Assessing the archiduchesse

archiduchesseSo how do you assess this? The year 9s had to recreate the daily routine of the archiduchesse. It revises what we have learnt, relies on the perfect tense , adjectives, reflexive verbs, activities, what we did last year when we made up a little mysterious person in French, includes lessons on Marie -Antoinette and the French revolution…and also engages them with technology and visual literacy. They could choose how they presented the daily routine of their archiduchesse and part of it was naming her and finding suitable accommodation for her. archiduchesse1We made the archiduchesse, we photographed her and we changed her visually. This archiduchesse is a real character who develops and becomes more colourful as the presentation progresses. I am marking it according to languages criteria. With the national curriculum I can say it has included things on personal and social capability, intercultural learning, ICT. I can tick the box on different national curriculum indicators for French. I was looking at this and was thinking, there has been an ingenious use of French and a carefully thought out plan for visual progression too. Where are those sorts of criteria? The presentation is 25 sentences and I am still just marking the French, acknowledging use of other skills and domains but not really assessing the real impact and achievement. 2015. We need a national discussion. What actually are we assessing now? Content? Which content? Skills? Which skills? How much it involves cross-curricula practices? We know which competencies and capabilities thanks to the good work by ACARA. This archiduchesse is not just about French. She is about communication in multiple modes and literacies.

The try and fly generation

I have been a very naughty teacher. My year 9s had a really mean teacher today but we sorted it out! I am looking forward to seeing how the story unfolds and I have a week to watch it progress now. Learning in action…for all of us. I accidentally set them 4 hours of electronic homework on their language learning system. I know it tells me how long it will take when I set homework on this syLanguage Perfect Homeworkstem. I was in a new section and I wanted to pick a variety of verbs. I had forgotten just how thorough this language learning system is. My year 9s are really on the ball with technology. They had no sooner come into class than I heard , “Oh, you have set us homework!” They check their emails.  Then I heard , “4 hours?” reverberating around the room.

“Mrs. Woods, have you really set us 4 hours homework?”

“Mrs. Woods!!”

So, I confessed. I explained I was in a new area of the system, that I wanted to help them learn their verb tenses and that I had picked some verbs so that they had some good practice and it wasn’t like usual…it had added up to 4 hours and I was a bit embarrassed. I believe very strongly in negotiating with students and working out reasonable goals with technology. The key word being reasonable. I could have cancelled that homework. I could have changed it but I decided it is a good lesson to learn how to manage ridiculous and unreasonable and still come out on top. We had a 5 minute discussion. I said the best thing they could do was show anyone that life could throw them something utterly unreasonable and they would do their best to make it work. I also told them that I was not expecting 4 hours of homework!

I gave them 30 minutes of class time and said I could then work out how I would manage my own learning curve and lack of attention to detail on the screen. 25 minutes into it I could bring up the class and what they had done. They had completed 4% and then I could see what each student had done and 3 of them had done nothing. One student had not been able to access her account. Not  on her iPad, not on the iPad I lent her and not with more expert help. Nothing was going to work so we struck a deal that she would do what she could at home and I would allow for the iPad problem. The two others really had done nothing. So this learning system tells me who is doing what. I can show that to the students. We can look at it and by now, they know how to advocate for themselves in terms of being assessed online. We had a plan. We had a week to give it our best shot, I would get the email with the results and we would talk about it. I have just checked their progress. We are up to 8%.year 9 French

These students born after 2000 are really up for a challenge. All you have to do is put in a negotiating safety net and some agreed rules and they will just fly…the try and fly generation.

How do you teach collaboration?


Genuine participation

How do you teach collaboration? I have been thinking about this because it is now very much part of high powered learning  institutions and work places. Group work and working together can often mean one or two people do the work and others just warm the seat. Even if you create an assessment which shows up lack of participation , it will  not alter the down side of group work. I have just tried group presentation and assessment with my junior students. These are good students but they find it hard to work in groups to collaborate and find it hard to listen to individual presentations in front of the class. They have laptops and iPads and theses devices have ascendency over anyone or anything. These students were born in 2000. They are different and they learn quite differently. I told them of my plan for our last presentation of the year, went away and drew up the assessment rubrics and brought them back to class. My Year 9s took this very seriously and came up with some valid adjustments to the form. Yesterday we had the group presentations and I could not have predicted how absorbed and committed they were to serious presentation to their group and bona fide assessment. We had chosen our own groups of 4 and we had an electronic form to fill out and upload to the learner management system. They all participated. Their use of technology to present to each other was inventive and a cut above how we normally use it. They could see having a laptop meant they could really get some power out of being someone who had important information to share. They also understood that the assessment of each other was a good way to help each other and then encourage each other to do even better next time because the form has some clear indicators of performance. To complete the assessment we did our feedback on Twiducate. I asked the following questions:

1. Did you enjoy researching the French Revolution? Would you recommend it for next Year 9s?
2. Did you think the assessment form allowed you to have a fair assessment?
3. Did you like peer assessment? Is it a good way to be assessed?
4. Do you think you were given a fair and reasonable hearing?
5. Would you prefer to present to a small group or a whole class?
6. Anything else?

