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Over the past few years I have implemented project-based assessments in every level of Spanish that I teach. I think that I have come up with some great ideas, but after reading Apple’s Challenge Based Learning white paper and working through three days of IB MYP training I need to work on being more systematic in presenting the project. To use a colleague’s words, I need to unpack the assignment before I hand it to my students. When I have laid out the steps for my students, they have been more confident in their approach and successful in producing their final product.

Over the past week I have been revising old project-based assessments that my colleagues and I will assign this year. I prefer these types assessments to traditional exams for a number of reasons. One, they are authentic by design. Students may one day have a job where they have to create a multi-media presentation on a given topic. One project that I have planned for September involves students creating a presentation about a Spanish-speaking country. Their presentation can take any form that the students see fit. Their audience is potential study abroad candidates. Students will brainstorm, collaborate, create and share their ideas and projects.

Another benefit of project-based assessments is that students have the unique opportunity to take what they know and love, whether it’s music, technology, or art, meld it with what they are acquiring in Spanish class and then produce an authentic product. I love to see kids shine and project-based assessments afford them this chance.

Click to read my Don Quixote assignment and hear an amazing project from one of my students from last spring.

I just completed the first 6 credits of my principal licensure program. The first course was on school culture and climate. We discussed our schools’ cultures and how to establish or improve them. The topic of shared histories came up frequently and made me think of my own friendships and histories that I share with others.

I try to spend every 4th of July in Vail with my best friend of almost 20 years and her twin boys. We met at CSU, where my current classes are, in a Latin American literature survey class. The beauty of a long-standing friendship is that we have a rich history together that strengthens our bond. This past weekend she reminded me of a trip that she and my son took in 1998. I went to Cornell for a week on a grant project with SDSU and she drove my son to my parents’ house in Colorado. Her trip was traumatic because 1) she had my son in her care and 2) the weather was horrendous. I-90 had closed due to snow and ice so they had to spend the night at a hotel. They made it safely the next day, with my then 4-year-old son exclaiming, “Kristin! You did it!” when he saw his grandparents’ town on the horizon. What struck me the most was that she and my son share a history irrespective of me! It seems so obvious, but didn’t ever cross my mind until now.

One of the hardest parts of starting any new job, whether in a school or not, is taking in the history. Before this class I didn’t really think about my school’s history.  I love new things and change so much that I often forget to honor the past. I recognize now that it’s important to honor long-timers while welcoming newcomers by providing a venue for storytelling and sharing. I find that I learn the most about school and colleagues at our retirement parties at the end of the year.

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