One of my top two most widely-used ideas ever is abandoning homework in favor of a weekly “fluency” activity involving a whole lot of student choice. [Incidentally, the other is the YouTube commercial cloze quizzes – in 2.5 years about 60 teachers have joined this project.]
Basically, the concept is that instead of you assigning students to do homework you think they need, you let them choose how to involve themselves in the target language outside the classroom on a regular basis. My hope is that by allowing students to do what they want and by requiring the activity I’m both encouraging intrinsic motivation -the only kind that lasts past graduation – and building the habit of exploring the language.
A consistent question on this project is how to assess it. Personally, I teach advanced students who elected my class, so I don’t require a lot of “proof” that they actually did the activity. Other teachers in different situations do, asking for something like a parent signature or a printout. In my conference presentation on this topic, we bounced around a lot of ideas for assessment. For my AP students, I simply need a short report of 1) what they did 2) what they did well and 3) what they think they could improve on.
To give you an idea of what this looks like, here’s a sample from one of my students, a somewhat overachieving AP baseball player.
Este semana, yo mire televisión en Español por una hora. Mire el “Clasico Mundial”, y me gusta mucho porque el “Clásico Mundial” es torneo de béisbol. El partido fue entre Puerto Rico y el República Dominicana. Hice bien con entiendo las palabras en ESPN’s “bottomline”, pero yo no podia entender comentaristas. Las comentarista hablaron muy rápido! Aprendi palabras de beisbol – mi favorito fue “cuadrangular” (homerun). Cuadrangulares fueron muy cómico porque los comentaristas gritaron mucho! Este “actividad de fluidez” fue muy divertido!
I posted this because it shows the sheer power I’ve discovered in giving students choice over their language journey – motivation. I can’t give it. I can only find it. What are you doing to encourage your students’ intrinsic motivation?
Foto credit: Alan Esteva