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Jamie Lincow is a high school Spanish teacher. She is working in a school that offers a hybrid model, which means that students can come into the class for in person instruction 2 days a week or choose to stay home for fully virtual instruction.
Assessing students’ retention is a critical piece of the puzzle in making the hybrid model work this school year. We are halfway through the second marking period, and I have settled into a routine, established classroom expectations, and grown confident in my use of technology. Creating targeted checks, quizzes, tests, projects, and presentations has become my new focus so that I can properly assess my students in an authentic and verifiable way.
The most difficult obstacle in assessing my students is creating an evaluation that eliminates the cheating factor. In a World Language classroom, we routinely give vocab quizzes or simple translations to assess vocabulary and grammar retention; however, those assignments collect one correct answer, which (in a hybrid environment) can easily be transmitted between students. This year I have to recreate all of my evaluations so that they are open ended in order to receive authentic, accurate data that assesses my students’ comprehension.
Here are three different types of assessments that I have found to be invaluable in providing true feedback about the students’ retention of material:
Choice boards. Rather than the traditional vocab quiz where a student typically memorizes a determined set of words and writes the translations on a sheet of paper, these choice boards allow students to participate in different activities that utilize the words through a written or spoken action. Students can choose the way in which they demonstrate their own retention by picking activities that are worth different amounts of points (they have to make 10 points to complete the assignment). Some students have even admitted that they are memorizing the words just as well this year compared to rote memorization for traditional quizzes from prior years. This type of vocab activity can also include grammar points from the chapter and I can differentiate each choice board for diverse learners, from beginners to AP.
Open Ended Translation tests. In an upper level World Language class, we often assess students’ retention of grammar based on a translation exam. Students would normally translate the sentences from English into the target language; however, this year I am asking students to assess their grammar retention in a more open-ended way so that no two students’ tests will look the same. There is a slimmer possibility for students to cheat as they are creating part of the test on their own. Some tests require students to come up with their own English sentences and then translate them while other assessments provide the beginning of a translation and students have to create the ending of the sentence with their own ideas.
Flipgrid Q + A. Typically students collaborate in a World Language classroom through skits and role playing, but this year we are unable to group kids together physically. One way of recreating spontaneous conversations is through Flipgrid. I post prompts to which students can respond. After they record their responses, I connect them with a virtual partner who can leave commentary, post a follow-up question, or record a separate, personal message. I can grade the students and give feedback on pronunciation, spontaneity, and authenticity.
While creating each of these assessments from scratch is reminiscent of my first year of teaching, it also gives me perspective on how I have been evaluating my students in the past. It does take more time to grade each assessment, but the work that my students are producing is quality. It is obvious that they truly value and enjoy having a choice in the activities and projects that they produce. Despite all of the challenges we are facing in the classroom, these new activities prove that my students are learning and retaining the information as well.