We’re all definitely on track for that!

When I realized I wanted to add the Mid-Quarter Proficiency Checks for these year-long classes, it’s because I wanted roughly the same frequency of checking proficiency that I had with the Latin Family at Former School, with its semester-block schedule and roughly month-long reporting periods.  It makes sense to pause every month or so and see how much you’ve progressed … not just “to put some grades in The Book” as Ms. X and Mr. Y would say, but to see about the next right thing.

I don’t think I realized that when I was a new teacher … and even when I was “more seasoned,” as my friend N likes to say.  But the more I think about it, the more I realize that the primary purpose, if not the only purpose, of a formal assessment like the Proficiency Check is to see about the next right thing.

That’s made all the difference in my approach to assessment and in the ways I use (and ask my students to use) the results of the assessment work we do.

A Much Younger Me “gave tests” at the end of every chapter of That Textbook because that’s what teachers do.  Predictably, some students did well, some struggled, and some did poorly even though I had worked hard to align The Test with What We Did during the unit.  Much Younger Me took pride in returning tests the next day, and the Latin Family in those days enjoyed the test correction process which, as I told them every time, was at least as important as the test itself, if not more important.  We’d see why the answer was wrong, and we’d fix it, and the hope was that we wouldn’t repeat the mistake in the future.

Sometimes that worked; sometimes it didn’t.  But even in those early days, I had half-realized that The Test needed to be connected in some way to the next right thing.

The Current Me seems to have a deeper, better understanding of how that connection works.  As I listen to Latin Family members read aloud and tell me what they understood, I can see areas where we need to work individually, where Z needs to focus on this set of vocabulary or Q needs more practice reading.  But I can also see areas where all of us need work … and then I can find ways to plan for that work in the days that follow.  I think I did that at Former School, though the Incredibly Detailed Lesson Plan Format there was more of an obstacle than a help.  But at District Q and District Y, it’s somehow easier to make adjustments for the next right thing, to allow the extra half-day for This Story, to add This Activity or cut That One whose time is not yet right.

The intermediate and advanced Latin Family members at District Q have started doing more independent reading, and we’ve started making Character Diagrams and Products/Practices/Perspectives Diagrams based on what we read.  That’s still a real struggle, especially for the intermediate group.  We tried making one together at the end of the day on Wednesday, after we’d all finished reading the first two stories in Lectio XV  and doing our Proficiency Assessments.  I modeled and guided, and by the end of the day about half of us felt confident that we could make such a diagram soon, but the rest of us were still tentative or even fearful about the process.  I think they have an image of required perfection in mind, an image that comes from past experiences they haven’t shared with me.  The next right thing involves letting go of that image … but I’m not sure exactly how that will work.

I do know we’ll make some diagrams together today, do some paired reading work, and come back together to add to the diagrams.  That’s part of the next right thing, but is there something I’m missing?  I’ll ask them for suggestions over the weekend, and I’ll see if they have any insights.  And I’ll keep looking at the formal results from the Proficiency Check and the informal results from our daily work together.  When the time is right, the next right thing will probably be clear.

I do know that they love exploring Roman “cultural stuff,” and I think they’ll enjoy finding out more about chariot racing on Monday.  Maybe the next right thing will take us back to the gladiator stories in Lectio XIII which they haven’t yet read.  Or maybe they’ll want to create and share their own chariot-race themed stories, perhaps challenging themselves to include some “problem” vocabulary.

The next right thing for them might not be the “usual” next thing on Those Old Lesson Plans … and that’s OK.  Those Old Lesson Plans live on in a set of Google Drive folders, but that doesn’t mean I have to look at them, and it definitely doesn’t mean I have to keep using them.  I, too, am free to embrace the next right thing, free in ways I would never have been if I were still at Former School.  That’s a joyful realization, and it wouldn’t be possible without the joyful learning community we’re building together.

I wonder what other joyful realizations await in the days to come!

Published in: on October 23, 2014 at 5:11 pm  Leave a Comment  

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