From Reconnection to Reset

A Mid-Year Refresh


...we took a break from new content and using the target language, and focused on reflecting and recharging...

Amy Rill

Instructional Technologist, Wayside Publishing

I remember all too well how hectic the semester change can be, with adjusted schedules, time spent providing feedback on and scoring exam components, reporting grades, and gearing up to teach a new unit or even a new course all within the span of a few days. My students and I felt overwhelmed and in need of some down time, despite having been on winter holiday just a few weeks before. So, during the first few days of the second semester, we took a break from new content and using the target language and focused on reflecting and recharging so that we all could finish out the rest of the school year strong while keeping our personal goals (and not just the countdown to summer break) in mind.


One of the benefits of teaching a world language is that we have a lot of opportunities to get to know our students. Because our content revolves around everyday life, students share their likes, dislikes, and sides of their personality in ways that they may not be able to in other classes. In the first few days of the new semester, I built in time for team-building activities, often in English, but sometimes in the target language depending on the task or level of the class. I did this for two reasons. First, students must be comfortable taking risks in front of their classmates and finding commonalities is a starting point to lowering their affective filter. Second, I used information from our conversations to guide future lessons, drawing on their interests to bring in topics and authentic resources that I knew would appeal to them.


Although my students reflected daily on their steady progress on the unit Can-Do Statements, some of them, especially in Level 1, would get very discouraged when they couldn’t say or understand everything they wanted to. To help them see that they should focus less on what they cannot do and more on what they CAN do with the language, we did a lesson on the Path to Proficiency, matching examples of writing samples with the performance descriptors. Then, they compared these examples with submissions that had been filed in their own language portfolios (folders that students kept in my classroom for the duration of their language-learning journey with me). They could see how far they had come from their baseline writing assessment to their midterm exam and then set goals to guide them moving forward on their personalized path to proficiency.


I also found it important to survey my students about the course so far. Some years I did this on paper. In more recent years, I switched to a digital format. I wanted to know their favorite topics, in-class activities, and homework assignments, what they wanted to learn about in future units, what activities or processes they didn't like or would prefer not to do again, and even what they did in other classes that they enjoyed and helped them learn both in and outside of the classroom. Their answers prompted me to think about the practices and procedures I had put in place and how effective they were in supporting the vision I had for my classes at the start of the school year.


After reviewing the feedback from my students and reflecting on my own practices, I had to decide how to move forward into the second half of the year. I considered the following things:

  • What are my students’ favorite activities? Which systems are working? I need to keep doing those.
  • Which activities and systems inspire mixed feelings from me or my students but either must or should be done, like a grading practice or turn-in procedure? I should ask a colleague or do some research on how to tweak what I am currently doing.
  • What stressful practice(s) can I stop doing? I need to be brave and get rid of the ones that do not serve me or my students anymore. They may have been great ideas at the beginning of the school year, but they fizzled, or they are things I’ve always done. It is OK to scrap them completely or maybe revisit the ideas again next year!


This is the perfect time to remind students (and even yourself) to strive for 90+ target language use within your classroom. For your upper-level students, it may be a recommitment to this practice. Maybe your Level 1 students have only used the target language for specific blocks of time. With scaffolding, supports, word walls and skill builders, those students can take the leap and (re)commit to using only the target language in your classroom with you and with each other.

You can also recommit to your own professional learning and growth. Here are a few suggestions for some ways to fill your own cup and find inspiration:

  • Collaborate with colleagues either within or outside your content area
  • Shadow another teacher either within or outside your content area
  • Attend a live or on demand webinar
  • Explore a blog to enhance your practice
  • Research a new tech tool / teaching strategy and test it out in one of your classes


I know it is easier said than done, but we need to set boundaries for ourselves and think about ways that we can refresh our mind, body, and spirit. I have been guilty of spending an entire day each weekend preparing for classes just to feel ready for the upcoming week. Looking back now, I know that was a sign that I should have taken my own advice to change my practices and let some of the lofty expectations for myself go. In the Reading Room post by Elena Spathis, she shares 5 Tips for Setting Boundaries that would be a wonderful place to start if you need a springboard to making minor changes that will have a major impact on how you finish your school year.

As you navigate the semester change, taking a breather to reconnect, reflect, and recharge is a game-changer. From fun team-building time to digging into student feedback, this journey helps to fine-tune your approach to the next few months and beyond. Whether you are renewing commitments to target language use or personal growth, that sets the stage for a more focused and inspired finish to the school year. And have no fear of the reset button – embrace the liberating feeling of changing things up, setting some boundaries, and taking care of yourself. So, gear up for the second half with a refreshed mindset and a burst of positive energy.’ve got this!

Amy Rill

Amy Rill

Amy Rill enjoys sharing her love of enhancing learning language through incorporating technology.
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