By Elena Spathis
Teachers all over the world face a similar dilemma: how to regroup during the summer while still taking small steps to prepare for the new school year? What can we do to avoid that anxious rush at the start of the new school year?
Thinking ahead and planning gradually with a clear mind can make all the difference once the hustle and bustle of your school routine kicks in. In the case that you are assigned to teach new courses for the first time, the first month of school may seem like a complete blur. You may even start to feel like a brand-new teacher again!
Here are some steps that will help you prepare for the upcoming year without breaking a sweat.
Step 1: Compile your resources
Getting organized and energized with some new resources related to the topics you plan to teach is a huge time-saver. Once the school year starts, you can jump right into creating activities if you already have a solid variety of resources. Browse some of my go-to “banks” of resources that I access when planning.
If you are a language teacher who is passionate about authentic resources (#authres), it’s time to start creating Pinterest boards organized by unit topic. There are tons of videos, activities, infographics, and ideas looming around. Don’t miss out! Check out my Pinterest boards for some great authentic resources organized by topic (mainly in Spanish) for some inspiration.
Do not forget about the importance of developing your students’ listening skills. Start making playlists on YouTube—each playlist can be dedicated to a different class or topic. Then, start saving videos to your playlists. Utilizing videos via YouTube helps to build students’ listening comprehension skills, and can lead to rich interpretive activities. Create a bank of engaging videos to cut down your planning time once the school year begins.
For Spanish, some of my favorite YouTube channels include:
- VideoEle Channel
- SGEL ELE Español Para Extranjeros
- Spanish Cuentos
- Univision Noticias
- BBC News Mundo
- TikTak Draw
- Azteca Noticias
Browse news outlet sites associated with the language you teach. Save articles that are of interest to you. While intermediate students are better suited to read full news articles, you can still use headlines, pictures, or specific paragraphs or sections from news articles in your novice classes. Integrating current events in the Spanish-speaking world will not only place culture at the core of your lessons, but will also assist in transforming your students into more globally competent citizens. I save news articles or videos from outlets like Univision, Telemundo, Azteca Noticias, BBC Mundo, or El País in class-specific folders on Google Drive. This is yet another time-saver once the chaos of the first few weeks of school kicks in. Having my articles ready and located is a lifesaver!
Step 2: Test out tech tools
I usually stick to the tech tools I am familiar with at the start of the school year. There is so much that needs to be done that I do not dedicate time to testing out new tech tools in the beginning busy weeks. Summer is the perfect time to do so! Think about all of the sites or tools you might have heard about last year but never got the chance to use.
PEAR DECK (Extension for Google Slides)
Spice up your Google slides with Pear Deck, an extension that makes your slides interactive! The drawing option is my favorite, as I often read a description aloud and have students draw to test their listening skills. It’s always a class favorite!
If you haven’t already, take a look at how Quizlet Live works. As an avid Quizlet user, this is one of my favorite games to play in my classroom. It truly inspires teamwork and excitement.
Rather than solely seeking student feedback via Google Forms, I have started to create some fun interpretive activities. Google Forms has a quiz mode in which you can allot points to each question, and create practice (or real) quizzes for your students. It’s easy to add graphics and videos – try using Google Forms in a different way rather than simply as a survey!
A tool I plan to take a look at this summer is Gimkit. I have heard a lot of great feedback about it, and I am looking forward to checking it out.
Step 3: Delve into data
The summer is also an ideal time to self-reflect on your practices as a world language teacher. Are you giving importance to all of the modes of speaking, reading, writing, and listening? Are you creating presentational, interpersonal, and interpretive tasks for your students? A highly effective educator constantly thinks: what can I improve upon next year? How can I tailor my teaching to meet students’ needs? Take some time to look at students’ assessment and performance scores from your prior years of teaching. Try to jot down any patterns you see, or document them on a spreadsheet. See where students thrived, where they struggled, and brainstorm what you can do to tweak your instruction for the following year. Try to think in terms of the modes of communication – are students’ strengths in presentational, interpersonal, or interpretive tasks? These notes or spreadsheets will help you avoid the same pitfalls next year, and can positively impact your future lesson plans and assessments. It is always beneficial to start the school year on the right foot, feeling prepared, motivated, and determined to do an even better job this time.
Compiling some resources, testing out new technology tools, and delving into data are all useful ways to ease the back-to-school craze. Taking all of these steps gradually and calmly allows you to feel productive but not overwhelmed, and can lighten the load later on. Sit back, relax, and have fun planning (lightly) and reflecting by the pool! Happy summer, fellow teachers!
Elena Spathis is a Spanish teacher in New Jersey, and currently works at the high school level. She earned her Bachelor of Arts Degree in Spanish and Modern Greek Studies, as well as a Master’s of Education Degree in Language Education from Rutgers University. She is pursuing a second Master’s Degree in Teacher Leadership, with a concentration in English as a second language. Elena also enjoys writing and blogging about her teaching experiences via Edutopia and Wayside Publishing’s Proficiency Talks.