Back-to-School Time and Feeling Overwhelmed


Now that August has officially arrived, it is time to start thinking about heading back to school.  Who am I kidding?  Do most of us EVER stop thinking about school?

Our class lists have become available on our online grading program.  I may have been checking obsessively.  While I realize that changes are going to happen, I have mixed feelings about mine.  This year, as of now, I will have 191 students.  I have one class of 17 students, one of 19 students, and five that are 30+.

On the one hand, I am thrilled that so many students are choosing to take Spanish.  On the other hand, I am completely and totally overwhelmed by the size of my classes and that total number of students.

My biggest concern is how to manage performance-based assessments with that many students?  How do I give feedback that is both timely and specific to that many students?  Even using a streamlined process, I feel like I am going to be spending every waking minute grading assessments.

I’m not overly worried about managing quizzes.  I primarily use an adaptation of Amy Lenord’s progressive quiz, and I feel like I can handle that grading.  However, typically I give at least two summative performance-based assessments per unit, usually interpersonal speaking (which students record) and presentational writing.  I don’t think that I can continue to do that with the number of students I am going to have this academic year.

Right now, I am thinking of just doing one summative assessmet per unit; I would decide on which mode depending on the unit. I’d appreciate any comments/suggestions on how others handle performance-based assessment with large numbers of students.

Back-to-School Time and Feeling Overwhelmed

Jumping in (gradually)!

By Geoff [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
By Geoff [CC BY 2.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons
Last summer, I began following a number of world language teacher-bloggers.  Since then, I have often contemplated starting my own blog, but didn’t for various reasons: I can’t even keep up with my grading, how can I keep up with a blog?; I like my free time, what little of it I have; nobody will read what I have to say, etc.

Inspiration and motivation to finally start my own blog for reflection purposes struck today in the form of a post written by teacher-blogger Wendy Farabaugh, Two rivets for change.

In this post, Mme. Farabaugh talks about taking change slowly, specifically looking at changing two aspects of your practice at a time.  This post resonated with me because I often find myself pumped up about a great new instructional strategy or whatever and  jump in with both feet with little planning beforehand.  While my enthusiasm is strong, my lack of planning most often ends up with me feeling horribly overwhelmed.  When I’m overwhelmed, I tend to shut down and then no changes actually happen.

Every year in the summer, like most teachers, I think about what changes I want to make to classroom for the upcoming academic year.  Every year, I undoubtedly come up with a ridiculously long list that has no chance of actually getting accomplished.  In fact, last year, I only accomplished one of my goals: increased target language reading opportunities for my students.

In keeping with the spirit of two rivets for change, I am going to set two goals:

1.  Stressing feedback over grades.  Like Mme. Farabaugh, I want to provide my students with specific, helpful feedback that focuses on what they did well and what they need to do to move along the proficiency path.  This topic has been discussed on #langchat, and one idea that came up was the idea of providing students with written feedback on their performance without including a grade.  My plan for next year, as of now, is to provide students with such feedback and let them know that they can check Skyward, our online gradebook, for their grade.

At the end of last school year, we were tentatively shown our numbers.  Right now, it looks like all my classes will have 30+ students in them.  So, the thought of providing specific feedback to each student is a little daunting.  My blogging hero, Amy Lenord, has come up with a way to ease the time burden of giving specific, helpful feedback on assignments:  An attemp at streamlining feedback.

2.  Using more authentic music.  This seems to be a goal of mine every year, and I have yet to figure out why I never seem to meet it.  I love listening to music en español, I have an extensive playlist of Spanish-speaking artists on my iTunes account, yet I never seem to manage to do more than a few songs a year with my students.  I’m putting this one in writing in the hopes that I actually do something about it.  Music is such a great way to hook students into the target language and culture.

So, that’s my first (and ojalá not last) blog post.  Any thoughts?

Jumping in (gradually)!