Finding a maternity substitute was, for me, not unlike any classic tale of unrequited love. I was “enamored” by several of my options, only to find them uninterested, unavailable, or snatched out from under me by dazzling offers of full-time positions (Emily!). I began to think that there was no other option but to turn my class into a Spanish culture class taught in English. After many months of prayer, the most wonderful teacher at last returned my lame attempts at wooing a maternity substitute with a “YES! I’ll do it!” B-Lo, as I’ll call her (she doesn’t know that yet…B-Lo, if you’re reading this, I hope that’s okay) is not only fantastically qualified, but incredibly professional and caring as well. A native speaker and a mother of two pre-teen daughters herself, I could not have found a more perfect fit for my middle school Spanish classroom! Not only that, but she offered to make all the lesson plans if I would but let her know what was to be covered. Hallelujah! What an answer to prayer.
B-Lo and I desired to create a smooth transition for my students by keeping as many things the same as is possible with two teachers with unique backgrounds, professional experiences, and teaching styles. As we discussed my course procedures, policies, and expectations, I uncovered a big problem with my course set-up: it is all but impossible for someone else to evaluate my students in the same way that I do using my rubrics. As I gave my rubrics to B Lo, she flooded me with questions about what specifically I look for and how picky I am. I found it very difficult to explain! Even though my rubrics (as I type this, I’m thinking of the writing rubric embedded in my free write form) are broken down into categories and offer some specifics, they are completely vague with regard to grammar. When I evaluate student work, I am personally aware of what has been taught and what student writing should look like, and I use that mental ideal as the basis for evaluating the work. As I reflected on the trouble that B Lo and I had, I realized that my students are probably unclear as to the criteria as well.
With this new realization, I have begun reflecting on grammar targets for each quarter of each level of Spanish that I teach. By the end of the first quarter of Spanish IA, what should students be able to do–grammatically–with 85 percent accuracy? By the end of quarter 2? Quarter 3? What pop-up grammar points have been repeated so often and reinforced with a mini-lesson that the average student can not imagine writing something in a different manner? These ponderings, along with memorizing the book of James from the Bible (an exercise that I highly recommend…wow! it has been so powerful!), have kept me from complete and utter boredom during the three hours a day that I spend glued to my couch nursing my son.
Here are the targets that I came up with for Spanish 1A, which is supposed to be the equivalent of the first half of Spanish I at the high school level, but in reality is more than that. The targets are cumulative, so the expectations for each quarter would include those from the previous quarters, which is why there are fewer new expectations as the year progresses.
Spanish 1A, First Quarter:
- Sentences contain a subject (or clearly imply a subject) and a verb.
- Definite and indefinite articles are used correctly.
- Nouns appear in the correct singular and plural forms.
- Verbs are used correctly in the third person singular form.
- Negative expressions contain the correct word order.
- Sentences have a simple structure.
- Proper punctuation is used.
Spanish 1A, Second Quarter:
- Adjectives and nouns are used in the correct order.
- Adjectives agree in gender and number with the nouns that they describe.
- Subject pronouns are used correctly.
- Possession is expressed using the preposition de.
- Familiar verbs are used correctly in the third person singular and plural forms.
Spanish 1A, Third Quarter:
- Regular verbs are used correctly in multiple forms.
- Verbs appear in compound forms (conjugated verb + infinitive).
- Conjunctions and transitional expressions are used to create complex sentences.
Spanish 1A, Fourth Quarter:
- Common irregular verbs are used correctly in multiple forms.
I am excited to use these rubrics next year because it not only will help me focus on which grammar points are the most important for me to be popping up to my students, but it will help them become more aware of the current expectations as well as those to come, so that they can begin working toward them (especially beneficial to students that are already performing at an Advanced level).
I plan to use these rubrics when formally (read: summatively) evaluating students’ writing throughout the quarter. They clearly lay out the writing standards for my students so that they can see how they are progressing toward proficiency in those standards throughout the quarter. Their writing grade will of course be based on how they are writing at the end of the quarter, not the beginning.
Please check out the rubrics that I’ve attached and let me know what you think–are my expectations unrealistic? Too low? Still not clear enough? If you find them adequate, please feel free to use them with your classes as well. As always, if you’d like an editable version, just email me: firstname.lastname@example.org. They are larger than I’d like, but the best I could do was two rubrics/page. I’ll still use my smaller, more general rubrics to evaluate formative writing assessments, but I think that the quality of information that students will receive from these more detailed rubrics is worth the extra paper that they require.