Grammar Targets for Spanish I

Finding a maternity substitute was, for me, not unlike any classic tale of unrequited love. I was “enamored” by several of my options, only to find them uninterested, unavailable, or snatched out from under me by dazzling offers of full-time positions (Emily!). I began to think that there was no other option but to turn my class into a Spanish culture class taught in English. After many months of prayer, the most wonderful teacher at last returned my lame attempts at wooing a maternity substitute with a “YES! I’ll do it!” B-Lo, as I’ll call her (she doesn’t know that yet…B-Lo, if you’re reading this, I hope that’s okay) is not only fantastically qualified, but incredibly professional and caring as well. A native speaker and a mother of two pre-teen daughters herself, I could not have found a more perfect fit for my middle school Spanish classroom! Not only that, but she offered to make all the lesson plans if I would but let her know what was to be covered. Hallelujah! What an answer to prayer.

B-Lo and I desired to create a smooth transition for my students by keeping as many things the same as is possible with two teachers with unique backgrounds, professional experiences, and teaching styles. As we discussed my course procedures, policies, and expectations, I uncovered a big problem with my course set-up: it is all but impossible for someone else to evaluate my students in the same way that I do using my rubrics. As I gave my rubrics to B Lo, she flooded me with questions about what specifically I look for and how picky I am. I found it very difficult to explain! Even though my rubrics (as I type this, I’m thinking of the writing rubric embedded in my free write form) are broken down into categories and offer some specifics, they are completely vague with regard to grammar. When I evaluate student work, I am personally aware of what has been taught and what student writing should look like, and I use that mental ideal as the basis for evaluating the work. As I reflected on the trouble that B Lo and I had, I realized that my students are probably unclear as to the criteria as well.

With this new realization, I have begun reflecting on grammar targets for each quarter of each level of Spanish that I teach. By the end of the first quarter of Spanish IA, what should students be able to do–grammatically–with 85 percent accuracy? By the end of quarter 2? Quarter 3? What pop-up grammar points have been repeated so often and reinforced with a mini-lesson that the average student can not imagine writing something in a different manner? These ponderings, along with memorizing the book of James from the Bible (an exercise that I highly recommend…wow! it has been so powerful!), have kept me from complete and utter boredom during the three hours a day that I spend glued to my couch nursing my son.

Here are the targets that I came up with for Spanish 1A, which is supposed to be the equivalent of the first half of Spanish I at the high school level, but in reality is more than that. The targets are cumulative, so the expectations for each quarter would include those from the previous quarters, which is why there are fewer new expectations as the year progresses.

Spanish 1A, First Quarter:

  • Sentences contain a subject (or clearly imply a subject) and a verb.
  • Definite and indefinite articles are used correctly.
  • Nouns appear in the correct singular and plural forms.
  • Verbs are used correctly in the third person singular form.
  • Negative expressions contain the correct word order.
  • Sentences have a simple structure.
  • Proper punctuation is used.

Spanish 1A, Second Quarter:

  • Adjectives and nouns are used in the correct order.
  • Adjectives agree in gender and number with the nouns that they describe.
  • Subject pronouns are used correctly.
  • Possession is expressed using the preposition de.
  • Familiar verbs are used correctly in the third person singular and plural forms.

Spanish 1A, Third Quarter:

  • Regular verbs are used correctly in multiple forms.
  • Verbs appear in compound forms (conjugated verb + infinitive).
  • Conjunctions and transitional expressions are used to create complex sentences.

Spanish 1A, Fourth Quarter:

  • Common irregular verbs are used correctly in multiple forms.

I am excited to use these rubrics next year because it not only will help me focus on which grammar points are the most important for me to be popping up to my students, but it will help them become more aware of the current expectations as well as those to come, so that they can begin working toward them (especially beneficial to students that are already performing at an Advanced level).

I plan to use these rubrics when formally (read: summatively) evaluating students’ writing throughout the quarter. They clearly lay out the writing standards for my students so that they can see how they are progressing toward proficiency in those standards throughout the quarter. Their writing grade will of course be based on how they are writing at the end of the quarter, not the beginning.

Please check out the rubrics that I’ve attached and let me know what you think–are my expectations unrealistic? Too low? Still not clear enough? If you find them adequate, please feel free to use them with your classes as well. As always, if you’d like an editable version, just email me: martinaebex@gmail.com. They are larger than I’d like, but the best I could do was two rubrics/page. I’ll still use my smaller, more general rubrics to evaluate formative writing assessments, but I think that the quality of information that students will receive from these more detailed rubrics is worth the extra paper that they require.

