Micromanaging the Class (Part 3): The Results

A few weeks ago, I wrote about my final exam projects. The gist of that post was that I was giving up micromanaging the kids’ writing. They would write on their own and they would edit on their own. You can find part 1 here and part 2 here.

The assignment

For their final exam, I assigned students in 6th and 7th grade to make a brochure for an incoming student to our school. In it, they had to describe their schedule and also write an autobiography. These two topics – school and describing themselves – were ones that we have come back to throughout the year in stories, PQA conversations, and reading assignments.

The language they needed to use to complete the assignment is language that they have worked to acquire over several years of TPRS stories and reading assignments (two days a week). As such, the task wouldn’t be perceived as difficult because it’s using language the students already have in their heads. In the 8th grade final, as I mentioned in the previous post, the students had too much freedom-the assignment didn’t reflect the language they had worked to acquire and as such they ran into problems in composing their stories, making sure the language was accurate, and being able to understand what they had written when they had finished.

(Side note: that was a real wake-up call for me–They wrote their stories and then couldn’t understand what they had written because they used translators and dictionaries rather than acquired language. It was after that realization that I decided to be sure that the students’ assignments reflect the language they have worked towards acquiring)

How they self-edited

I had 2 main goals in having the students edit their own work:

  1. I wanted to give the students the chance to reflect on their work and use their own knowledge (with guidance) to correct what they wrote
  2. I didn’t want to correct and (basically) rewrite 125 writing assignments.

After the students finished writing their rough drafts, they had to edit them. As I said in the last few posts about micromanaging, my plan was to give them an assignment that would actually show what they were able to do using the language that we have used throughout the year.

For their first draft, I handed them their assignment that had all of the details I wanted them to include (name, age, city and state where they live, etc) and let them write. They had a word limit that they had to surpass and I sat back and answered questions when needed.

For the second draft, I posted a list of tips and things to look for on the board. I had them make sure their verbs were in the first person (through our use of TPRS stories, they have become more comfortable with using the 3rd person to describe others and I wanted them to make sure they weren’t falling back on old habits based on older things they have acquired); I had them make sure they used the correct vocabulary; I had them check their adjective agreement. I had them work on their own to edit and then rewrite their own work.

Why they self-edited

The goal of self-editing was to give them more autonomy over their language. Rather than be the micromanaging dictator of what they could write, I tried to become a coach, giving pointers and helping them with specific questions. Unfortunately, some of my students have been held back from their true potential by my micromanagement. These high-flying students were more than happy to take on the challenge of autonomy and not ask for help. Others needed more help and I was happy to give it. Ultimately, based on the students’ engagement in the work and the results (mostly As and Bs), they were happy to be challenged a little bit more.

Final Results

Was it successful? No one failed! Even students who ventured out beyond what we have done in class (in terms of vocabulary) found success in their writing. This is how it should be always. Challenging students to use the language they have acquired (and use it on their own without micromanagement from me) boosted their engagement and their confidence.

Moving forward, my plan is to continue to give my students more autonomy. My plan for next year is to incorporate novels and current events content that keeps things fresh. I want the students to ride this success farther along the proficiency path. They’ve had a taste of what they can do when they’re left to their own devices with a task that has the right amount of rigor and is appropriate for their level.


RE: Hispanic Heritage Month Story 1

It went well for some groups, it went really terribly for others. Well, let me be more specific: the story asking went well, it was the reading and translating that was difficult. The story is just too long to keep the kids’ interest. There is a bright side about the story, though: The fifth graders I used this story with drew the details of the story as a comic book and the majority of them got all of the details. They weren’t originally supposed to do this, but since the quick translation, line by line (as suggested by the TPRS method) went poorly, I decided to try a drawing activity, just so I could see the students’ level of comprehension.

Like I said, they showed all the details. I’ll take that as a victory-It wasn’t what I had originally planned; it was even better!

Hispanic Heritage Month Story 1

Hispanic Heritage Month began last week and I’m taking this year to do something a little bit different. I have been using TPRS methods in my 4th – 8th grade classes (two days a week, but they are picking things up well) and I am experimenting with a story that opens up the kids’ minds to the Spanish speaking world. I have started with the story below, about a boy who wants coffee, but there isn’t any in the USA. I started by going over the geography of Central and South America (where countries are located, what they produce) and as I tell the story, I show pictures of maps and the landscape of the country. The country in the first story is Colombia. The character in the story, Tim (subject to change based on the kids in the class), goes all over the country asking for coffee. In the spoken story, I include a lot more places in the US.

