Spanish Language Proficiency at St. John’s

By: Senor Stone, 7/8th Grade Spanish Teacher

I’m excited to share results from last year’s benchmark Spanish proficiency testing.  A group of 8th graders (25 total) self-selected to take the Avant STAMP4s test.  (STAMP stands for Standards-Based Measure of Proficiency).  This test is a recognized reliable and valid tool which measures language proficiency based on our World Standards and the ACTFL guidelines.  The test measures proficiency in Reading, Writing, Listening and Speaking.  It gives results which compare our students to thousands of students across the country and gives feedback to teachers as to the effectiveness of the methods they use to teach.  

Last year’s test group was special.  Due to changes in schedule, I had them for about 60 hours more than previous group.  Most of the groups take the test at 180 hours.   This group took the test at about 240 hours of instruction (that’s the equivalent in hours of Spanish 1 and Spanish 2 in high school. As well, this group is the first to have participated in Silent Sustained Reading for two years. 

The results were striking.  The group mean, across all four skills, was a 4.45.  The Avant company correlates a 4.45 to about 520 hours of study (comparing with students across the country).  That is almost double the amount of time this St. John’s 8th grade group had.  We had two students achieve a score of 5 in each of the four areas tested (at least 650 hours of study normally) qualifying them for the Global Seal of Biliteracy Functional Level (side note: the Global Seal is rigorous.  They require proof of proficiency in both languages and only accept specific, reliable tests.  STAMP4s is one, The College Board AP test is another.  The Functional level Global Seal is considered the equivalent of an AP 3 pass).  There were an additional 10 students who came within one or two points from qualifying for their Global Seals.    

Most significantly, these students achieved this level of proficiency without using a commercial book, without being given traditional grammar explanations (using linguistic terms such as preterit, imperfect, etc.—the AP doesn’t expect students know these terms).  As well they did no verb conjugation charts and did not fill in any vocabulary/grammar worksheets.  They did not take a single multiple-choice quiz.  How did they do it?  Simple: following the principles of proficiency and language acquisition research.  Students are given opportunities each day to interact with the language by focusing on content which is at least 90% comprehensible to them.  I work hard to keep the content engaging and repetitive in novel ways.  The repetition came from focusing on a limited amount of vocabulary and verbs from lists of the most frequently used words.  Because our brains are hard-wired to acquire language through story, the engaging contexts took the form of story co-creation with students.  The oral stories are linked to written stories which are in multiple versions designed to push their level higher with each version. Production activities (speaking and writing) are designed to help students to use circumlocution to make themselves understood.  The program is rounded out by Silent Sustained Reading (SSR) using novels based on most frequent words.

A shift from the outdated and inefficient grammar scope and sequences used in some high schools is taking place around the country.  The Denver Public School system shifted completely to proficiency teaching about 10 years ago and enjoy 92% pass rates on the AP tests.  Most of those students score 4 and 5 and never learned the linguistic terms “preterit, imperfect, etc” and did no motivation killing grammar worksheets!  If this interests you and you’d like to hear the expert’s opinions about what is going on in Spanish class at St. John’s and in other departments around the California and the country, I am attaching a link to a video.  It is one of the clearest examples of how the choice of method can make all the difference in the world.  You don’t have to watch the entire hour.  The first 20 minutes gets to the heart of what I am talking about here (and if your time is really limited, start at 4:00 minutes and stop at 18:00 minutes.)

Beating the “HEAT” in Physical Education.

Ever wonder how the kids make it through a Physical Education class during the month of September?  Well, here are our strategies on how we BEAT THE HEAT..

When focusing on the goal of each class engaging in vigorous activity, we must take into consideration the weather for that day.  For example, currently grades 6-8 are engaged in Volleyball (girl’s) and Soccer (boy’s), both activities require a lot of effort, movement and engagement while being outside in the sun for a considerable amount of time.  In order to combat the heat of the day, we use 3 simple strategies:

 Strategy 1: Hydration:  Encouraging students to bring their own water bottle or hydro flask to P.E. is a must.  We teach students to moderate their water intake. Students are given frequent water breaks to make sure that we our doing our best to stay hydrated through the class period.

Strategy #2: Short Activity Bursts:  Skill development and drills are timed, and set to maximize output through shorter activities.  Our goal during these hot days is to figure out how to get the most opportunity for each student to grow through participation, while being mindful of the importance of breaking for hydration and some quick time in the shade. For example, rather than working out for 20 minutes before a water break, we cut it down to every 5-7minutes.

Strategy #3: Education: We take the time to educate the students about the importance of proper hydration throughout each day.  That water consumption should be regular and balanced to keep their body hydrated. Remember, if you are feeling thirsty, your body is telling you that it has already entered a state of dehydration.  Preloading your body with water consumption is just like filling up your gas tank in your car before a long trip. You would never start that road trip with your fuel light flashing, yet we regularly see kids start their activities while already thirsty. A great formula for daily water consumption for the average person is to take your body weight, divide it by two and that number is how many ounces of water you should consume daily. For example, 200lbs divided by 2 equals 100, so at that weight, the average person should consume 100oz of water per day.

So as you can see, with these three strategies in place, we are able to run an educational yet vigorous physical education program; while maintaining proper hydration to help with success for students battling the heat.

Mr. Harrison, 6-8 grade Physical Education Department


COUNSELOR’S CORNER – September 2019 Edition: A Message From Miss Doyle

Teaching organizational skills from a young age

Have you ever thought about your own organizational style in comparison to your student’s? Are you more of a list person, while your child tends to have a photographic memory (at least they think they do)? Or maybe you’re more of a go-with-the-flow type of personality, while your child is more concrete with their routines? Whatever your style may be, organizational skills play a large role in our everyday lives, so starting to develop those abilities at a young age is important. 

Below you will find some helpful tips on how to foster your student’s organizational dexterities:

  1. Routines are key – Morning routines, nighttime routines, after school routines, and the list goes on. Children thrive off of routines because it allows them to feel safe and unwavering. Even though at times they may push back and want to adjust their routine, they more than likely will resort back to what they’ve been originally taught. 
  2. Sorting/Categorizing – Something so simple, but incredibly beneficial. Sorting can include anything from their toys or clothes at home, to their school papers and supplies. Sorting gives students the chance to arrange the things they use most often and take ownership of those items. A lot of the time this skill comes in the form of completing chores or organizing their school binder or locker. 
  3. Checklists – Introduce checklists early on. Keep it basic and start with a checklist that focuses on things like their nightly routine before bed or what to pack for a family vacation. And eventually when students get older, checklists can be used to help them prioritize their time with school, sports, social outings, etc. Checklists may even start to take the shape of a planner. 
  4. Letting them clean-up after themselves – This may be easier said than done sometimes, especially if you are like my mom who liked her household in a specific order.  However, something as simple as putting their clothes in a hamper, their shoes by the front door, washing their plate after dinner, or putting their toys away in their room is teaching them how to be responsible. That responsibility leads to independence and eventually the drive to complete tasks on their own without being asked.  
  5. Cook together! 🙂 Adventures in the kitchen are memories children never forget. Learning techniques like measuring ingredients, kitchen safety, making a grocery list, and healthy eating habits are essential. Organizational skills are needed in the kitchen, and what better way to teach those techniques than to have a little fun baking or meal prepping with your student 🙂

Of course, there are many more tips than just those listed above. Each household is different from the next, so find the strategies that work for you and your family. In fact, comment below about some of the organizational techniques that work for your family or even those that you have tried and didn’t work. 