1A Writing Rubrics

10 comments

  1. I like to have targets so that there’s a vision of what we want your students to be able to do by a certain point of time. It makes me focus better and forces me to concentrate on a certain objective or two for a period of time. I like yours a lot and I agree with most of them but some seem to me a bit unclear or more of a long range goal than what you listed.

    For example, simple structure, correct word order and punctuation, presence of subject and verb are great for beginners. Will they really be able to master the differences between definite and indefinite articles or noun-adjective agreement by the end of the first semester? And if not, does that really influence the comprehensibility of what they wrote?

    Another comment that I have, has to do with the wording. Do all of your students know what subject pronouns are? If they do, they are clearly genius kids because I already found out that even my juniors don’t speak “grammar”. May be reword some targets into more student-friendly language? And by verbs “used in multiple forms” did you mean tense? mood? or just with I, you, he, we, they, etc.?

    Like

    • Hm. All very good questions…First of all, this rubric is nothing more than an expanded version of the one that is embedded in my Free Write form. All of the grammar points in this one can be collapsed to fit into one row of the other: the fact that these grammar points are listed in such detail does not make correct grammar carry more weight when I GRADE my students’ work using this rubric; it simply gives them more detailed feedback about the structure of their writing. Second, this rubric is not one that I use for most writing assignments. Usually, I use the one that is embedded on my Free Write form. It’s fine most of the time, but I needed a way to give students more detailed feedback. They (and I) need to know what GOOD grammar and conventions look like so that they know why they are or are not proficient in that category. All assessment is really a conversation, and we discuss their work after it has been assessed and returned. If students need clarification on what any given target means, I can tell them. I used it for the “El día horrible, terrible etc.” because it is a formal writing piece that students will be editing and re-writing, it is an appropriate time to use this rubric. As I walk around the room and monitor their work, I can draw their attention to error patterns that are forming and discuss how to correct them.

      I was stuck on your mastery question while creating this, too, because it DOES seem a bit unreasonable to expect them to master the differences between the things that you mentioned. But as I was ruminating on it, I realized that my kids DO know the differences: if I say “la muchacha atractivos” and “la muchacha atractiva”, they can absolutely tell me which one is correct. If I say, “Quiero el libro” and “Quiero un libro”, they can absolutely explain the difference in meaning to me. So why do those mistakes appear in their writing when they write only with words that they already know? I realized that it was because I was not sufficiently facilitating self-reflection for them. By only ever using the general rubric, they were never asked to examine their own work and look for specific mistakes. This rubric gives them clear direction for editing their work. It was hugely successful today as I went around and pointed to various criteria and said, “Remember that your nouns and adjectives need to match!”

      As for the wording, I agree that it needs some work. As I was going over the items on this rubric with my students, the only one that really pulled blank stares was the definite/indefinite articles. I am going to change that to say “The correct words for “the” and “a” are used”. They know what subject pronouns are because they hang on posters on my wall and I refer to them all.the.time. I’m okay with the “verbs used in multiple forms” wording (even though it is very general) because my Spanish A’s only learn one tense and one mood, so it is clear within the context of the course. For the rubrics that I will *eventually* finish for my other levels, I will need to clarify because they work with multiple tenses.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. “By only ever using the general rubric, they were never asked to examine their own work and look for specific mistakes. This rubric gives them clear direction for editing their work.”

    That makes a lot of sense! Considering that you use this rubric on the “major” written assignment that is edited and proofread, it is very appropriate and helpful. I usually give my kids one goal on semi-formal written assignments (use of 1st person sing. perspective, or writing in the past) and don’t highlight anything else unless it doesn’t make sense.( They need to correct highlighted text in class.)

    On my free writes I also have a comment line on the bottom where I can highlight/circle what the student needs to work on and compare with their next piece to see if an improvement was made. I have the following comments:

    Need to focus on addressing task
    Need to focus on idea development
    Need to focus on sequence of ideas

    Need to focus on adding details
    Need to focus on increasing length
    Need to focus on variety of vocabulary/structures
    Need to focus on word order

    Need to focus on agreements: adjectives
    Need to focus on verb forms
    Need to focus on spelling/accents

    Even though my students complete personal reflections on their performance a couple of times a year, in ideal world, I’d like to sit down with each of my students every semester and do a little “personal inventory for French class. (On the big scale, these are the things you’ve mastered, things you’re doing well, and things that still need to be worked on. Break it down by skill: reading, listening, speaking, writing.) How realistic is that? Not sure. I’ll leave this endeavor for the next year…

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Martina,

    Do you have any grammar targets for your other levels? I love this idea of grammar targets!

    Thanks for sharing!

    Like

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