Photo by Hani Jajeh Source: Unsplash
Photo by Hani Jajeh
Source: Unsplash

How many times have you heard the term “data-driven instruction”? It’s possible that you’ve heard it so many times that you don’t even associate meaning with it anymore, you just know it’s the right answer to a lot of questions that your administrator asks you.

The thing is, data is possibly the most important element of teaching. Sure, one could argue that it’s really the students who are the most important; but, if you don’t know anything about the students, then you don’t know where to go and you certainly don’t know how to help your struggling students succeed. Everything you know about your students is your data.

So what does data-driven instruction look like? Well, it can look like a lot of things. You can use it within a unit of instruction, after a unit of instruction, or at the end of a year to process your thoughts for next year. Let me tell you about my favorite way that data drives my instruction.

I’m a broken record on the topic of oral proficiency evaluations. I love them, and I will sing their praises until the cows come home. Just one more reason these evaluations rock: they are a great way to tell what skills your students are lacking. If you then design units of learning to address those skills…voila! You have data-driven instruction.

During my semester oral evaluations (I give them each quarter), it was blatantly obvious that my Pre-AP Spanish II students as a whole were lacking the language necessary to talk about what they do in their free time.  This group had a goal of Novice High at the end of the first semester. Novice High seems a little low for this level, but when you consider that they come to me lacking language like “free time activities,” it becomes a little clearer that it is an appropriate goal! It would be nice at this point to be moving beyond the individual’s immediate surroundings and daily activities, but alas we cannot do that if the students cannot even discuss the things that they like to do.

So, now that I had a clear direction for my next unit of instruction, it was time to design the unit.

To plan a unit, we know, thanks to Wiggins and McTighe, we must begin with the end in mind. What did I want my students to be able to do?

I wanted my students to be able to tell me what they do in their free time and give me some detail, steps, perhaps, for that free time activity.

This puts me in the right direction, yes, but for me it’s not enough.  We need to figure out a way to compare the products, practices, and perspectives of the target culture and our own culture.

This is where my authentic resources and my input material come into play.

So, we hit up the handy-dandy, and we search out #authres on pasatiempos (pastimes), tiempo libre (free time), and ocio (leisure). I hear all the time “I don’t know where to find authentic resources” and “I don’t have the time to search for them.”  Trust me, the pinning language teachers of the world have done the work for you (lookin’ at you, Amy Lenord), all you have to do is type in the search terms.

I found a great infographic to use as my primary authentic resource, and then I was on a roll. I know that I’m going to use this for input and for my assessment, recycling words and phrases throughout the unit.  I also had my driving question: “How do the pastimes of youth in Mexico compare with the pastimes of my classmates?” This sets me up for interpretive communication with the infographic, interpersonal communication with classmates to find out their pastimes, and presentational communication to publicize and report my findings.

Of course, there is WAY more that went into the planning of this unit. Maybe sometime soon I will have time to go into depth. Until then, here is my Pinterest board with some of the other resources I used (and a lot I didn’t). And here is a collection of our final products.

Now that we have checked off our “desperate dozen” skills for the Novice level, we are ready to attack our new semester goal of Intermediate Low.

I would love to know how you use data to drive your instruction!


Hasta luego,

Profe C.