Updated: May 28, 2019
I'm going to show you something lovely today. Something that made me smile so much when I saw it that I thought I'm gonna cry happy tears. Mind you, it's very easy to make me cry, I have a history of crying during TV commercials 😅
So ... I hate testing. I hate it for several reasons. I've always hated creating and, even more so, checking test. I don't usually procrastinate and checking tests puts the 'usually' in that statement. Another thing is that I don't believe that tests, in their traditional form, are the true representation of my students' knowledge. I much more prefer assessing their knowledge and skills during every lesson. An ongoing informal formative assessment is something that I try to implement in my everyday work. Third reason: I've come to know that testing might be actually detrimental to some students' performance. That's all because of the tiny almond-shaped parts of the brain called amygdalae which are responsible for the "fight of flight" reaction to stress. Amygdalae are activated when we start feeling stressed and they, kind of, "shut down" our prefrontal cortex. This in turn makes us perform badly because we need the prefrontal cortex working at its finest to make decisions and perform tasks. So in a nutshell, yeah ... I hate testing.
So what is my alternative? PROJECTS!! 😍 I love doing project work with my kids as a sum up of a unit or material that we've been working on for a longer time. Now, by project I don't mean making a poster in one lesson with some pictures and some words. That is not a project in my opinion. A project is something that student work on for a longish time, say two weeks or even a month; it's something that brings together all the little bits and pieces of what was studied; it's something that requires planning and smart time management; it's something that involves creating small pieces of work and putting them all together at the end to complete the final product. I believe that project have much greater educational value than tests and that they help students retain more knowledge than cramming a night before the test does. And more often than not they're simply a lot of fun.
My grade 5 kids were working a lot with food and cooking topics about a month ago. We practised many things: food vocabulary, countable and uncountable nouns, 'some' and 'any', 'a/the' difference in recipes, cooking vocabulary, recipe writing and so on. The last lesson we did together on that topic was a great cooking lesson. You can read about it here. After that lesson my students got their project assignments.
They had two to choose from because another thing that I try to practise as much as possible in my teaching is student autonomy:
The first project is to create a cook book with at least five different recipes. Each recipe needs to have ingredient, procedures, and a photo or an illustration. The whole book needs to have a cover and a title and can be hand written or typed according to your preferences.
The second project is to prepare and record a culinary programme 😀 This time you have to work with just one recipe but you have to record yourself preparing the dish while talking about what you're doing at each particular moment.
I must admit that the results went beyond my wildest dreams! I really underestimated my students' creativity! I am absolutely in love with their work and extremely proud to share some of it with you (with parents' permission of course: