March 6, 2009: We are into week 4 now in HISP 205, and things are beginning to settle into a bit of a cadence now. The class runs on two tracks: the in-class part where we decide upon topics (usually country based, and usually focusing on the countries they have visited or want to visit). We read articles, we see movies we share fotos. Everybody talks, or at least we try to get to that place where everybody talks.
The out-of-class part is where they plan their final project…which, as one student explained to me today isn’t a final but a forever project. Each student establishes a series of 3 personal linguistic goals that s/he wants to accomplish during this semester (one by the end of March, the next by the end of April, the final one might never be accomplished but goals 1 and 2 have helped to set the stage so work can be continued …after the class is over, outside of the classroom, and out there in the real world where this language lives and breathes).
Their final exam with me will have two parts:
A one page essay in Spanish that:
• reviews the goals accomplished,
• explains how we know the goals were met, and
• gives the grade that the student wishes to receive and an explanation as to WHY it should be given based on the work done
A 30 minute oral defense/conversation (in Spanish) that:
• will give an overview of the project
• will defend the grade chosen with concrete examples
There have been some looks of stunned wonderment to be sure. What? you don’t want me to synthesize all of Guatemalan History in a 3-5 page paper? You dont want a thesis statement or a bibliograph ? Huh? I get to chose my own goals in this class, determine how I will get to them and then how I know I have met them? What? I get to determine my own grade and then defend it? Huh?
It might seem like I am giving in, giving away all of the teacher-centric power, acquiescing to the students wants and needs. Indeed, i am putting their learning in their hands. I am asking them what they want to accomplish and how they want to get there. I am offering them my support, my encouragement and a swift kick in the rear if they fall behind. This is a different, and more necessary even, kind of teaching : teaching them that defining realistic goals is hard work and figuring out how to measure whether you realized them is even harder. I am asking them to be accountable for what they learn and how they are learning it. I am asking them to blog about their experiences so others can share in the successes and or your set backs…
In my mind…this is much more language learning (and even meta-learning) than any skit, recording, test, m/c test, video project, 7-10 page paper could ever provide.
So the out-of-class part is underway. The in-class part is still a but rough. Students still expect ME to kick them into gear when they are not speaking, no matter how often I tell them that no, this is your job and your responsibility to yourself as well as the others in the classroom. I feel as if we are getting there…but it’s slow.
If you are interested in seeing what I presented to them as a rubric, an outline, for the final project …I have attached a copy below. Please feel free to download and review it here. Give me feedback. If you do use it, let me know how it went and what I could do (what we could do) to make it an even better experience for all of our students the next time around.
I welcome your comments.