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March 10, 2007

Finally, spring break has begun. It began for me a few hours ago. I will just hang around since the children are in school, and my wife is working.

Nancy’s comment about using podcasts for TOEFL is a good one, but we don’t use the TOEFL. I have thought about finding a reading of a story that I could use in conjunction with my reading class, but then I think of all the copyright issues. I will just have to let the idea simmer for a while and see if some creative solution occurs, or I stumble across one.

I tried something with my more advanced writing class. For their first out-of-class paragraph writing assignment, which was a descriptive paragraph, I instructed them to search a topic on and choose four photos around one dominant impression. I further instructed them to write a paragraph or use PowerPoint and write sentences in the notes section using the photos as the basis for their descriptions. I was pleased that the descriptions included more detail than I have been used to getting for this type of writing assignment. Now if I could only find a way to get the grammar errors out! I am letting them revise until the paragraph passes because I was uncomfortable experimenting with them.

Next time I do the activity, I will incorporate it more with the book we use and structure the writing assignment more since I kind of gave them free reign and didn’t always get what I was hoping to. Not, I should add, that I always get what I hope to with other types of assignments.

With my communication class, I have worked up a couple of lessons based on TED talks. While the lectures are not classroom lectures, they provide some challenging ideas that I hope the students will grapple with. Plus, I think such challenges show respect for the students’ intelligence though I am not sure my tests always do.

I write that about tests because my low intermediate class did poorly on the vocabulary test I wrote. I am using a new reading and vocabulary book for the second semester and wrote vocabulary tests for it. The tests have proven difficult, even moreso this semester. While I had a couple of people do very well, and a couple do okay, too many did very poorly on the test. I am going to re-evaluate the next test. I fear the tests don’t test what they should, students’ progress in learning the vocabulary, because the items assume a more sophisticated knowledge of the tested vocabulary than is realistic to expect at their stages of learning.

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