These are typical of the responses:

1. Researching about the French Revolution was difficult as there is so much inaccurate information on the internet as well as biased information. But it was good to research information about France and how the French Revolution has shaped the country and also has had an impact on the world.
2. I think the assessment form was good but there should be a more variety of choices instead of three- 🙂 :/ 😦
3. Peer assessment was fantastic as it was more relaxed and you could stop and people could talk or ask questions about what they think. I enjoyed it much more than class assessment.
4. I think everyone was given a fair chance
5. I prefer presenting in front of a small group as it is more relaxed and enjoyable.

1. Yes the French Revolution was a fun topic to research because the French Revolution was an interesting part of history.
2. Yes I believe so.
3. Peer assessment is a good form of marking because the students get to mark based on what they like/don’t like when it is usually the teacher.
4. I believe I was marked fairly.
5. A small group would be better to present to because your are more confident with a smaller group of students.
6. No

With their input I now have an even better group assessment form for next year.

Let them do nothing

nothingImage via Nae’s Nest

For me it is a simple choice. My primary objective in a classroom is to teach French. If I can use technology to create an effective learning landscape I can and I will and I believe it really enhances and facilitates learning. I also believe it is essential to effective teaching in 2014. When solving a problem I put my primary objective first and then work in the technology. Getting my year 8s who have iPads to deliver assessment pieces to me has been an interesting challenge. We can connect to the board and I can assess work that way but it’s time consuming. I can assess work loaded up onto the learner management system we have but they can only upload image files so that limits what I can assess that way. They can bring their work to me on their iPads and I can see it on their iPads. That works well. It is one to one and they love doing it and they learn a lot. It is also time consuming. We have a project they need to get to me by the beginning of term and it was looking like it would come into me in various ways so I said we needed a plan and we would need to be more or less doing the same thing or it would get too tricky for me. It came down to OwnCloud and USBs as far as they were concerned. Our school has offered us the option of using OwnCloud this year.This is their first major project so I want the delivery to be easy for them. We had a vote. The OwnCloud option won by 3 votes so the decision was more or less split down the middle. I have set OwnCloud up on my iPad and just have to send out the invitations. My plan is to get as many of them as possible to deliver their work that way but give them the easy fall back position they seem to want of putting it on a USB and bringing it to me. This takes the pressure off. The Australian School of Business has run an article about some research from Georgia State University where giving people the option of doing nothing will actually create the possibility of getting them to do what you had in mind. This is my plan. I am hoping by having the acceptable soft option in place I’ll actually be able to get most students to upload their work to OwnCloud because I’ll be sending the invitation with the link which ought to make it easier for those who aren’t feeling safe and secure with this option. What the nothing option offers is an opportunity to feel confident you can complete the essential task without feeling threatened. That’s important with technology. People need to learn in their own way and in their own time but you can make it easier for them in different ways.

Mark with your smartphone

If you are thinking you are too small to make a difference – try getting into bed with a spider. Walter Duncan is a teacher who had a great idea and used technology to make it a reality. He crowd sourced support and funding so that he could make his idea a very innovative and practical reality for so many teachers. Much time can be spent in some subject areas grading quizzes and short answer questions. The Quick Key app is designed to take the strain away and to put our smart phones to very good use by lightening our load. I loved the video when I saw it. It is funny but also demonstrates just how mind numbing marking test answers / quizzes can be. I haven’t yet thought of a good use for it in French. I don’t like multiple choice answers because you then give wrong answers and I like to ensure I am keeping correct versions in front of learners. I had thought, though, I might be able to make aural comprehensions an easier and more effective task if I design some with multiple choice answers. Listening skills are vital in a language and I could well develop some quick and pertinent ones. Walter Duncan (@4_teachers) is very genuine and enthusiastic and will answer any questions you have in a helpful way. You can get more information on the Kickstarter project site. The free app is available here.

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