It's the first day of school, and one of my fourth-grader says: “Are we going to learn how to speak Spanish next year?”. “No!” I respond. “You're going to learn today!” What he really wanted to ask was if he was going to speak in Spanish the same way he speaks in English. As much as I would love to tell him that by the end of fourth grade he would be fluent in Spanish, but the reality is that he won't. Until this moment, I never thought to share the proficiency guidelines put out by the American Council for the Teaching of Foreign Language (ACTFL). I just did not think it would matter to an elementary school student. The more I think about it, however, the more I see the importance. In order for our students to understand their growth potential, however, we need to be clear on what we truly expect them to do. ACTFL provides proficiency levels to help guide us through our language learning.
As the school year begins, we often wonder where the summer went. Time just seems to get away from us. Is it that there isn’t enough time to do the things we enjoy or that we are giving our time to tasks that are unimportant or unnecessary? In 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think by Laura Vanderkam, time is the focus. Vanderkam begins the book with the idea of looking at our time in 168 hours, a week’s worth of time, versus 24 hours, which allows us more flexibility with time. Each hour (or half hour) block, essentially, acts as a piece of a mosaic. When looking at the entire week instead of only a day, it is easy to see there is more time than you think. (See below for a downloadable table).
Why is this important in the classroom? Over the past few years, there has been a shift in the best practice of teaching world language. Our more traditional, grammar-based lessons have been shoved over for language that is conversation-focused and authentic. While it sounds fabulous, overhauling curriculum takes time! Over the past 5+ years, my district has worked to change EVERYTHING we teach to focus on “Can Do” statements and the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Language’s (ACTFL’s) proficiency guidelines. While the work is arduous at times, we have seen results.
All of this work, of course, requires time. Whether summer work, after school meetings, or searching resources at home, this curriculum shift cannot be accomplished without time. But how does Vanderkam’s book apply to this? Vanderkam suggests creating a log for the 168 hours in the week; take a close look at how you are actually spending your time. Every person and every family situation is different, but we all have some hidden time in our schedules. Whether it is time spent venting to colleagues at work or checking e-mails and Facebook, there are hidden time sucks in every schedule. Finding these unproductive times and turning them into work-focused time can create a huge difference in what you accomplish.