Disecting… the prompt, that is

I have been grading like a banshee this past week, trying to get all of my 2H interpersonal speaking exams graded before my level 3 students take theirs tomorrow.  What became abundantly clear through norming and my hours of grading is that these students do not understand how to disect a prompt.  They completely ignored multiple aspects that to the teacher appeared to be explicitly laid out in bullet form.  Out of 87 honors students, only 8 completed the entire task requirements. 8!!!!

Recognizing a problem and an accidental teacher failure, today I decided to experiment with my level 3 students.  We began class by doing a partner speaking practice.  I put the prompt on the screen, gave them 2 minutes to think, and then off they went.  I recorded them on the lab for 5 minutes.  After 5 minutes I stopped them and handed out a sheet with a checklist version of the same prompt.  I then had them listen to their recording in order to check off the components they completed.  Guess what.  The majority admitted to not completing all aspects of the task–many barely completed half of what the prompt required.  Guess what else.  Only 4 students said a teacher had ever taught them how to disect a prompt.

Can you guess what we did next?  That’s right, I put another practice prompt up and had them take it apart and reword it into a checklist.  Then we did the practice.  The students were much more successful the second time around.

So why hasn’t this been an issue before?  Sure, I’ve had students not complete all aspects of a task, but never to such an overwhelming degree.  Why is that?  Well, the answer is simple, our students are requiring more rigor, and we are delivering, but we unintentionally have not properly helped them figure out what tools they need to use to be successful.  We’ve given them tools, they just didn’t realize which ones were necessary.

This is fascinating to watch.  I have watched our performance-based curriculum evolve so much over the last 8 years.  This evolution has been based on research and on the evolution of the students we have in the classroom.  What a great time to be a teacher in a world language classroom–or as we call it in Plano, a LOTE classroom. 🙂

 

Credit: I did learn how to break down an English prompt at the AVID Summer Institute and intended to create a lesson before our first assessment.  Oops!  Wish I hadn’t forgotten until now!

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