Too Much Testing Makes Αλέξανδρος a Dull Boy
Some of you may be curious to see how testing would work in a communicative classroom. On the one hand, I abhor testing and grades, and think that neither one of them belongs in a language class. If a class is taught communicatively, every class session is a test of sorts. Can the student understand what is being said to her? Can she respond appropriately? Can she follow instructions in the language? κτλ. The focus in such a situation is on acquiring the language. But, when you give formal tests on a regular basis, it puts the focus on memorization and test-taking skills, and raises the affective filter. Students begin looking for the minimum they have to learn, and start finding ways to work the system, as their earlier schooling has taught them to do so well.
The Need For Testing
On the other hand, educrats and beancounters are obsessed with assessment, so it’s a necessary evil when you’re in an academic institution where you actually have to have a syllabus and hand out grades at the end of the year. 😦 Also, many students seem to have a psychological need to take a written test and receive some tangible, quantifiable feedback. And, so we give quizzes and tests.
How I Test
I tend to make most of my quizzes (about once per week) short oral quizzes. For example, I’ll set out four cups and ask the students, πόσα ποτήρια ἔχω; They will need to write as the answer: τέσσαρα ποτήρια ἔχεις, or just τέσσαρα. For midterms and final exams, though, I give them a longer, written test. The goal by the end of the year is to have the entire test written in Greek and requiring Greek answers—no translation! By the middle of the first semester, which is where we are now, most of the instructions are still in English, but all the questions and answers are in Greek. Take a look here at the midterm exam that I gave on Thursday. So far, we’ve covered around 200 vocabulary items, and done units on greetings, names, speaking Greek, I am/you are, numbers and arithmetic, and several basic actions.
Let us know in the comments section below what you think about this test and testing in general in the communicative classroom.
Hi Daniel. I found your website through http://www.daveblackonline.com. I am a self study student of NTG and find your teaching approach very interesting. NTG is the fourth language I am learning, and one of my frustrations with it has been “not” being able to speak it. I was surprised that I was able to read and understand a significant part of your Greek midterm. The other languages I have been able to learn have been primarily through reading and speaking, the speaking is the fuel for the fire. I would like more information on this teaching and learning method you have, as I feel it would be greatly beneficial for myself. I am trying to incorporate koine greek words into my vocabulary between myself and my wife, who is also learning it. Thank you.
Thanks, Ryan, for your comment. Speaking to your wife is a great way to get more practice. Or, if you can get a friend who will commit to learning with you, and agree to meet for one hour each week in which only Greek would be spoken, you will get a lot of benefit. You’ll have to prepare quite a bit outside of that hour in order to be able to speak exclusively Greek during that time. Do like Mark Lightman (see his youtube videos) and give each other commands in Greek and have simple back-and-forth questions and answers. I’ll be posting a lot more ideas and resources on the blog in coming weeks that should help those who want to create more immersion-like environments.
Daniel, thanks for the reply. I will look forward to the coming posts on the topic. I live as a missionary in South America, so I don’t really have the option to meet with anyone else for Greek other than my wife. Also, most that I know who do know Greek seem content with where they are. Those who do not know it really don’t express much interest in knowing it or see the importance for knowing it. So, I am left relatively alone in my pursuit. I read the GNT daily, have an audio GNT, and that helps a lot, but my vocab is limited to the GNT as of right now.
εὐχαριστῶ σοι δείξαντι ἡμῖν τὴν δοκιμήν σου.
This is tremendously helpful, Daniel, for self learners, to see what you are doing in your class room. Thanks for sharing. Keep it up.
I’m just now grappling with this, how to assess my students. Your test gives me some ideas to put into use. Thanks.
ερωτημα εχω. See number 10… Πως δυναται τις ασπασαι ιππον; λεγοντι οτι Ναι; (neigh)