The Remote Proficiency-Based Classroom: Interpretive

While many of us hunker down to teach through the COVID-19 outbreak, I’m sharing some low-prep strategies for trying to teach a proficiency-based classroom remotely. My previous post goes through some general tips taken from years of teaching in a tech-heavy classroom. This post will focus on getting kids focused on the interpretive mode remotely.

As you know, when we’re talking about interpretive, we’re wanting to focus in on kids’ ability to decipher a written text or a spoken word. As I alluded to in my last post, the key with interpretive activities is to get students to engage with the material in different ways and, more essentially for online learning, submit the proof that they’ve done so. Many times you end up feeling like you have to come up with comprehension questions that are specific to each resource, reading, or video, which is a great way to ensure students are engaged and getting the information you want out of the material, but preparing those activities can be incredibly time-consuming. Below are a couple of ideas that get students producing in the language, but don’t require nearly as much upfront work on your end.

Choice Boards

A great one-size-fits-all, low-prep way to do this is to use Spanish Mama’s free, editable bellringers. Because they saved me so much prep-time, and gave students variety and choice, I used these to start every single class period, every single day, for years. She’s got a tic-tac-toe choice board of activities that you can use with a video, a song, or a reading, and you can use them for anything from an authentic music video that’s hard to understand to a comprehensible, level-appropriate reading (Sidenote – if you need reading material, I love El Mundo en tus Manos for comprehensible current events articles, and last year’s editions are on sale for $10)

The great thing about these bellringer boards is that they offer students CHOICE. You could post the reading or video of the day, and have them complete three activities of their choice for that particular resource, submitting the proof of each activity online. If you’re going to be doing this everyday during remote learning, you could have them complete a board every three days, so they aren’t picking the same three activities for each resource every time. Offering students choice always helps with engagement and buy-in, so try to offer it to them when you can.

Free Write / Free Speak Response

When you’re dealing with novice learners, asking them to do something like “summarize the video” or “reflect on this article” can be incredibly intimidating. Beyond using the activities listed on the choice boards above, I also had some pretty great success with a word-limit free write.

For our level-one novices, I would show an authentic video, and then have them write a 15 word reaction to the video WITHOUT USING ANY ONLINE TRANSLATORS. This would often make them scream in protest, so you have to be VERY deliberate in outlining realistic expectations. Remind them that as novices, they likely are only going to be producing language in words, phrases, or VERY simple sentences. “Me gusta el video” is four words. “La chica es rubia” is four words. Writing the phrase “blanco y negro” for a black and white video is three words. Writing the phrase “Enrique Iglesias muy guapo” is four words. And boom. You have fifteen novice-appropriate words.

For this assignment, I’d use a proficency-based rubric so that for more advanced students, you will encourage them to produce in more complicated language with a higher word-limit goal. You can have students respond to a video or a reading by submitting a “free write” online or a “free speak” using an online tool like Vocaroo or Flipgrid. If you’re really only focused on the interpretive mode, you don’t need to get super persnickity with grading either. Just use it as a tool to keep them honest, and remind them they cannot use any online translators. I would take off crazy points if they threw weird translator language at me, so it’s helpful to make this type of assignment one where general mistakes with grammar and spelling are pretty low stakes. You want to reward them for engaging with that awesome authentic resource you spent hours powering through pinterest to find; not play grammar police.

Speaking of, how awesome is this infographic on activities for when you’re in quarantine?

I hope this post gets you jumpstarted on some low-prep ideas to engage students in the interpretive mode when you have to teach online. Stay tuned for some additional posts coming on going remote in the interpersonal mode and the presentational mode.


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