Developing Proficiency through Student Choice

Students will ultimately remember only those things that are relevant to them. When teaching a world language, there is a lot of choice in terms of vocabulary as it pertains to individuals. For years, I have given longer lists of vocabulary to students to honor the diversity in my classroom - diversity in being and diversity of interests.

I am on a quest to develop second language proficiency in students by allowing student choice and student voice.

May 2019

This semester I decided to expand the options for students for our entertainment unit because I felt that the choices I was giving students were not broad enough. What I find entertaining as a student from the 1980s is not the same as students of today. Since the goal was to describe and give opinions about entertainment, I expanded what constituted entertainment and narrowed what students were required to do They didn’t have to learn about forms of entertainment that did not apply to them.

At the beginning, all students learned how to give their opinions...I think, I love, I hate, This is better than that, etc. The variety and ability to choose came into play when we talked about the form of entertainment that interested the students. Students were grouped by entertainment preference determined by a google poll: sports in general, a specific sport, Netflix, TV, movies, music, dance, and video Games.

Students were tasked with creating a list of 20 words that they would need to talk about their topic. In addition, they were asked to write STAMPS, small learning targets that were specific to their topic following a set of parameters that would show they can talk about and give their opinions on entertainment. These were derived from learning targets that I, and other teachers in my school have been using for several years. They used the standard STAMPs as an example and wrote their own. For example, they might have said, “I can say I like to play multiplayer games.” or “My favorite genre of music is ____.”

At the end of the unit, the students were tasked with developing a mastery project that would demonstrate they were able to use the vocabulary they chose and give their opinions.

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I am Alice Spagnola, a Spanish teacher at Louisville Male High School in Louisville, Kentucky. I have been teaching in Jefferson County Public Schools for 17 years. I have been working on proficiency-based thematic units for over ten years.