2016 Reflections

I should just call this semester reflections since I only teach semesters now.  The biggest “change” to my teaching this semester is how I graded my French 101 class.  First, I ditched the weekly lesson quiz.  Did I care?  Nope?  Did students care?  Heck no.  Do I think it had any impact on student achievement?  Nope.  Students still achieved.  I still knew what we needed to work on from informal assessment daily.

The next change was in my unit tests.  I’ve always had a writing and speaking component, but this semester I did something completely different and I loved it.  Loved it!  In love!!  Here’s what I did.  First, I used Alice Keeler’s Rubric Tab Script to make a rubric for the unit test.  Depending on the unit I had four or five tasks: a “prepared” speaking, an “on the spot” speaking or conversation, a multiple choice quiz and a writing task.  Sometimes I had two writing tasks.

Let’s stop and talk for a minute about the Rubric Tab Script.  I don’t like to math by myself because when I do I get disastrous results.  The Rubric Tab Script creates a rubric for each student and then automagically adds up the score.  So my rubric had a “criteria” for each task: prepared speaking, writing, multiple choice, etc.  All I had to do was put what they had scored based on the rubric. (Note, I changed the scoring for the multiple choice because I realized it wasn’t fair if a student scored 59% on the multiple choice to earn a 0.)  I used a rather generic rubric here.  I had a more detailed one that we used for assignments for improvement.

Rubric

I had no paper hanging around and my points were added up by themselves.  In fact, the first time I used it I had all of my students’ work graded for the first class within an hour.  And because I was using Google Forms Quizzes for the quiz as soon as students finished, I just went to their rubric and popped in the score!  Amazing.  Additionally, I liked that it was a global score and everything counted equally.  I used an iPad to view the rubrics and the computer to view their documents.  It just made it easier rather than switching back and forth between windows or tabs.

Now let’s talk about the actual tasks.  The first was always a “prepared” speaking.  What I mean by that is that I had the students prepare a slide deck on something or someone.  The last one was to talk about their family.  I told them put some pictures in a slide deck or show them on your phone.  Don’t care.  I’m a big fan of this type of speaking because I feel like, while they don’t get to use notes, forcing them to have something in front of them forces them to think about what they’re going to say ahead of time.  And how many times do you go into an important conversation (job interview, speech, difficult conversation) when you don’t know at least the topic and have thought about what you’re going to say.  For the last assessment, there was also a component to ask questions, so while students may have thought what they were going to say about their families they had no idea what questions their random partner would ask them.  I watched as they answered the easy questions and negotiated meaning for the more difficult ones.

For each assessment we used a grammar carousel for everyone to do their speaking.  Here’s how that works:  students sit at desks or tables across from each other.  You’ll have a two long lines of students. They use their devices to show whatever they prepared and talk and then after x minutes on side moves one down and everyone has a new partner and a new conversation.  I hadn’t ever done an “assessment” this way and the first time I fell in love.  I thought why hadn’t I done it this way?  So easy!! I walked around with my iPad.  I listened to students having conversations and I marked their answers.  Did I hear every conversation fully?  Nope.  Did I hear enough of each students to make an assessment?  For sure.  Additionally, the first time we did this the students were laughing and smiling and I thought they are enjoying themselves while taking a test!

Generally I just let students talk for about 3 minutes and hope that each student talks equally.   (I tell them, “If I don’t hear you talk you get a zero”, so they are motivated to get their equal time.)  For the last assessment I gave six minutes for each conversation and gave them a basic structure for who should be doing what when because part of the grade was to ask questions.  (I had to do that in a training I went to a few weeks ago and I liked that it gave a loose structure to our conversation so I stole it. )  Then once I heard everyone I said, “Stop.”  For about 20-25 students it took about 30-40 minutes.  Imagine!  Assessing 20-25 students on a presentation about their family normally takes hours and is #boring and makes me want to stab myself in the eye with a pencil.  At no point doing it this way did I wish for a pencil.  And the students themselves were all engaged at the same time.

Next we put the chairs and tables back and did the more normal parts of the test which was multiple choice and writing.  These were “passed out” through Google Classroom.  During this I called partners up or individuals and did the other individual or partnered speaking activity.  In one of the assessments, I used these infographics to assess numbers.  (We had practiced for days with a different one each time and I chose Le Louvre one for the assessment.)  The brilliant part (I thought) was that when I had the student who had already had French AP I asked him completely different questions than I asked the students for whom this was their first exposure to French.  I used my Rubric Tab Rubrics to input their grades immediately and I was done nice and quick.

The only (minor) hiccup came when I had a students “go outside to prepare” for one minute on a random subject and I forgot the last student was out there!  He came to the door sheepishly and said, “Can I come back in, it’s cold.”

My takeaway:  I will do all of my unit assessments like this forever.  Well, probably not forever and probably I could come up with a better way.  But for right now, this hits all the sweet spots for me and was so incredibly simple that I was kicking myself for having never thought of it before.

Now that I’ve mastered assessment (ha!- if only), I’m on to decide whether or not I’m going to use a textbook for French 102 next semester.