Thursday, May 9, 2013

Premios de Oro en el Examen Nacional

My school has all the foreign language teachers give the national exams every year.  I'm not exactly sure why, to be honest.  The material covered by the National Spanish Exam is very different than what we cover in class.  The grammar is right on target with what I teach from year to year but the vocabulary is unrelated to that which we cover in our textbook and far more extensive.  For example, I do not cover astronomical terms or celestial bodies with my Spanish III students but that material is on the test.  Nor do I discuss world religions, philosophy, and dogma with my Spanish IV students, but again that material is on the test.

It becomes a challenge every year to decide what to include and what to exclude from the list of NSE vocabulary.  I want to focus on pragmatic vocabulary to what extent I can and I certainly do not want to overwhelm my students.  So, do I include a lesson on astronomy or not?  It's the sort of question I have to repeatedly ask myself as I am lesson planning.

For years I've had students do well on the exam for the most part.  But, as the vocabulary gets more and more distant and my textbook series diverges from the NSE vocabulary from year to year, my students in the upper levels score lower on the tests than my students in the lower levels.

And in all my seven years giving this test, I've never had a student score in the top 5% of the nation and get a gold medal . . . until this year.  This year I had, not one, but TWO students score gold medals - both of them in Spanish III.  I also had a student get a silver medal, several students got bronze medals and there was a whole slew of honorable mentions.  I'm so proud of them I could just burst, honestly.

I think I'll make a bulletin board to celebrate them.  I think it is important to showcase academic achievements because not everyone is a star athlete or a brilliant singer.  And schools have a way of putting the spotlight on athletic and arts achievements while sometimes overlooking academic ones.  Probably because sports programs and band competitions are competitive and those students come home with medals whereas the students who are academic achievers tend not to bring home trophies and the like.  I already asked our local PTA for money for a pizza and ice cream party for next year but a bulletin board and an awards ceremony will be just the thing to make it a real celebration of excellence.

Hasta pronto,



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