A little while back I wrote a post about my desire to transform our previous Year 12 English speaking task. You can read my original post here but a quick summation goes like this: Our speaking task was essentially a past HSC question that required students to memorise and ‘speak’ an essay. I felt that this task was ineffective in giving students a ‘voice’ – I wanted a task in which students were required to reflect on their developing appreciation of a text and their final assessment of it in regards to why it is (and has been) deemed a ‘valuable and significant’ text.
So I stumbled across the idea of a ‘pecha kucha’ – a type of presentation developed by Japanese architects. You can read more about them here.
I ultimately created an assessment task that I was really proud of, it made heaps of sense to me and I knew it would give my students the impetus to develop and demonstrate the skills they need to master for success in Module B: Critical Study of Texts. The problem was, they’d never seen a pecha kucha before so they were a little bamboozled by the whole thing. So how could I solve this problem without making them sit through some irrelevant Japanese architectural presentations? I had to do the task myself!
I think this is something that many teachers forget to do … or most likely are too afraid to do! It is terrifying to have to condense all you know about a text into 15 slides and a 3.15 mins speech. Even more terrifying knowing that your colleague is going to spring on you some impromptu questions to further test your knowledge of the text and how this appreciation has evolved over 7 weeks of study. I guess I was lucky because I got to select my text (I didn’t want to base my task on the students’ set text – this would advantage my class unfairly since my colleague is teaching Hamlet and I am teaching Orwell’s essays.) Really, I think when setting a task for our students we teachers need ask ourselves ‘Could I do this?’. Modelling for students does not stop at our behaviour in the classroom. Showing our students that we too are willing to complete the tasks they are given can be really inspiring. And, I’ll admit, could be a little intimidating if the teacher makes their task too good, haha. We must avoid egoism in our drive to help our students learn.
Here is our assessment task:
So I gave myself two days to prepare for the task … OK, honestly I stayed up until midnight the night before working on it and then got up at 5am the morning it was ‘due’ to complete it. I was really channeling my ‘inner HSC student’, lol. I couldn’t even eat lunch before the presentation – I was that nervous! My nervousness was compounded by my HT’s decision to video-tape my presentation (by my prac student!) so as not to disadvantage those students who were away that day. I think he was secretly enjoying torturing me! I had 40 Year 12 students watching me – and I wasn’t even that familiar with my speech! I got the kids to mark me using the marking criteria given to them, but in the end I was too chicken to ask them what mark I got. Let’s just say I’m giving myself an ‘A’.
Here are the completed pecha kucha slides:
And here is my completed ‘speech’:
It really challenged me to (re)think the task requirements and whether it is even possible to include all of the requested elements. I’ll definitely be asking for anonymous student feedback about this task via a surveymonkey survey. How else will I evaluate my own performance as a teacher?