The 29th Annual St. John’s Student Leadership Retreat

Every summer, two weeks before the upcoming school year begins,  twenty-four 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students from the St. John’s Lutheran School Student Leadership Team attend an on-campus “retreat.”  The morning sessions of August 5th, 2019 provided this year’s team the opportunity to plan, prepare and strategize for the major events it will host for the upcoming school year, including:

      • Spring Spirit Week planning
      • Packaging 75 Open House “Survival Kits” for the incoming 6th graders
      • Habit of Mind presentation training with Mr. Mercier

 

  • Habitudes (Images that Form Leadership Habits and Attitudes) training with Mr. Mercier

 

    • Peer Counseling training with Miss Doyle
    • Life Group Leader training with Mrs. VB
    • Shepherding instructions with Mr. Stuewe

After eating lunch with Dr. Hollatz,  Mrs. VB was gracious enough to host a team building pool party at her house.  This gave our Student Leaders an opportunity to get to know each other in a fun, safe, encouraging environment.

The St. John’s Student Leadership Team is excited to serve our schools student body, our congregation and community.  What a blessing it is to have such a dedicated group of students and teachers who want to make a positive difference in the lives of so many people during the 2019-2020 school year.

By: Mr. Nathan Mercier, 6th grade, Student Leadership

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Peru Project – Part II

In part 1 I outlined this project which St. John’s students have been supporting for the past 9 years.
Once my wife, Patty, and I have a list of projects our work begins. One of the major projects we wanted to take on was quickly started:  the awning to cover the space between the two classrooms.
The biggest consideration was where the awning would be of most benefit. The next was timing:  how to get the structure built and the awning made so that both would be done before we leave in July.  Two different people are needed, a carpenter and an awning maker.  The last consideration was that the entire structure needed to be done in such a way that it can be unassembled and moved when the government comes through with the funds to remodel the school. This could be as early as this September or up to several years.
Lola wanted the space between the two largest classrooms covered. (See the first picture.)  This decided we then began to work on how to best coordinate structure with awning.  The carpenter gave us a time frame for completion just before we were to leave Perú. That meant the awning person would have to work from dimensions given by the carpenter rather than taken from the actual structure. This is risky at best. In the end we decided to have the carpenter build a structure the same size as the structure covering the play structure. (See picture #2)  to our amazement these dimensions fit almost perfectly into the desired space. And even better: because the two structures will be identical it will allow  Lola to design the space in the new school around the shade structures, placing  them end-to-end. It will add continuity in the long-run.
This decision also allowed the awning person to take more accurate measurements from the existent awning for the new awning. We took bids from several awning makers and chose the one who offered quality and the best price. It would cost about $850 for a high quality, water/weather proof material made to special order and installed.  About a week later we returned from a short trip to Cajamarca to find the rolled up cover (photo #3) hand delivered and ready to installed when the carpenter finished his work.  It weighs about 300 lbs.
The carpenter was called and came to the school to get the measurements for the awning structure. We agreed on a price (about $1500 equivalent in national money: Soles) and we went to Trujillo to exchange dollars. (Picture 4 shows the structure being put in place.) While there we went to a local store called Sodimac to see if they had prefabricated shelves the size we wanted. Sodimac is a Homedepot-like store which recently has come to Trujillo. While convenient it doesn’t offer a lot in terms of shelving. Nothing we could find fit the dimensions needed.  We wanted to steer clear of donating something which would just be makeshift. The units we did see were expensive and low quality.
So we began looking for plan B.  A family member recommended a young man in the town who had recently built some cabinets for a local restaurant. The young man’s name is Meikel and he works with a material he calls melamine, a kind of particle board covered in formica-like material. He could build sturdy shelves to the dimensions we wanted at less cost than the prefabricated odd-sized units we had looked at.  It did mean more footwork for us, but assured something which will endure the hard use they will receive, while adding uniformity to the classrooms.
The photos 5 and 6 show Meikel, the handy man, constructing the five shelves in our living room. It took he and his wife two days to put them together and they looked great.
Part three:  going shopping for things on the wish list.

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