“Learning without reflection is a waste. Reflection without learning is dangerous.” ― Confucius
Our “diario” assignment is a place for students to reflect on their language acquisition process. We have them write a journal entry every two weeks in English about their experiences. The exciting part is that students who have been with us for 3 years, have entries that span all 3 years! I have found this assignment to be invaluable. I’m writing this post to share why we do this assignment, the logistics around it and some examples of student work.
The diarios give students a place to slow down and think about what is happening in the classroom. It allows them to notice what they are doing and how that is leading to acquisition of the language. It also gives them a place to share their frustrations, doubts, and questions about the process. I find it’s also helpful for them to share a bit about themselves from their English speaking identity.
As the teacher, I gain a lot of important information when I read the diarios. I am able to assess if they are understanding the goals of our classroom, the ACTFL levels, how we are doing with lowering the affective filter, and get feedback on the variety of activities we do. I also get ideas for topics that don’t always come up in class. I get especially excited when the quieter students share about their passions and interests so I can weave that into the next class. Overall, these entries allow both teacher and student to reflect on the learning that is happening and keep a record of the journey.
We have students create a google doc during English week which they use for the entire year. We also give them the due dates for the semester (we decided on every other Friday) and have the record those dates into their planner. While this assignment is linked with their classroom experience, we assign it for homework to distant it form the classroom on purpose. We allow students to write in English, but we don’t allow them to speak English in class. The difference is that are not using English to learn Spanish, but rather to reflect on the process. Interestingly, many will include Spanish as the year progresses, and most of our 8th graders write completely in Spanish! I love allowing that to happen without requiring it.
In reality we know that not all students do homework and some don’t embrace this opportunity in order to get the most from it. For those students, we give a minimum requirement of 8 sentences and allow for them to write them late for some credit. I will include some of these examples below as well, so you can get an idea of what the range of a class will produce.
These are some of the prompts that we have created over the years. Sometimes we give specific ones and often we allow students to decide what to write about.
Finally, we have editing privileges on the doc and try to comment and answer questions, especially for the first year students.
Here are some diarios to check out.
Very Strong 8th Grader decided to write in Spanish
Please let me know your thoughts. How can we improve this? How do you hope to incorporate these ideas in your classroom?