Sometimes I get bogged down in "covering material x" and I lose sight of what it is I'm supposed to be doing - teaching the beautiful Spanish language. I'm betting that there are people out there that know what I mean. It's not about covering the present perfect subjunctive and 5A vocabulary so much as it is giving students meaningful practice so that they can communicate in the language.
It occurred to me late last week that I need to do some more oral practice with my students and, at least in my case, to get that to happen they have to know that there is going to be an assessment to follow. I decided that an oral quiz was in order.
I don't know how you do oral quizzes but I've always struggled with them. Ultimately it would be great if I had coverage so that I could put a table out in the hall and meet with one student at a time in relative privacy and peace. I don't have coverage and I hate to impose on my colleagues, so I have to come up with another approach. Our French teacher has the students record their voices using an app on their iPads - and this is good. But that measures pronunciation, not communication or fluency - because students will write themselves a script and just read it. So what to do?
I give the class an activity to work on and I encourage them to work together with their friends completing it. (Yesterday it happened to be a whoppin' big vocabulary crossword puzzles with clues in Spanish. I made it myself and I'm quite proud of it actually.) This gets them thinking in Spanish about the vocabulary and, as they work the volume in the room goes up a little. Then I turn on the radio in the background and the volume in the room goes up a little more. While all of that is going on, I begin to call students to my desk one at a time to do the oral quiz. We get our one-on-one time and, with the white noise and the distraction of the group work going on in the background, it's surprisingly private. I try to put students at ease by making friendly small talk before we get started and by offering a piece of candy from the candy bin when they are finished.
I think there is a special power in oral quizzes, but not for the communicative and linguistic reasons you might be thinking. I honestly think any discipline could benefit from the one-on-one oral quiz format because I notice that when I do this the motivation of my students goes way up. I theorize that it is due to the face-to-face nature of the quiz. It is one thing to fail a quiz on paper in an impersonal way, but it is quite another to fail a quiz up close and personal while looking your teacher in the face.
My 4th period were so motivated that they formed little study groups and gave the oral prompts to one another over and over again to support and help each other practice. They also did an outstanding job on the quiz, so clearly they are on to something.
Giveaway Update: I've had several comments from people who are interested in receiving a free copy of my Earth Day Communication lesson. But there are two (actually three, if you want to be technical) things you must do to win the free lesson plan: 1) Subscribe to the blog, 2) Leave me a comment saying you want a copy before April 22 and 3) Send me an email address so I can send you the download link. I'm not going to keep your email on file, share it with anyone, or send you any unwanted email whatsoever. That is my solemn promise. I just need a place to send the link so you can download it.
So far only one person has done this, so I still have at least four copies to give away.
Hasta pronto amigos,