The character in the story, once he gets the coffee he is looking for from Colombia–from James Rodriguez, a Cafetero (Coffee Maker/Worker – nickname for the Colombian National Soccer Team–my kids are soccer crazy since the World Cup) and a cafetero (an actual coffee maker)

Any comments, corrections, suggestions are welcome!

Without further ado, el cuento:

Había un chico. Se llamaba Tim. Tim estaba en Orlando, FL. Tim quería café. Tim tenía un problema. Tim no tenía café. Tim estaba triste porque Tim no tenía café.

Tim fue a Starbucks. Había un chico en Starbucks. Era un barista. El barista se llamaba Colin.  Tim le dijo a Colin:

–Hola, necesito café. ¿Tienes café?

–Hola.  No tengo café. Tengo , tengo Coca Cola, tengo Chai Lattes, pero no tengo café.

Tim estaba triste. Tim quería café y no había café en Starbucks.

Tim fue a Walmart. Tim fue al pasillo del desayuno. No había café. Había cereales, había Poptarts, y había té, pero no había café.  Tim estaba triste.

Tim fue a Dunkin Donuts.  Tim le dijo al presidente de Dunkin Donuts:

–“¿Tienes café?  Necesito café.”

El presidente de Dunkin Donuts le dijo a Tim:

–“No, no lo tengo.”

Tim fue a Panera.  Time le dijo al presidente de Panera:

–“¿Tienes café?  Necesito café.”

El presidente de Panera le dijo:

–“No, no lo tengo.”

Tim todavía estaba triste.

Tim fue a Washington D.C.  Time fue a la Casa Blanca.  Había un hombre en la Casa Blanca.  El hombre se llamaba Barack Obama.  Tim le dijo a Señor Obama:

–“Señor Presidente.  Necesito café.  ¿Tienes café?”

El Señor Presidente de los Estados Unidos le dijo:

–“No, no lo tengo.  No hay café en todos los Estados Unidos.”

Tim estaba sorprendido y todavía estaba triste.

Tim pensó en los lugares en dónde se podía encontrar café.

Tim fue a Colombia. Había un hombre en Colombia. Se llamaba James Rodríguez.  James era futbolista para los Cafeteros. James también era cafetero. Tim le dijo a James:

–“Hola.  ¿Tienes café?”

James le dijo:

–“¡Claro que sí! Estás en Colombia, el hogar del mejor café del mundo.  Toma una taza ahora.”

Tim tomó una taza de café.  Dijo:

–“¡Es delicioso!  Muchas Gracias.”

In English:

There was a boy.  His name was Tim.  Tim was in Orlando, FL. Tim wanted coffee.  Tim had a problem. Tim wanted coffee. Tim was sad because he had no coffee.

Tim went to Starbucks. There was a boy in Starbucks. He was a barista. His name was Colin. Tim said to Colin:

“Hello, I need coffee. Do you have coffee?”  “Hello. I don’t have coffee. I have tea, I have Coca Cola, I have Chai Lattes, but I don’t have coffee.”

Tim was sad. Tim wanted coffee and there wasn’t coffee in Starbucks.

Tim went to Walmart. Tim went to the breakfast aisle. There wasn’t coffee. There was cereal, there were pop tarts, and there was tea, but there was no coffee. Tim was sad.

Tim went to Dunkin Donuts. Tim said to the president of Dunkin Donuts: “Do you have coffee? I need coffee.”

The president of Dunkin Donuts said to Tim: No, I don’t have it.”

Tim was still sad.

Tim went to Washington, D.C. Tim went to the White House.  There was a man in the White House. the Man was named Barack Obama. Tim said to Mr. Obama: “Mr. President, I need coffee. Do you have coffee?”

The President of the US said to him: “I don’t have it. There is no coffee in all of the USA.”

Tim was suprised and was still sad.

Tim thought about the places where coffee could be found.

Tim went to Colombia. There was a man in Colombia. His name was James Rodriguez. James was a soccer player for the Cafeteros.  James was also a cafetero (coffee maker). time said to James: “Hello, do you have coffee?”

James said to him: “Of course I do! You are in Colombia, the home of the best coffee in the world. Have a cup now.”

Tim took the coffee cup.  He said, “It’s delicious. Thank you very much!.”