I’ve been meaning to blog about this little gem my students created for some time but a combination of forgetfulness and business (as in being busy, not the other, more profitable kind of business) has prevented me from doing it any earlier.
Last Easter we took our boys to Madrid for a week in which we combined a language course with cultural visits and evening entertainment, all of which our students really enjoyed. We felt the boys learnt a great deal from the experience and gained a greater understanding, not only of the Spanish language, but also of Spanish culture and customs.
I thought it would be a great shame not to create a permanent record of their experiences, so I decided to set them a video task, the result of which you can see above, which I could then publish in our subject blog.
Taking a step back
I took a hands off approach from the outset. I let them do the recording how, when and where they wished. My only instructions to them were:
- Take our department’s DV camera
- Talk in Spanish and only Spanish about your experiences in Spain
- Return the DV camera to me by the end of 3rd break tomorrow
Why did I choose to take a step back?
I have found from previous experience that if the teacher is present and makes the students talk in the target language, the results can often appear contrived and a little forced.
This time I decided to trust my students with the camera and see what they came up with. They did not disappoint and produced wonderfully long pieces of complex Spanish language about their experiences in Madrid.
Was the result better than it would have been otherwise?
Yes, definitely. I was very pleasantly surprised, not only about the complexity and accuracy of their Spanish, but also about the way they had used their imagination and creativity to come up with what to say as well as the shape the final product was going to take. It was also their idea to use Animoto for the the opening and closing credits and the music you can hear is also written and performed by the boys themselves.
Although some of them were clearly reading from a script, it is obvious from the video that they didn’t feel under pressure to perform, as they might have been in a classroom or if the teacher would have made them say things for the camera. Their Spanish actually sounds authentic and fluent.
In terms of assessing their ability to express themselves in Spanish, this exercise has really been an eye opener: not only can my students speak Spanish, but they can do it better when I’m not there! It all makes you wonder whether a formal oral examination is the best way to assess their ability to communicate in the target language, doesn’t it?
My relinquishing control of the task allowed my pupils to demonstrate responsibility and creativity and gave them confidence and motivation to speak in Spanish.
Have you had similar experiences when pupils have performed better in a less formal form of assessment?