My First Few Weeks as a Novice AIM Teacher
By: Holli Wilkes
I have been teaching Spanish in an International Baccalaureate school in South Carolina for thirteen years. As is probably true with most elementary foreign language teachers, I began my language teaching career consumed with creating my own curriculum since at the time there were very few “programs” available. I used a “thematic” approach for many years, and then my school district adopted a long-distance delivered gesture based program. This approach worked very well, however the emphasis was on gesturing isolated vocabulary words, many of which were not in the AIM pared down language list. My students were learning the vocabulary and had some success speaking and writing, but I was not happy with their speaking and writing proficiency over time. And then I heard about AIM.
I attended the US Summer Institute in Jacksonville, Florida and took the plunge to become an AIM pilot teacher. As so many other AIM teachers have testified, the students were speaking and understanding from the very first day! I see enthusiasm on their faces (well most of them, anyway!) Over the past few weeks I have noticed how much more language the students can produce. As we meet in the hall to begin class, I have had students say “Spanish is so much fun this year!” and “I did the opening rap for my parents last night.” I had a walk through observation by one of the administrators, and she commented on how engaged the students were and how much they could say from just watching the gestures. I also notice that my older students are really trying to express what they want in Spanish, which I love!
It is not easy. I spend a lot of time watching the gesture videos. I need to review each lesson over and over until I think I can do it without looking at the teacher’s guide. (I found that note cards reminding me of what to do next are very helpful!) It is also somewhat exhausting to keep up the pace for six classes a day! However, as I learned in the Foundations Class, it is important to just keep on going through the lessons. The students will learn through the constant repetition in different contexts. I am six weeks into the program and I am excited to get to the end of the year to see what my students will be able to accomplish.