Test Chant

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20 thoughts on “Test Chant”

  1. I get away with giving very few tests and quizzes, GsD (Gott sei Dank).

    Yesterday I had an interesting incident happen. One of the guys in my fifth-period class is a baseball player. They had an early release, and one of the other players stopped by my room to get my student. As I always do, when he popped his head into the room, I greeted him in German. He said something in Spanish, so I switched to Spanish. Then he said in English, “I’m failing Spanish, and I don’t understand anything.” I replied, “That’s too bad. You should have taken German.” He nodded and said, “I know.”

    Then my student stood up to go, but I stopped him and asked him a couple of questions in German: Was it a home or away game? (Away) Who was the opponent? (Kennedy) Where were they playing? (Kennedy) What time did the game start? (3:00) Then I said, “Viel Glück!” and my student replied “Danke!” Then the Spanish student wanted to know what I had said, and about half a dozen students told him.

    Today, when my student arrived in class, I asked him if his friend was impressed with how much German he knows. Big grin and “yes”. During class we did a “drawing dictation” (I dictated a short story, and students drew pictures of the story) and then had students do partner re-tells. With about five minutes left in the period, I told them how pleased I was with what I was hearing and made them aware of just how much language they have been acquiring. Everyone left happy.

    BTW, the story I dictated was one that they had never heard before, but they did fine with it. It was the “Bad Baby” story. A mother and baby are in the supermarket, but the baby is bad and runs through the supermarket. Mom yells, “Baby, don’t run! Walk!” The baby runs to the oranges and sits down in the oranges. Mom says, “Oh no! Oh no! Oh no!” The baby thinks it’s funny and laughs its head off. Mom says, “You’re a bad baby.” Baby says, “I am so-o-o- bad!” One of my students changed the baby’s final reply to “I know” for his re-tell, so I made certain to compliment him for telling the story in his own words. The only thing that students had any trouble with was “laughed its head off”, and that is the newest phrase they have learned. I’ve spent the last couple of days exploring the concept of humor: what do we find funny, and why? We’ve told a couple of jokes and done Movie Talk with a couple of prank videos. (Google waterbed prank for a fun one in a German furniture store.) Oh, and this is a German 1 class.

    1. “I get away with giving very few tests and quizzes, GsD (Gott sei Dank).”

      Gott sei Dank.

      I’m gonna guess this translates to “I gotta stay dank,” hiding behind a murky testing cloud; shady tests are all my high-off data administrators understand.

  2. …and this is a German 1 class….

    This is my experience. Better classes with younger kids not trained in the old way. It’s been a long decade since Martin Anders in Germany became the first member of this blog community but Robert when you say things like that I think we can say that we have gotten better at this. I know we have.

  3. Ben said “But maybe some day we will develop a way of evaluating kids that is not so stupid.”

    The good news, there is a way. It’s called portfolio assessment, and it’s brilliant and wonderful and I’ve used it for years and I could hold your hand and walk you through it. It fixes everything that’s wrong with assessments in language learning, no more worrying about what to put in gradebooks, or dealing with Data Turds.

    The bad news, it is a ridiculous amount of work. There are no short cuts. (Okay, maybe there are, but I’m not a short-cuts kind of girl.) But then again, we aren’t planning for our TPRS classes.

    I can elaborate on portfolio assessment if there’s interest (or just shut-up about it if you prefer).

    For me, portfolio assessment is about social justice for my kids, who are constantly fighting poverty, bullies (mostly teachers), and low self-esteem. It’s also for me -to guide instruction and to cover my butt. ESL teachers, whose kids are double and triple weighted in high-stakes testing, have a giant target sign on their backs if the school’s scores aren’t what principals want them to be.

    It’s not great for my mental health, but then again, neither is constantly being harassed about “data, data, data” (which doesn’t happen to me thanks to portfolio assessment) or seeing my kids suffer and doing nothing.

    If this doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, don’t do it, but if you want to know the best card up my sleeve, portfolio assessment, email me or flag me down in Chattanooga and we’ll chat.

      1. Jennifer, will you come to Tennessee and be in every class I teach and please say that at the beginning of every class? Pretty please? With a cherry on top. Because you’re too cute.

        1. Jennifer Sparano

          Aw shucks, I’m blushing. Unfortunately, I don’t have two pennies to rub together when it comes to funding free time, so travel is out for me. But I am looking forward to seeing how you do this portfolio thing. I had to use a text book series Ven Conmigo (Come With Me) and there was a section in the teacher’s guide for creating and maintaining portfolios. So, I don’t know if yours is more intricate or not since you say it takes a lot of time.

