I work in a high school that has allowed me to create a curriculum that interests me as long as it meets the curricular goals of the course; I’m not required to do what has always been done. This semester I jumped into the Spanish 5 course with the goal of trying as many ideas for integrating technology into the class as I can. Since I was as new to many of the tools as the students, we developed an atmosphere of collaboration that is best exemplified by the Ning that my student and I use to assign/present work, ask questions, and share resources. When it came to write the required Mid Year Exam, I was frustrated that the traditional exams that had been given in the past really did not reflect the assignments and learning that had gone on with my students this past semester.
With my principal’s permission, I launched an experimental Mid Year Exam with my Spanish 5 students. Instead of having students do the traditional listening, short answer writing, long essay and multiple choice exam, I designed a project-based Mid Year Exam. Students arrived at the computer lab on Thursday at the beginning of their normal class period. The students didn’t know anything about the central question, or their topics, until they walked into the lab. Upon arrival each one selected a topic out of a sombrero. They then had until the end of class the following day to answer a central question that I proposed to all the students: “Why does Sr. Springer need your product in his house?” In the hat were slips of paper for 2 dozen infomercial products such as Snuggies, ShamWows, PottyPatches and Ped Eggs. Students had to think of arguments for why I should purchase their products and write about it in Spanish. Students needed to do research using the investigation tools that we have practiced throughout the semester. Their final product pitches were uploaded to our class Ning. They were required to include pictures, videos, and an original advertisement that would sell the product to me.
The students were excited to learn something new and found the topics entertaining. The final results were quite funny. The kids found great images and videos to support their products. They uploaded everything to the Ning and organized their sales pitches in a way that critically tied the images and videos to my needs. The original advertisements ranged from pictures of a student with a product, to photoshopped images of a student with a product, to creative Glogs including a variety of media, to personally recorded video advertisements, and to original songs in Spanish.
Overall, their effort was outstanding. Students showed proficiency using our Ning, finding information about a topic and critically relating this subject to a central question. I had an absent student one day and a different student traveling on a family vacation another day, but both were able to complete their exams from their respective locations. Students worked collaboratively to help solve tech issues that came up in class and also at home. I was able to use the chat feature on my class Ning to help clarify directions for some students Thursday night from home.
The big goal for these high school seniors is to show them how they can use Spanish in different jobs in the future. Most, if not all, of my seniors will not go on to major in Spanish. I feel that if I can show them ways that they can use their Spanish, alongside the subjects they might major in, then perhaps they will have a better shot at getting a job in the future. I want to show them they can include Spanish in any subject that they’re interested in studying. My exam was designed to reflect the students’ ability to learn a new subject, critically think about that subject and then report on it in Spanish. I think that my exam succeeded in this goal and showed that the students are making good progress. How do other teachers feel about their exams in regards to 21st Century Skills?