There is no need for language classrooms to follow a rote, one-size-fits-all approach to assessment in the digital 21st century. As a French teacher of the Millennium, I am so inspired by the many resources available to me to create new and innovative assignments. If we give students choices and empower them to make decisions about how they present their work, they will feel more invested in what they produce, and more often than not may surprise us with their creativity and skills. Here are a few assignments I’ve developed recently that have worked well:
- Video projects: as an alternative to the common composition, I allowed students to choose to do a video project that required both a written and an oral portion. Students made videos on the theme of how they would change the world for my French 202 class, and students in my French 396 class created videos that depicted an identity of place to go along with their reading of Modiano’s Rue des boutiques obscures, a novel in which each character’s identity seems to bleed into its surroundings.
- Website development for digital portfolio: for our French 232: The Other France course, I offered students the option of creating a website in lieu of a final paper. Only one of my eight students rose to the challenge this year, undoubtedly because of the extra effort involved in developing the website. Julia Marshall created a truly impressive site to communicate and illustrate her research about the May 1968 demonstrations and their legacy in modern France.
- Social media: for an extra credit assignment in French 201 and French 202, I asked students to post an inspirational or literary quote in French with its English translation somewhere on campus. Students then photographed the quote and posted it to the Agnes Scott French Facebook page.
- Interpreting a literary passage in another medium: since our French 396 class focused on identity, for our reading of Hélène Gestern’s 2011 novel Eux sur la photo, I asked students to choose one of the “portraits” described in the chapters and interpret it in another way. Students’ interpretations ranged greatly: one wrote a poem, another created a collage, yet another a mood board. Comparing them in class helped students understand how literature also has its own identity, and how each person’s reading of a novel varies because they focus on different details.