Exams are in our everyday lives. For us as teachers, it is very stressful to know that our students have to take exams in certain periods of time and for our students as well because they have to prove that they have taken in everything they have been taught and show their progress.
So why do our students and we take exams anyway?
- to prove the skills we have acquired.
- to get our efforts recognized
- to be able to go to college / university.
- to get a certificate and be able to work (abroad and in our country as well)
- to get our brains stimulated
- to get feedback by our teacher
And that’s what the true meaning of the exams should be. But how is it in reality?
As a foreign language teacher, I don’t have only tests and progress exams to deal with, but also “language certificate exams”.
In fact in my country, Greece, I have to face a “certificate” mania to be more exact.
The language certification is blooming – there are numerous exams, certificates, levels, course that meet every student’s needs.
I am not saying that there shouldn’t be. But exams and certificates exist for a reason. We try to get this desired piece of paper for a reason. Not to have it framed on the wall.
Exams and certificates serve a purpose; and this purpose is to actually learn a language.
Learning a language means communication; writing, speaking, understanding.
These skills have to be cultivated in order to be able to use a language.
If you are able to do that, then you will be able to pass an exam as well. It doesn’t go the other way around, I am afraid.
I have seen so many people trying so hard, doing lots and lots of tests for the exams that they want to pass, but they are missing a point.
I have people come to me asking for lessons, and their exact words are “I want to get the B2 certificate” NOT “I want to learn English”.
There are people who got the C2 level certificate years ago and right now they cannot even use English to get around. And this is sad.
When we learn a language, we can never stop. We can never “finish” with English, German, French etc. It’s just not done. Language is a living organism. If we leave it, it leaves from us.
So what do we do to make our students and their parents, our client understand that we should not care about exams so much, but realize that we have to keep learning?
Exams exist go give us feedback for our progress.
Exam certificates are there to state the language level we are in in that specific time. It is not forever.
Exams are there to test us and our abilities.
Some ideas that I presented in the ToBELTA conference and TESOL Greece & Macedonia Thrace conventions in the previous years:
- Book and films analysis, learn how to make a book/film review, talk about their feelings towards the specific film or book make a poster presentation, a power point presentation, make a video about it, play scenes from the book / film in class
- Become a little reporter and write an article about a historical place urban legend in the city. Make videos and create a YouTube channel. (Make sure to get permission from parents if students are under age)
- Organize “movie nights / evenings” with students and have questionnaires prepared. Students can answer questions and write a story about the film as homework (How did they want the film to end? What would they change in the story? What will happen afterwards?
- Use poems to have students learn vocabulary. Haikus and cinquains give wonderful opportunities for students to describe words and have them play with vocabulary.
If we make students realize what’s important in learning and get them curious and interested in the language, they will surely succeed in their exams.
- TESOL Macedonia Trace Pecha Kucha evening 2014:
- ToBELTA conference 2015: We take exams personally: https://lancelot.adobeconnect.com/_a875817169/p5g371e2ff5/?launcher=false&fcsContent=true&pbMode=normal
- Keep on Teaching (blog) – Cinquain with students: http://theodorapap.blogspot.gr/2010/10/cinquain-creation.html
- Keep on Teaching (blog) – Haiku: http://theodorapap.blogspot.gr/2011/01/haiku.html
- Keep on Teaching (Blog) –Movie night:
- itdi issue on Failure: http://itdi.pro/blog/2016/03/26/failure/
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