Wednesday, June 23, 2010


So in an effort not to idle my summer away watching TV and doing other such useless things, I've begun a plan of self-improvement, covering various areas.  Part of this is a quest to improve upon my  teaching English abilities.  My plan is to watch a video or read an article of some sort, everyday and reflect on the ideas learned.  This article is from Dr. Andrew Finch called "Group Testing-Student-Designed Tests."  You can find it at Learning for Life in the academic corner.   While I'm not sure about the idea as a whole, one quote on page 2 got me thinking:

"Any test that is used in any English class must have a definite purpose, since tests are intrinsically threatening and can cause undesirable levels of anxiety and worry, which can harm the learning process."

In other articles of his I've read, he talks a lot about the classroom conditions necessary for a student to learn English.  One of the big ones is that it's relaxed and students don't feel stress.  I would most definitely agree.  I think "vibe" is hugely important in learning a second language.  If the classroom atmosphere is happy, fun, and friendly, students will want to interact with you and each other.  If it's stressful and scary, the last thing anyone will want to to do is open their mouth.

A couple years ago, I did a biweekly review test of the previous unit, at the start of the class.  And that semester things did not go so well in many of my classes but I could never quite figure out why.  I have a feeling that a test, to start every other class just led to too much stress in the classroom and no matter what I did, it just lingered even when the test was done.

So, what am I saying?  I'm considering doing away with written tests altogether for next semester as kind of an experiment.  I'm not sure how much students actually learn for the long-haul when studying for them.  On the other hand, interesting projects or assignments, alone or in a group seem to be much more helpful.  I'm thinking of a breakdown like this:

1. Participation/attendance =20%

2. Midterm speaking test (assignment?) =20%

3. Final exam speaking test (assignment?) =20%

4. Internet Homework.  I want to create forums and then post a question each week that they have to write up a few sentences in response to.

5. A group Project.  I'm thinking of getting the students to teach a 15 minute "review session" of each unit.

No comments: