Connie Navarro visited my classroom on March 8, 2018. Her observations are particularly valuable because she has so much experience observing CI teachers. Connie has been a Peer Observer in the Denver Public Schools for the last five years and is the president of the Colorado Congress of Foreign Language Teachers (CCFLT). She made the trip 50 miles north to observe my classes at the end of the day on the last day of the week (also the end of the quarter). It was such a pleasure discussing her observations afterwards. Since she has observed so many teachers she was able to accurately see what was happening at multiple levels all around the classroom. I will follow up this post with explanations of what I was doing in the class and how it works.
Dear Mr. Long, Principal of Roosevelt High School:
It is my great pleasure to write this letter regarding my recent visit to your school to observe your outstanding Spanish teacher, Mr. Bryce Hedstrom.
In my 5 years as the full time Peer Observer of World Languages for Denver Public Schools, I have observed, analyzed and evaluated literally hundreds of World Language teachers deliver literally thousands of lessons. It is with great confidence that I share with you my professional opinion: Mr. Hedstrom is an outstanding Spanish teacher! His positive classroom environment is the foundation for masterful content delivery and high impact instructional moves. With clear expectations for both behavior and for using academic language, Bryce engages all his students – including reluctant learners – in rigorous tasks that help them to collaborate and communicate in order to reach clear learning objectives. Standards based instruction that is expertly planned, differentiated and delivered with nuance, joy, and precision is the hallmark of Bryce’s professional practice.
In my role as President of Colorado Congress of Foreign Language Teachers (CCFLT), I also observe and mentor workshop presenters. At this year’s February Spring Conference, we had more than 100 teachers like Bryce volunteer to present to more than 450 of their peers on topics of interest to World Language teachers. While some sessions drew only a handful of participants, Bryce’s sessions were standing-room only, packed wall to wall with teachers eager to hear him present on reading strategies, on how to engage students while staying in the Target Language 90% or more of the lesson, and much more. I have seen Bryce present in both national and regional venues as well (iFLT conference and SWCOLT) with similar impact on teachers who want to better their craft.
I was greeted by a classroom ambassador who sat with me to explain all the details of class:
What is this activity? Why are you doing it?
Student: “Well, what we are doing is reviewing a story we told last class so that we can get more repetitions of the target vocabulary, and have fun doing it.”
Do you think your grade in class accurately reflects how well you can speak and understand Spanish?
Student: “Well, no! We all learn at different rates, so how well I speak might not be the same as someone else, but how much I interact with Spanish, how much I read, how much I participate in the story, that is part of what determines my grade. We are all learning Spanish, I mean everyone in here can totally Speak Spanish, don’t get me wrong, but a grade for being a better language processor? That would not make sense.”
In Spanish 3, students created a story in a small group by asking and answering guiding questions Bryce provided: two fiancés are planning their life, where will they live? Will they go to college? What jobs will they have? What kind of house will they have? Will they have kids? Will they travel? Will they do sports? — There were 39 questions provided to get kids thinking. In groups, students drew out their story. In a future class period, they will tell their story to another group and that group will write it out, based on the illustrations and what they heard the first group tell them. Bear in mind, this output activity is after weeks and weeks of input of verbs in the future tense. Bryce does not just drop an activity like this on students after a brief introduction. Students were ready because of all the input they received.
In Spanish 1 class, students collaborated with the teacher to review target vocab which was listed on the board and which they had marked with a * in a previous lesson as needing more practice. Bryce led classical TPR to get more repetitions and input of the words students needed. Example: the word maleta (suitcase): suitcase, pick up the suitcase, open the suitcase, look inside the suitcase, open a giant suitcase, eat a tiny suitcase.
Next students closed their eyes and showed Bryce whether or not they knew what the words were by showing the gestures. Bryce said 3 words in a row “to help you be good language learners — this will help you hold the words in your head: “maleta, quiero que vaya, llega”. Students wait till all 3 words are said to respond by doing the gestures in order.
The next activity was for students to act out a second, more detailed version of a previous story– my ambassador student told me this story was different because in this version we knew more about the hotel where the lady was staying and in this version she called the vet about the problem with her animal. That, my friends, is rigor. A student remembered details from a previous class period and spontaneously compared and contrasted with information from a current lesson. It was a joy to behold.
But that was not all! The highlight of my visit to the little farming community of Johnstown where the fabulously talented Bryce Hedstrom Bryce has established his career as a leader in world language education was the Persona Especial interview. A student came to the special seat in the front of the room and with no other preparation than being in class and seeing other kids interviewed had a casual and open conversation with Bryce about his life. Where does he live? What does he like to be called? What are his hobbies? When is his birthday? Who are the members of his family? What is he good at? What? Motorcycle racing ? Really? Where? Can he do a wheelie? Will he bring in a video of himself doing a motorcycle wheelie to the next class? The class cannot wait! AND this kid, without any prompting or nudging or cajoling, USED ALL CORRECT GRAMMAR, INCLUDING FIRST PERSON VERBS. Like it was nothing. Like it was the most natural thing in the world. Like he was born speaking Spanish.
Bryce is a gifted teacher, a talented writer, and a top notch presenter. It was my personal and professional pleasure to see and experience his students and classroom. If ever you have the chance to see him present at CCFLT or iFLT or any workshop, get there early! It will be standing room only, and with good reason.
If you have not already done so, do yourself a favor and check out his masterful resources on http://www.brycehedstrom.com/