Writing finals

I’ve finished writing just two parts of two of the finals I’m going to give. One is the listening for the level one kids. I used on-line audio available from different sources of Russian speakers and put it into Quia on a multiple-choice quiz. The questions are in English. I’m working on a Mac to create my quizzes, and I have the lab reserved during finals. For others like me who don’t even know where to start on that, what I did was turn on Garage Band, choose “voice,” and then I recorded the little blip of conversation I wanted from an audio (I would start recording, then start the audio). From there, I shared the piece to iTunes (it’s a menu choice on Garage Band). Then I dragged that little snippet of recording to my desktop and uploaded it to Quia. The recordings were all under thirty seconds (I used four, with two women’s voices and two men’s voices, talking about stuff the kids have heard a lot this semester), so what took the longest was finding appropriate audio. Recording it took very little time, and sharing and dragging and uploading took under a minute total. The learning curve was lessened because someone’s comments on this blog inspired me to learn to upload sound bites to SmartBoard notebooks a few weeks ago. While I didn’t find I really needed to do that, the information has come in handy for this project.

EEEK!!! I sound like a tech-driven teacher!! Really, I’m not. I just HATE to grade papers, so I wanted a listening quiz that I wouldn’t have to grade by hand. Quia gives me an average score for each question, so I will be able to jettison individual questions if the group bombs them. That’s really hard for me to do with a paper and pen test (it just adds more time).

So now I’m on a search for good sound bites for my intermediate and advanced kids. I may have one of the native speakers come in (or use the one in my household…what an idea!) to record one of our stories with a twist. I still may add a storytelling listening exercise with pictures out of sinc and ask kids to put them in order of what they hear, but again, I’m going to put that on line, because I don’t want to be reading or hitting “play” on an audio over and over for the whole class. I’d rather they listen as many times as they personally need.

For my advanced kids, I was stressing over the reading. I finally took paragraphs from a newspaper article about the elections in Russia and wrote questions that required kids to find particular structures and define them in context. That’s what I’ve been asking them to do all semester when they’ve been reading, and while it sounds “not very rigorous” as I explain it, I want them to realize what they can figure out on their own. (Honestly, I also need to find out how many of them are truly doing this and not just going with the class flow.) For the writing, I will give them a choice between writing an first-person account of the demonstrations (lots of getting mad, pushing, throwing, falling, shouting, running, etc in those stories) and re-writing the story of the video (where there is also getting mad, throwing, falling…but there are also moments when good things happen in both stories). The speaking part of their story will be to tell either or both of those stories in groups, though they’ll be graded individually on the usual holistic scale (use of vocabulary, comprehensibility, flow of language, flow of story).

Listening is causing me a problem for them as with the intermediates, mostly because there are so many different levels and I am being lazy about creating questions aimed at each of the levels. Too much thinking involved.

I was about to say that I’ve never shared my trials of exam-writing publicly, but I have a feeling that I have done so every season since the blog began. I was trying for a final that followed Jenny’s or Kristy’s forms (Jenny’s being centered around one story, and Kristy’s being just way more attractive than I am doing).

The problem is first that I can’t seem to follow other wonderful examples really well. Secondly, it is that I’m not thinking so much about what my kids should be able to do and measuring whether they’re achieving that. Instead, I think about what I am pretty sure the kids in a given group can do and try to figure out a way to prove it to them. So I’m not teaching to standards, exactly. I’m doing it backwards.

Maybe I need to go back to the drawing board.
Speaking: easy.
Writing: easy, and the only part I’ll have to grade on my own. Rubrics make it easier.
Listening: a challenge.
Reading: gotta find a way to make it simple, especially for the two kids who haven’t acquired Cyrillic in level 1. I think I’ll write up a version of our story for them, hand it out on paper, and have the questions on line. That way, they can go into a quiet corner and we can read to them so they recognize everything and don’t panic. Then they can take the sheet of paper back to the computer and answer questions.

Back to work.


2 responses to “Writing finals

  1. I do not have to make tests for my school, but I am creating a complementary assessment piece for my materials and have been reviewing everything I learned in an assessment grad class I took on line five years ago.
    1. KIS – Keep it simple!
    2. Use tools or strategies the students are familiar with. i.e. storytelling, story-asking, etc writing with visual prompts, etc
    3. Include items for all skills: listening, reading, writing, speaking or for all standards: communications, interpretation, presentation.
    4. Be cohesive, keep a topical focus. I like to center the entire assessment on one story.
    5. Be selective and brief. A long test does not evaluate more.
    6. Go back to your original objectives, What is that you wanted them to acquire?
    (I am posting the bibliography from that class in the revised resources page of my website)


  2. This list is gold, Piedad. I’m falling down on #4.

    Thanks for the great reminders!

    Later…Here’s a storyboard for the Getting out of Bed video. I think I have to figure out how to collect documents that might be helpful to others in the way that Martina has done.


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