| Coordinator of Instructional Technology for Clovis Municipal Schools, Cindy Kleyn-Kennedy writes an education column, published weekly by the Eastern New Mexico News and featured on www.clovis-schools.org.
TESTING IN FRENCH CLASS
by Cindy Kleyn-Kennedy
May 19, 2017
While there are still traditional end of year assessments, many teachers incorporate unusual and creative ways to measure student learning.
For example, Jennifer Kelley, veteran French teacher at Clovis High School, turned her classroom into a French restaurant for her students’ final exam. As Kelley explained: “All French I classes participate. The classroom is set up as a café, using student desks as tables, complete with tablecloths, faux candles, and flowers.”
Invited to drop by during this “final,” I entered the cozy, softly lit “café” – a regular classroom only the day before. I noticed how the students had turned their desks to face each other, forming perfect tables. Each contained place settings and flowers jauntily poking their blooms from empty Perrier bottles, all to the charming strains of French accordion music. On the long counter running the length of the back wall was a lavish buffet of French goodies, with all sorts of exotic dishes. The “ambience” was set.
Kelley continued, “Students have studied French food customs, café server and client vocabulary, and about French food in preparation for the test. Prior to this day, students had also prepared individual French menus as part of their assessment, and these alone were amazing. Containing French food items and descriptions, many students had also decorated their menus elaborately, with feathers and ribbons; one menu even contained tiny, blinking LED lights woven through a three-dimensional Eiffel Tower design.
The assessment portion included all students taking turns, acting as both customer and server as they rotated around the room. The one commonality was that all students had to converse only in French. “Madame” Kelley circulated throughout the room, spontaneously initiating conversations in French, prompting, as needed.
Learning a second language involves so much more than simply learning how to say words in a different way. Language is packed full of cultural significance, representing age-old traditions and nuances that are not available through a grammar book. Kelley has clearly mastered the art of imparting the cultural literacy component in a memorable and engaging manner students will not likely forget. What a gift, to inspire students to stretch out of their comfort zone to communicate in a whole new way.
Nelson Mandela noted, “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his own language, that goes to his heart.”