After having taught for two weeks, our local teacher trainee decided that we should test the Grade 8 students knowledge of the new material.
The test was composed of some fairly classic features; listening gap fill which I recorded but due to technological challenges ended up reading aloud in class three times. The native teacher also read the passage once to account for the difference in accents and miscomprehension. A writing section in which the students had to compose a typical conversation between buyer and seller in a marketplace. Plus a ‘find and correct the errors’ exercise and a chart of countable and uncountable noun conventions to fill in. These sections were duly translated by the local teacher who monitored and gave further translation of the instructions where necessary.
After an hour and a half it was time for the children to hand over their tests. I was surprised that most had accepted their fate with very little in the way of moaning or complaining. The teacher had told them that they would watch a movie, so for them to instead have to sit a test seemed a little unfair. It would likely have produced mutiny in any UK classroom!
Most of the children scored 9 or 10 out of 14 in the listening, which I regarded as a success. The local teacher actually advocated more aggressive grading than I would have used. He did not want to give any points for a word with the ’s’ missing from the plural form. I personally would have given a half point because they had at least heard the correct word. However, in a test concerned with plural and singular, the local teacher did have a good point that the students should have been paying enough attention to the overall meaning of the passage to realize where they needed the plural even if they had not heard the final sound on the word. One of the children scored an impressive 14 /14 and one left me wondering if dyslexia is a thing here. My trainee did say that he had once watched a movie about the concept, but didn’t seem to associate it with his country. The child had the ‘g’ in 'enough' the wrong way round physically, as well as switching every ‘a’ and ‘r’ in ‘are.’ At home this would be enough for me to send him for further testing, but here he is simply labeled as slow.
In the writing section, there was an even spread of scores as I would suspect from any mixed ability class. The error correction section was the most well-completed. This slightly surprised me as many of my previous students have really struggled with this concept; often correcting the sentence to worse grammar than that with which we started. However, I think that error correction is an exercise that Myanmar students do in government schools, therefore they are familiar with the concept.
Overall, the unannounced test showed that many of the students had taken the information and were able to apply it. I dislike the surprise element of the test if I’m honest; I don’t think it’s all that fair. However, I can see the benefit as we wanted to see what the children had taken in, not what they were able to cram in 2 days before the prescribed test.
NEH Director of Studies and Teacher Trainer
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