Thursday, 22 January 2015

Quel Mystère! Using Authentic Assessment Tasks to Enrich Language Learning

French teacher Emma Pickard discusses how authentic interactions can enrich and personalize language learning with an example from her Grade 7-8 Enriched French.

The Grade 7-8 Enriched French class solved a murder mystery!

In December, each student was given a specific character with their own secrets, motives and alibis. The assessment involved reading the character notes, writing journal entries expressing their character's thoughts and back story, and listening and speaking to exchange information and solve the mystery.

There are many benefits to this kind of experiential assessment. In a classroom situation, it isn't always easy to find authentic tasks for the students to complete. In order for a conversation to be considered "authentic," the two participants must genuinely need to exchange information (as opposed to them already knowing the outcome before they speak). Giving the students a mystery that needs to be solved means that they do not have all the information at the beginning of the activity and they have a vested interest in uncovering clues to find out who committed the crime.

An assessment of this type is also easy to personalize, as the teacher can assign individual characters, with more or less information, in order to meet the language needs of each student. For example, a student in need of extension can be given longer and more complicated clues to investigate, requiring them to complete more conversations in the same period of time. As the students were given their character information ahead of time, those in need of support could use references or discuss information with their teacher before the assessment.

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