Finals suck. Do this instead.

No-stress no-prep input based finals

It’s that time of year, and many of us are madly trying to create a final. I’ll be honest: I’ve SO bought into the idea of grading based on the most minimalistic set of expectations that I almost never bother with tests. Most of the time I learn all I need to know through a quick write. If it takes me more than 3 minutes to grade, it’s not going to get done. What are finals really for, anyway? If you’re working closely with your students using CI, then you already know if they’re progressing and learning.

We still have 2 weeks of school left and many teachers are starting a yearly review already. Since I started teaching with CI, I no longer have to do that. Not a single day is wasted (and I can’t stress the word wasted enough) covering what has already been covered. You know what? If they didn’t learn the (insert thing here) they’ve been learning since last year, a couple days more isn’t going to help!. Yes, for many subjects reviews are helpful, but honestly most teacher I see give a kid a final review, which they can use on the test, and which happens to be the exact same questions! Were you really testing their knowledge? This always just feels like a waste of kid’s time and opportunity to learn more.

Rant over. Heck, my kids are squeezing in another novel in these last 2 weeks. Or at least some of one. INPUT INPUT INPUT. That’s what we’re here to do. So, what are some things I do / you can do to that wont take you a ton of effort to create or grade? Can you design a final that gives the student 1 more day of input, or teaches them something about culture that you missed?

Nah bruh – this is the end of my blog for today. Seriously though, here are some things:

  1. For my Spanish 4 this year, I gave a copy of El Mundo en Tus Manos to my students. Surely you know about this super comprehensible newspaper already! Students had to read the articles and summarize them in English. Took about 20 minutes for them and 10 seconds for me. We went right back to talking about stuff in Spanish. A French version is also available.

  2. For my level 2s this last semester, I did a Cultural final. I took this idea from Leslie Davison and tailored it to work for me. I don’t get to teach nearly enough culture and so I created a list of 30 topics from Frida Kahlo to El Silbón to Selena. I put 3 down on a notecard and handed each student 1 card randomly. They got 5 minutes to choose a topic, 40 minutes to create a 10 slide presentation in English, and had to present to each other in groups of 3. Must last 3 minutes and not be bullet point driven. Grade was based on their scoring of each other and my grade of their google slides. This is an everybody wins final. It would be nice to do it in Spanish but they’re not capable of that deep thought about such diverse topics, and this is what works for me. Here is my version and the rubric I created. It’s nothing fancy.

  3. Pick a youtube clip. A short movie, commercial, music video, anything that is rich with content. Play it several times (or let the students watch on their own) and you can do any of a hundred things with it. More advanced students can write a story. Give them a list of academic vocabulary like MIENTRAS or además and ask them to use some of them a certain number of times. For less advanced, you can write a story and create questions that allow them to show what they know. Broad, open-ended questions like ¿Cómo es…?, etc. Something where they can show you what they’ve learned. Maybe create a new ending.

  4. Have them watch Extr@, Destinos, or a any range of videos (with dialogue) you think you might want to use next year (or didn’t get to use this year) and have them review each one in English. Make sure to include criteria for student interest. It could help you figure out if something is worth showing the next year, You could do something similar with podcasts for more advanced students. Call it a Very Narrow Listening final of sorts.

  5. Have students select a book from your FVR library that they have not read. Do a dual entry journal a la Bryce Hedstrom and grade on them on WHAT they did, not how MUCH they did. Give them 10 minutes to read through and switch books before they have to settle on one. Maybe they’ll get to a cliffhanger and have something to look forward to reading next year!

  6. While we’re on the subject of Bryce: Do you do Personal Especial? Why not have them take a picture of each student in the class with their phone and create a google slide presentation – one page per student (or a subset). Then you not only assess their knowledge but you have a pre-made FVR library of kids for next year!

There are so many things you can do, but I urge you to do something that is about INPUT of language or culture. There is no rule saying your final has to be 200 multiple choice questions. Unless there is – in which case you should just move down here and work for me!

Remember kiddies – pain is temporary but language acquisition is forever. As always, YMMV. Please comment with any ideas that you have, and I’ll add them to this list!

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