This last week I had the privilege of presenting at the second International Forum on Language Teaching Conference in Breckenridge, Colorado. For two hours and fifteen minutes every morning I taught a group of intermediate secondary students that ranged from Spanish 2 to Spanish AP. The challenge was to teach them using comprehensible input strategies in such a way that challenged each student, but left none behind: true differentiation. After each teaching session, the students were dismissed and the teacher observers and I discussed what had happened for an hour or so. At the end of the three day experience, students had the opportunity to talk about how they felt and answer teacher questions. Here are some of the student comments that resonated with me.
“I wish the classes had been longer.” Students wanted more time! One student comment that was repeated often in our final debriefing with teacher observers at the end of the class was that they wished the sessions had been longer. We were in class for two hours and fifteen minutes each day: 135 minutes per day. I told the students that we would treat this like a college class and that they could leave the room whenever they needed a break. We had no breaks, but we did change up the activities to give students brain and body change ups. When we were served snacks, students got them at their leisure and we kept on talking and playing with the language. Not one student left the room during the entire three day experience. One reason I planned the class this way was to demonstrate to teachers that are on the block system that it can be done.
Lesson for me: Students want to learn if they feel respected and valued.