Monthly Archives: June 2014

What kind of noise does your final exam make?

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It’s that time of year when our library is buzzing with the sound of scantrons being graded. The vast majority of my colleagues still use multiple choice testing as their final exam. It’s been over 10 years since I have used that ancient machine. That being said, my finals are not always perfect and they certainly are not quick to grade. With 30 plus kids in a class, six classes, and grades due the next morning, I understand why a teacher may chose the scantron option.

Still determined there is a better way, I’m constantly searching for a summative assessment that demonstrates proficiency and won’t keep me in PowerSchool all night.

This year, based on my learning from COETAIL and a conversation with another DP Spanish teacher on the need for more culture, I came up with Pecha Kucha Cultura as our final oral assessment. Students gave a mini Pecha Kucha style talk on a topic related to culture from a Spanish- Speaking country.

The result: the sound of applause.

The goal: students would…

  • Explore a new cultural topic (historical figure, tradition, food, geographical feature, piece of art, etc.)
  • Learn about presenting Pechu Kucha style
  • Apply CRAP design principles to their presentation  (I recommend Design Secrets Revealed)
  • Interpret new information
  • Present new information in español to a small audience

To prep the lesson, I composed a list of cultural topics. I then put three topics on a card. I had 25 unique cards.

On the designated final day (we had a 2-hour block), students:

  1. Chose a card randomly.
  2. Investigated the three topics on the card and chose their favorite.
  3. Created a Pechu Kucha style presentation (10 slides,  20 seconds a slide, 3 minutes and 20 seconds in total) They had about 60 minutes.
  4. Presented their cultural topic to a small group of three or four students.
  5. Accepted applause and praise from their peers.

We didn’t have time to figure out how to set their presentations to advance automatically after 20 seconds so each group had a designated timer. That person advanced the slide every 20 seconds. It was endearing to see how timers supported their presenters by either cheating forward or holding their finger until after a thought was completed.


I’ve never seen my students so engaged in learning the last day of school.  Each of them worked hard on their Spanish, content and design.  And yes, as my colleague suggested, our World Language Department needs to focus more on Culture (Standards 2.1 and 2.2). In brainstorming cultural products and practices I realized how many of these cultural treasures were new to my class. I’ve already shared the list with my entire department and we have a plan for next year:) Students enjoyed the activity as well.  On my final course evaluation, a couple of comments included Pecha Kucha Cultura as one of the activities that helped them learn most this year.  I chose not to give the topics to my students until the last day.  I was unsure of this decision, but in the end, I think it was best as our kids are so slammed this time of year and the fact that they could not work on it the night before was probably a blessing for many of them. Plus, this assessment was more representative of spontaneous discourse than a memorized speech that would have happened if students had had time to prepare. The only change I would make in the future is possibly videoing the talks. Because they presented in groups I wasn’t able to hear each student’s complete talk or assess them “officially”. Maybe that’s OK. I would like, however, for them to have had a copy of their talk so I think recording it would have been good.

We stress the importance of teaching from bell-to-bell. I feel like Pecha Kucha Cultura allowed for learning up until my students physically walked (a few ran this year) out of my classroom for the year.

What were your final exams like this year? Any changes you would make?