Over the past few months I have collaborated with members of my department to use technology as a support for the ongoing assessment cycles we use in our classes. With the upcoming changes to the FSL curriculum, there is already a heightened emphasis on the importance of having students partake in spontaneous French dialogue with their peers. In order to incorporate assessment for learning and assessment as learning in the classroom, we have been using voice recorders to document our students’ progress as they work toward a summative oral interaction. Although voice recorders seem almost trivial when we think about the broader spectrum of assistive technologies in today’s schools, they are extremely useful assessment tools.
When my Grade 9 French students were first introduced to the concept, some were hesitant to be recorded, and were even more hesitant when they learned they could not use notes during their dialogues. However, the students had a week to practice a series of questions they would be using during their French conversations. In order to incorporate les adjectifs, les passe-temps, and les verbes réfléchis, many of the questions were based on pieces of information you could expect to share when meeting a person for the first time. (Ex. Quel âge as-tu? Quelle sorte de personne est-tu? Quelles sont vos activités préférées?)
In order to add an element of spontaneity to these dialogues, the students did not find out their partners until the day of their presentations. However, to get the ball rolling, we organized a “speed-dating” session where the students practiced conversing with each member of the class. During this process, I was able to walk around and give students specific feedback that could be used to improve their interaction (one popular tool in our class was the use of the expression “Et toi?” to keep their conversations rolling).
To help those students who were terrified of presenting without notes, I made visual cues to remind them of questions they could ask their partner. For instance, a picture of Bart/Lisa Simpson was used to prompt students to ask the question “As-tu des soeurs ou des frères?” The students in the audience had the role of holding up these signs throughout the presentation. Furthermore, while the dialogues were being recorded, I assessed the comprehension skills of those in the audience. I instructed them to put their signs down, as soon as the corresponding question had been asked by one of the two presenters. This method got the entire class involved, and the voice recorder enabled me to monitor the entire class, instead of just the pair of presenters at the front.
When it came to providing descriptive feedback to the students, this was made easier, as I revisited the voice recordings. All in all, this learning task was a big success with my students. I look forward to having students self-assess the development of their Oral Communication skills as we continue to use this strategy throughout the semester.