This semester I decided to try a “mock” OPI with my students as a final assessment. I was so pleased with the process that I decided to share my reflections with you.
Let me reiterate, I was very pleased with the process. The results were messy, and a little disappointing to be honest. But I learned SO much about myself, my methods, my students, and where my focus should be, that one could say this was the single most revelatory assessment I have given all year.
1. I cannot be an “unsympathetic listener” to my own students. I do not possess the ability to pretend that I don’t understand them when they make a silly mistake like saying “cuchino” instead of “cocina.” I started off trying not to be “sympathetic,” but I learned quickly that it is mentally impossible for me. I also don’t have 30 minutes per students to spend on these assessments! For those reasons, plus the fact that I am not a fully certified interviewer, I call the assessment a “mock” OPI.
2. My students may be able to say random fun things like “let’s go on a date,” and order tapas, but can they say anything really useful? Students need to learn to talk about themselves and things that they like!
An OPI starts off just like any normal conversation, with the interviewer trying to get to know the interviewee in order to see what interests the person has, and thus, what the person can talk about in the L2. The OPI revolves around the person, their likes, interests, activities…it is all about individualization! If a student cannot perform this simple task, then there is not much to build upon, is there?
Why then, in Spanish 1, are we teaching them about trains and train travel? Tapas is a cool topic, and it’s fun to cover it as a comparison to the food these teens like to eat, but as a topic all by itself? Is that really useful right now? Perhaps someday these ideas will come in handy, but let’s wait until they can talk ALL about themselves, their daily routine, what they like to do in the summer, what their friends and families are like, what their homes are like, and so on and so forth, before we move onto those situations that won’t help them in a general conversation. And let’s make it personal, too. If you are talking about vacations and one student has never been snow skiing, and one student has never been to the beach, then don’t make them memorize the same vocabulary list! Let them learn the words that apply to their lives, and the learning will be deeper and longer-lasting.
3. The “mock” OPI is a great way to learn all about my students!
Next fall, I will administer the first mock OPI as soon as possible. I learned all sorts of fascinating information about my little angels while chatting with them in Spanish. The best way to teach your students is to know them deeply! What a great way to get to know them right of the bat; sit down, and have a chat. I think that our first mock OPI will be strictly for reflection (another blog post on this topic coming soon); our second will be for an assessment. Then we will repeat that process in the second semester. By videoing and posting to ePortfolios, the students, parents, and I will have some solid evidence for growth (or not!).
Why a mock OPI over some other kind of assessment?
Chances are, throughout the year, you give several integrated performance assessments. You probably have plenty of chances to see what your students have learned from your teaching. The mock OPI gave me a chance to see what the students have picked up alongside all of those units and lessons.
Also, whatever career your students end up with, if they want to use their 2nd language, they will mostly likely have to take an OPI. What a great way to introduce them to the process, to further prepare them for their future!
Have you had OPI training? If so, how have you incorporated the knowledge and the strategies in your classroom?