I know I have been nowhere near as diligent about blogging as I had hoped – busy semester!! – but I recently attended a meeting of my county’s World Language Advisory Council and came away with a fabulous idea that I want to implement in my classroom as soon as possible. In the spirit of giving, I would like to share it all with you!
Assigning meaningful homework that is conducive to learning a foreign language has been the Achilles heel of many a World Language teacher – including us new teachers! We’re relatively limited to workbook exercises and/or worksheets and maybe the occasional presentation or project. Unfortunately, the vast majority of my high school students pursue one of the following options:
1. Google Translate
2. Copying another student’s homework in the hallway before class, during lunch, etc.
3. Filling in some completely rubbish answer that demonstrates no knowledge or skill whatsoever because they know I grade based on completion.
And this, my friends, is where The Choice Board comes into play. The credit for this concept goes to one of my colleagues in the Rochester School District, though she says she got the idea from someone else at a conference or professional development session.
Here is how it works: I divide up the assignments into three categories – vocabulary, grammar, and culture. The students can pick whatever assignments they would like to do, so long as they create a “tic, tac, toe” formation on their board – which means they do one assignment from each category. When they finish the assignment and show it to me, I stamp the box – but only if it is completed satisfactorily.
Below the choice board, I have a list of “can-do” statements that mirror the new Can-Do statements put forward by ACTFL, as a means to clearly identify a student’s level of proficiency in any of the categories (presentational, interpersonal, interpretive). The students, whenever they feel they are ready, must come to me to demonstrate that they are able to do the given task – there are four tasks for vocabulary, four tasks for grammar, two for culture and two tasks that are review from previous units. Again, when they demonstrate the task, I stamp the box. At the end of the unit, they turn in their choice boards to me and I assign the points based on how many items they have completed. You can determine whatever sort of grading system works best for you.
Since the due date isn’t until the very end of the unit, some teachers brought up the concern that students would procrastinate and then wind up swamped with French or Spanish class homework, to which my response was, well – too bad. Effective time management is a skill that students absolutely need to learn – usually all it takes is one bad experience, and the student won’t make that procrastination mistake again (we hope). Likewise, my colleague mentioned that if a student loses his or her choice board, he or she must re-do the activities, even if they had previously gotten them stamped for completion.
Creating the choice board itself was much less time consuming than I had initially thought it would be. Ideally, assessing student work via this method would take just as much time as checking in a worksheet and going over the answers in class, so no time is lost there. In fact, there may be time gained, as not all students will turn in their assignments on the same day – which means I can put more time towards in-class practice and providing my kids with the repetitions and comprehensible input they need to acquire the language!
If you have any questions or comments about what homework strategies work best in your classroom, leave a comment below!