Teaching as a family affair

Hong Duc University in Thanh Hoa, Viet Nam

Thursday was test day for the students. In the big picture, it’s actually a test for me–a way to have a control against which they will compare the students at the end of my teaching term.

So I found a test in a book that I’ve yet to use here (in hopes of avoiding them knowing anything about it) and proceeded with listening and speaking tests.  The listening portion started off the test period with two student conversations, followed by two lectures (on human adaptation and Impressionism).

They proved to be fairly difficult with a woman speaker whose lilt and breathy voice made her a challenge to understand for many of the students. But they managed to get through it and onto the speaking portion of the test. And that’s where my kids came in to make their debuts.

I gave them a list of a half-dozen prompts, ranging from “What’s the most difficult sport and why?” to “Summarize how to prepare for a test,” that the kids would present to each student. Stuart, the technology-savvy teen, used the Memo application on his iPod to record each student’s response. Audrey used her iPod to time them (15 seconds to prepare, 45 seconds to speak). Together they managed to record 34 students spoken responses. And from there I am grading each for flow, content, pronunciation and amount of fillers (including those blessed um’s and uh’s). It was an ingenious method, if I do say so myself and allowed me to stay with the class, working on pronunciation and listening via a game of word Bingo.

I couldn’t have done it without the kids. In truth, I’m not sure I could do any of this without them.