At the beginning of the year, I like to check in with students using a “WL Status Update,” which may resemble a certain social media platform. Even though I have known some of them for years, students are constantly changing and I am constantly learning more about who they are as language students and who they are as people.
Below I included some responses from my Sixth Grade students and a brief reflection.
What’s on your mind?
- “My mind is wondering if Spanish is going to be hard this year.”
- “The ¿Cómo estás? song”
It turns out that at any given moment my students could be thinking about food or sleep or gym class. Maybe they are thinking about their friend who’s moving or a soccer game this weekend. Maybe they are excited for Spanish or worried about homework. This is a good reminder to me that students bring their experiences and emotions into the classroom. I am ready for Spanish teaching, but maybe they are not ready for Spanish learning. As a teacher, my goal is to help them to get in the proper mindset, while extending grace and respect when they need a little break.
What do you like best about learning a language or culture?
- “That I can communicate with people in other countries.”
- “My favorite thing about learning a different language is speaking in it.”
- “The best thing is that if I go to a Spanish speaking country, I will be able to have a conversation.”
- “The best thing about learning a language is when you visit a different country, and you notice your understanding and speaking! The payoff is AMAZING!”
Kids get it. Languages are not about grammar rules or vocabulary. A language is a way to communicate, and that’s something to get excited about! Students are not concerned with what they KNOW about Spanish; they are concerned with how they can USE Spanish.
What are you most excited for in World Languages? What are you nervous about?
- “I’m excited about all of the activities, but nervous about remembering.”
- “I’m excited about learning a new language. I’m scared about forgetting the new words I learn.”
The students consistently shared a passion for speaking and using the language. This is more than another subject to study; the students recognize that Spanish is an important skillset to harness. At the same time, many Sixth Graders expressed nervousness about forgetting words, especially in conversation situations. I love this honesty and vulnerability. This is a great cue to me as a teacher. My students are both excited and scared to speak. They want to use the language, but they are anxious about failure. It’s my job to create a safe space to practice conversational skills, while at the same time this is a great teachable moment for the process of language growth and expectation that at times we will forget words, and that’s totally fine! It’s our responsibility to push ourselves in each and every class.
What would you like your language teacher to know?
- “I understand a lot. I always forget what to say in a conversation. I understand, but I can’t think of the word, which is frustrating.”
- “I really want to become fluent in Spanish.”
- “I often get frustrated at myself when what I’m doing isn’t perfect.”
- “I would prefer homework to be kept to a minimum.”
- “I am committed to learning my language.”
I love this open-ended question. The responses varied from wishes to concerns to requests. I think this is a great way to check in with students time to time. I love giving them a voice to share something that maybe isn’t natural to bring up in class. Again, it’s a small glimpse into who they are and what they are about.
Explain how you would divide the responsibility of learning between you, your parents, and your teacher.
- “I have the most [responsibility] because in order to learn a language you have to be willing to learn…My teacher has the second biggest part because teachers help and push me.
- “…Teachers have the second most responsibility for your learning because they have to teach you the language. The teachers have to make up a lesson plan that would make sense to you.”
- “You have to take in what the teachers teach you, [you] have to study, you have to remember to study, you have to remember to do your homework and so on. You definitely have the most responsibility. Your parents and teachers just have to help and teach, and I have more responsibility this year because I am older and more mature.”
- “I am most responsible for my language learning skills. For example, I can choose to listen to Mrs. Kuipers or not. I can choose to follow directions or not.”
The majority of Sixth Graders said that the student holds the most responsibility (in comparison to teachers and parents) for their learning. I love starting the year with the understanding that they hold the power to learn. Many people see language as a natural ability. You know it or you don’t. You have an affinity for language or you don’t. I see language as a skill that can be learned. With time and commitment to their own language learning, they will be successful.
Julia Kuipers, UED WL Teacher- Spanish