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Professional Literature

Content:

Often times in a Spanish classroom teachers will use a verb chart to teach the various

verb conjugations. They will put the verb endings or the whole conjugated verb in a box as a way

to help students recognize the conjugation patterns. This method can be boring and hard for

students to keep straight in their heads sometimes.

Wynne Wong and Bill VanPatten have written an article called The Evidence is IN:

Drills are OUT that explains that there are three different types of drills. There are mechanical

drills, meaningful drills, and communicative drills. Mechanical drills have control of the

response and there is only one correct response. These drills do not require contextual

understanding, meaning its simply following the pattern and any student could do it, whether

they understand the meaning of the word or not. Meaningful drills are similar to mechanical

drills in the sense that there is just one right or wrong answer, but students have to understand the

context. Communicative drills require students to supply information, meaning answers can vary,

but they have to understand the context and produce a response that would be a logical answer to

the question. For example, if the teacher asks What is your favorite sport? the answers could

vary, but it wouldnt make sense for a student to say blue.

According to the authors, research shows that clear gains are made when [mechanical]

drills are absent from instruction (p. 414). In other words, these monotonous drills are

unnecessary. Students can and do learn at least as much through other forms of instruction. I see

this as a huge positive. This allows a lot of room for creativity and differentiated instruction and

therefore, a more interesting/engaging form of instruction. This challenges me to come up with

other options for learning verb conjugations, especially for my unit plan.
The authors intent is to inform teachers and the public that although these drills are still

widely used in schools, research shows that they are not necessary, so maybe we should focus on

other ways of presenting this information to students.

Teaching strategy:

I read an article called The Last Six Weeks of School and it talks about how its

important to start the year off positively, but its also really important to close the year positively

and have the students do some reflecting. The author mentions some of the benefits of wrapping

up the year with reflections, which are: a sense of accomplishment and pride in themselves, their

class, and their school, a sense of belonging, an opportunity to reflect on their own learning

process and to know themselves as learners, and an opportunity to think about next years work

by setting goals. Some suggestions for how to accomplish this is having a class brainstorming

session where they write ideas on chart paper, personal reflections via journaling or making tip

books for future classes, or having the teacher write a note to each child.

The author, Marlynn K. Clayton, wrote this article to help teachers find creative ways to

involve students more actively. According to the article, she has 20 years of experience as an

elementary teacher and she has devoted years to helping teachers implement the Responsive

Classroom approach, giving workshops, providing coaching, and writing books and articles. The

article is intended for teachers who want to bring their students out from behind the desk more,

in the sense of less lecturing and more hands on work with the students.

Personally, I liked the idea of writing a handful of questions or prompts on a notecard and

giving one to each student. They could write down things like my proudest moment of this year,

something Ive gotten better at this year, something Id like to get better at next year, etc. I think

I could use this in my classroom towards the end of the year and have them share some of their
answers with a partner and then each one could tell their peer something they noticed that their

peer has improved on or something they have learned from their peer. I think this can be

encouraging for the students and help them to see how and what kinds of things they can learn

from each other.

As I mentioned, I liked the idea of turning the drills into something more practical and

engaging, so I did that with a couple activities in my lessons. One way I changed it was by

turning it into a game. Rather than just copying down the conjugations in the boxes I had

students get in teams of 5 (1 person for each conjugation) and then each team had a small white

board and a marker and I would give them a word and they would race to see which team could

write all the conjugations correctly first. After a couple words I switched up the teams so that

they would each have a different verb form to conjugate. Another way I changed up the drills

was by giving them an activity. Rather than fill in blanks on a worksheet with vocabulary words,

I put them in groups of 2 or 3 and gave each group a handful of vocab words. They then had to

write a story or scenario using all of the vocab words I gave them, in context, and the team with

the most creative story won a candy prize. I also had them play memory to become more familiar

with their vocabulary and we also did an activity with careers, which brought in various cultures

as well as real life implementation of their vocabulary. They had to compare a career in two

different cultures.

References

Clayton, M. (2007, May 25). The Last Six Weeks of School. In Education World: Connecting

Educators to What Works. Retrieved April 3, 2017.

Wong, W., & VanPatten, B. The Evidence is IN: Drills are OUT. Foreign Language
Annals, 36(3), 403-423. Retrieved April 3, 2017.