It’s undeniable that student voice, choice and interest must be the bread and butter of the curriculum. Just think, if your administrators or superintendent polled teachers before rolling out new systems and/or protocols… the education system would be debugged, optimized, and a potential maximizer! Student success would be at an all-time high. Okay, that is a dream for another day, let’s get back to what WE can control, which is our classrooms.
In my Morpheous voice from the Matrix… “What if I told you that student voice and choice could be more than a buzzword? Intriguing isn’t it? Well, just like most things we buy at 2:00 AM in the morning from some infomercial, it sounds really awesome in theory, but in practice it can be a stress-inducing nightmare for a number of reasons.
- We have to submit a unit before we see the little kiddos.
- All assessments are set in stone (not to mention, we’ve worked our keisters off beforehand!)
- We don’t have the expertise on topics students are interested in. What? You want to learn about astronomy! Does this look like a science class?
- We have limited time (Let’s be real folks, ain’t nobody got time for that!).
All of these are valid concerns, several of which I share!
This year our new principal has been very adamant about including student voice into the curriculum. Students are invited to our meetings, included in our curriculum development, and have a hand in policy. It was scary at first, but I realized they want the same stuff we do! This summer I spoke extensively on decolonizing the curriculum, and making it culturally responsive. Well, the best way to do that is to incorporate student voice; the voice of the students right in front of you. Here are a few ways to do that and remain sane at the same time. Here is how I am approaching these changes with my first unit of the year.
My first unit of the year is “Be The Change” or Ser el cambio in Spanish. This will explore activism and activists from the target culture. I put in tons of hours curating resources (I will share soon!), making assessments, etc. However, issuing a survey almost deflated all my efforts. When asked, “What would you like to learn this year” most interests did not match the unit’s ethos, objectives, or tasks I had so arduously pieced together!
Am I throwing out my unit, and starting from scratch? Hell no! Instead, I decided to get creative and work those themes across all units. The survey results and how I am adding them to the existing awesomeness of my unit!
- Sports: Check out this Cristiano Ronaldo Resource I found!
- Traditions: This was another good find!
- Superstitions: Chupacabra article and questions (make your own edits)
1. Add Micro Themes To Your Unit
Of the themes mentioned, none of them really tie into activism. However, since we are looking at eco-activism in Colombia, I can add a short bellringer or fun fact to the unit where this information can be learned.
- Adding a video about cultural traditions. In my case, the Carnaval of Barranquilla.
- Add pictures of the Carnaval, and have students compare and contrast with celebrations from their own cultures.
2. Create a cultural segment in class, and address students’ interests.
- I have a cultural corner time in my class. I mainly use it to touch on cultural topics not part of the curriculum. Also Sra Cruz has some great resources on TPT called Cultura Diaria. She has it in English and Spanish.
3. Scavenger Hunt & Escape Room
- Have students research 5-10 about a topic. You can give them the topics beforehand.
- I am not skilled in Escape rooms but there is a resource to help!
4. Choose your own adventure & Reciprocal Teaching
- Give students those themes and have them research (provide a template) and report back to the group.
- Have a genius hour in class when they dedicate 10 minutes to learning about their topic (a college professor did this in Geography class, and I loved it).
5. Here are some ideas that I have done with my students.
I am constantly adding more ideas. How do you honor student interests?
Novels and Resources by A.C. Quintero
Who am I?
I am currently a Spanish Teacher in Chicago, IL. I have 16 years of cumulative experience as an International Baccalaureate middle school teacher, high school teacher, and adjunct instructor. I hold a Master’s in Latin American Literature and Cultures coupled with a Master’s in Educational Leadership. These dual degrees have afforded me a vantage point from both ends of the educational spectrum: instruction and evaluation. I have been sharing my unique perspective on pedagogy and language acquisition for over ten years at national, regional and state conferences. I am also an accomplished author! I have authored several compelling comprehensible novels that allow students to solidify their language skills while experiencing a wide range of different cultures. Check out my resources below. Thanks for stopping by!