When past and present collide

Observing my student teacher today, we ran into a little problem. She’s been creating about half her materials own her own and borrowing half of my previous materials. Unfortunately, she met me at a very strange time in my life (to quote Fight Club) and I’ve been switching from grammar-heavy to more proficiency-based teaching since the beginning of the year.

So today, we’re working on our house unit, which also conveniently incorporates o-ue stemchangers like poder and dormir. Originally, that was how the unit worked: teach rooms in the house, then teach o-ue stemchangers, then teach whatever other grammar points, take the test. Since this year is trying to be more organic, my student teacher came up with a wonderful contextual activity where students had to write about the rules in their house (using ‘no puedes’).

But then she followed up with a worksheet from previous years. In a grammatically based class, the worksheet was great! It was drill practice with all learned stemchangers. The first half of the exercise used words that are on their ‘cheat sheet’, and the second half were words that weren’t on the sheet but followed the same pattern! That way I could assess informally whether or not the kids could take the situations they know and apply them to a new situation.

The problem was… now, with working more phrases and chunks rather than teaching them ‘First, you take the o and change it to a ue. Then you need to match it to your subject and choose your ending appropriately’… they couldn’t do the second half.  In Spanish 1, we really focus on yo/tú interpersonal exchanges and él/ellos retellings as appropriate and less on the usual drill-and-kill practice. They balked. They stalled. I stepped in to explain the situation to my student teacher and showed where we went wrong. After a brief explanation, the students were able to understand what we wanted from them but it really broke the flow of class and put up a huge brick wall in their learning – exactly what we’re trying to NOT do this year.

But it’s okay. It was a learning experience, because my student teacher is also stuck between methods. It’s hard to teach in a manner completely different from how you learned, especially in a situation where you have pretty much no idea what you’re doing in the first place. It’s also an unpleasant reminder that I’m going to have to cull my activities at the end of the year (again) to remove items that are no longer appropriate for my teaching style. But that’s fine – I’m making room for more important things.

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