All my senior finals are done! I’m really happy with how they turned out. They took a quizlet vocabulary test, did a reading, and gave a presentation.
Every year it seems as though I do something different, taking more or less time on my part to prepare. This time I have been exceptionally lazy, combining the quarters of vocabulary quizzes for the final one, and making the reading quizzes simple “translate this page.” One year I had all the advanced class come back for a reunion, having worked out their stories of what they’d done in the last ten years. They mingled and ate appetizers, and I walked around and listened to them tell their stories. Kids liked that a lot. Another year I had them make movies, but that got a little crazy the last few days, when the computer labs shut down early by surprise.
Thus these senior presentations were low-key, at least for me. I had a couple of shy kids who came in at lunch, but most of them did the presentations for their class. That made it possible for me to discuss what I really want from the rest of the kids: more talk on their part, few words on screen, only vocabulary that the rest of the class is going to understand, unless it’s a key word and is on their slide or poster.
The guidelines for the presentation were basically: “show me your stuff.” When they asked for more, I told them that they could have a visual of up to 12-20 slides, depending on their level, and they should talk about the pictures in a way that told a story. I count what I call verb clusters, giving them credit every time they use a new verb. “He was thinking about…” “He went to the store and …” “When he got there, the salesman helped him…” would count for four verb clusters. In two minutes, I expect a first-year kid to use 10-15 verb clusters (each specific verb counts only the first time) for a B. Each year adds 3-4 verb clusters. By year 3-4, they should stick to one tense to tell the story. As a sympathetic listener, I should understand everything for that B, and for an A in the comprehension area, I don’t need to be trying to understand. To get an A in level 3, the story has to make sense in an organized fashion and add dialogue, and level 4 has to add complex description. (In levels one and two, “He is handsome” counts as a verb cluster, even though it doesn’t use a verb in Russian. It is not description.) Year 5 must include opinion and subjunctive.
One first-year didn’t get the message about a visual, but she went on anyway, with a beautiful, fluent retell of the first two chapters of Poor Anna. She used 15 verb clusters that I counted, but I was sitting there with my mouth hanging and forgot to count when she first started.
My favorite for the week? The one where the kid told a story of how a young boy got to our school and was scared because he didn’t have any friends. He wasn’t very tall, and he was nervous. He decided to sign up for Russian, and when he walked in, another boy greeted him right away and told him his name. They always sat together and talked with each other. Slowly they met other kids in the room. They learned how to understand Russian. They shared their favorite songs. They read stories and told stories. They watched movies and read books. The two boys went out to eat lunch together and helped each other with homework on the weekends. They played basketball together. Sometimes they got in trouble in Russian class, but everyone liked them and the teacher always forgave them, so it wasn’t so bad. Now the boy is graduating, and he is happy, but he is also sad. He has a lot of friends in Russian class, and he will miss them.
He didn’t do any complex description, but the pictures of a kid who looked a lot like him and his sweet story did the trick. He got an A. If it works with Russian judges in the Olympiada and the Russian essay contest, it can work with me. He warmed my heart, and I’ll be thinking back to that story for a long time.