Thanks to Jackie at Room 213 who invited me to be part of her link up on what matters in teaching!

She asked...

What do you know to be true about learning and what do you try to focus on, regardless of how many days you have with your students and what external pressures there may be? 
For me, two priorities are:
  • Critical & creative thinking
  • Ability to express oneself fluidly in French

I try to incorporate a variety of interesting mater
ials, not necessarily a textbook, to launch discussion and to reach students who learn in different ways. That includes viewing movies to engage students and use as a springboard for other activities.

After a serious review of what resources were available to me when I took over my current teaching assignment, I read a variety of French modern fiction to find something that I thought would resonate with the kids I teach. Once I found something, I worked hard on a pitch for a set of novels other than what we already had in the storage cupboard. I used what materials the school owned already, sure, but assessed some weaknesses and carefully selected something that I thought would be more appealing. When new investments aren't available, find a way to swap materials with a nearby school or use authentic materials to add variety to your program. 

I also like to use picture books, current events, articles and short video clips ... as I teach French as a second language, I need to say: in the target language to spark discussions inviting students to express their personal opinions but also to think critically about them as well as others' points of view.

In terms of writing fluency, I have students write in a journal once a week. I don't assess this work directly, but use it as a way to get students expressing their thoughts without stopping for a short period of time. I also will make "Next steps" comments within the journal for individual students, to give them feedback on their progress and what to focus on still. I also use the students' writing to let me know what we might need to work on as a class - when they're ready for an explanation of some language convention, for example, as a mini-lesson - and to provide additional support materials and practice to individual students to further their own learning.

How do you make sure you focus on what is most important in your classroom, given the many time constraints and competing priorities?