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End of Semester projects

Reading time: <3 min

For whatever reason, the spring semester ended early this year - or at least it seems that way. And, just like I have every semester for the past two years, I assigned a project; one that students can relate what we've studied in class all semester with what they are studying at the university (or something else related to their lives). They must create a product (digital or actual) that will aid in their presentation (1-2 minutes in Spanish).

Objective 1: To allow them to make the connection between my course and others and to show that language is a vehicle.

Objective 2: To provide an opportunity to try out a new program/app or otherwise get other skills under their belts.

Objective 3: To give them a chance to present.

The above product allowed the two students to recap what we learned about Venezuela and the country's politics and social structure through reading La vida es complicada.

Number three seems to be the most necessary - especially post-pandemic.

Though I made it clear over and over that the stakes were low, the anticipation of having to present (even though I don't evaluate their speaking skills, nor have a rubric), nearly cripples some students. There seems to be something about presenting that ramps up students' anxiety.

So, what's the remedy?

Do it more. Make it something that you do on the regular and without evaluation. (Remember: you don't HAVE to evaluate everything students produce). Or, make it so that the project and accompanying presentation is a low-hanging fruit grade. For my students, they have to show up, show their product and present.

We watched the documentary, "Once Upon a Time in Venezuela," and this student created a lesson for middle schoolers (she is studying education) that related the content in the film to what her father does for work here in Connecticut.

Students were thrilled they only had to speak 1-2 minutes. MOST students prattled on for more than 5! They had a lot to say!

A couple of students wanted to make note cards. You know what? I let them. (Because I knew they wouldn't need them.)

They started with the cards and were discombobulated by the cards and checking in with the audience... but when I asked a pointed question, they took off in Spanish telling me all that they knew.

This student is studying health science and wanted to talk about the effects of alcohol on the body. One of the characters in the book, La vida es complicada, has a substance use disorder.

These two students created a new currency for Venezuela and were able to talk about the finances in Spanish!

Remember: low-stakes.

More than in semesters past, I was bowled over this semester by what students created AND what they wanted to talk about, and I told them so. In fact, I sent this message via the announcements (after checking that I used the term correctly):

(I may teach at the college level, but I will never be mistaken for an academic!)

If you want to try this project (product & presentation) this year, use these visuals and/or the ones in this blog post. Students may balk at the limited instructions, but that is good for them. You too. No prep AND a lesson on letting go of a bit of that teacher control.

If you do take this on, let me know how it works out!

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