          But anyway, here in NJ, we have to do SGOs (student growth objectives) and somehow guess at and then show by the end of the year, that a certain amount of students have “grown” academically in our content area. I don’t know if you all have to do that as well. But this would be great for it.

    1. I am very interested in this! Not saying I will do it, as Tina has said, I am going to be doing a lot of new stuff next year. But what Grant has said about creating Equity in our schools and being Gatekeepers has really made an impact on how we are assessing in my dept.

  4. You are getting some interest in the portfolios, Claire. Maybe send send me an article for posting? Any efforts to chip away at robo-testing would be welcome by many of us here, I would think, because of the huge disconnect between how we actually teach and how we are forced to assess. Someone had to strike the first hammer blow on the Berlin Wall, as well, and look what happened there.

    1. Sure. I’ll write something up and I’ll scan some examples (with names crossed out) when I get to school Monday.

      I said there are no “short-cuts.” There are. You don’t have to do full-on portfolio assessment. It’s just if you call it a “portfolio” -you have to really commit to filling it up with documented growth.

      You could also just do this for one barometer student. That wouldn’t be overwhelming, but it could shut-up “data” haters.

      1. As a proud contestant for Laziest Teacher Worldwide, I applaud the sampling students strategy.
        In my school it would be good to sample a barometer student, a couple of students from culturally- and racially-diverse backgrounds, a gifted student, and a student receiving Special Education services. I would also throw in a couple of kids who are failing all their other classes except language. Those are my favorite kids to share about.

        1. Yeah I love those IEP meetings you talk about how their grade is great for like a second and spend the rest of the time talking about how proud you are of their growth. I had a meeting last month and it was so sad because I felt like the other teachers didn’t even know the kid. I had him in first and second year and could talk about his growth from day one, and afterwords a teacher asked me if I knew his family or was a long time friend and I said no just his Spanish teacher and they were dumbfounded as I left the meeting.

          1. Russ that makes me think of one meeting with a mom in DPS years ago. I still remember it because Marvin always had the biggest smile in the room like all the time when we did stories. He loved them and did quite well at them. So in the meeting the other teachers were like taking his inventory, he sucks at this, he’s getting better at this, maybe he’ll graduate, etc. and when it was my turn I got into a little spiel of how much of a force for good her boy is in French and mom (taking a break from her waitressing job) starts crying and I could see that her boy was her life and to hear a teacher praise him as a really strong student during one of those meetings (he was like 19 at the time and not graduated) just got to her – it’s not something she expected to hear – and she teared up. It’s those little meetings and small isolated events of a lifetime all added up together that make me realize that we are in this for more reasons than we think. Stories are about permission giving and helping kids who are branded because they are left handed and that’s the hand you use well never mind and about bringing the positive self esteem piece in where it seems so rare these days – that a kid with an IEP could actually be good at something.

            Related: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u-IY1g2LARs

          2. Yes Claire. And I should hastily add that I assessed Marvin in the way you described yesterday – what can they do/what do they bring to class vs. what can’t they do/in what ways do they not measure up? Marvin’s ready smile, his visible engagement in the story, his accuracy to yes/no (French 1) answers, his strong effort in reading although he read noticeably slower than others, those things were how I assessed him. If he only got 6 or 7 on a quiz I didn’t hold it against him because testing made him nervous. Did I do wrong?

          3. Quizzes can be “you got it wrong” gotcha moments. Or (like if you do them daily and everyone gets then 90% right) they can be a source of pride. The key here was that you “I didn’t hold it against him because testing made him nervous.”

            If it makes him nervous, could you talk to him about an alternate assignment? Or just don’t do the quiz. The purpose is to get and give feedback, not make kids nervous.

          4. Wow, all of the above is jibberish.

            What I wanted to say was that everything depends on how something is framed and the spirit with which students are “quizzed.”

          5. I keep waffling on quick quizzes. I’m not a fan, but I’m biased against the word “quiz” because every other day my kids come in at lunch crying because they’ve failed some other quiz. You all have 4%ers and straight A kids who aren’t emotionally scared by selected-response quizzes and tests. I don’t.

            I guess you should let your kids tell you how they feel about quizzes. I do like the idea of doing a portfolio for the one or two kids like Marvin, who feel “nervous.” Let him know he’ll be turning in a quick quiz (or not?) but he could do self-reflection on a portfolio you create as an alternate assessment.

            Ask Marvin. Don’t listen to me, or any assessment “expert.” Listen to your little trees.

          6. Claire. We all have different kids. Ones who dont eat enough, ones who are chronically absent, ones who are afraid that they will not make mom or dad happy with their quizzes or grades and some who are un safe to leave alone because they may hurt themselves. Kids are hurting all over.

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