Exam week in Korea

5 12 2011

Last week, I had to grade the speaking tests for the second semester. Kids worked in pairs and memorized a dialog that is so easy, I could do it in Korean. They had to either role play a restaurant scene or one in a shoe store. Plain and simple, it is way below where they should be for having been taught English since early elementary school.

Before the test, I did a quick review of pronunciation on a few words- the th sound in “thirty three,” the zh sound in “measurement,” and just making an f sound instead of b or p. (In that dialog, lots of priends ate prench pries.) I also told them that gestures, expression, and intonation were also something that I would grade on. This is not new information to my kids. They all know that standing there with a poker face and talking like a robot gets you nowhere close to a top score. They’ve known that since week 1.

poker face. flat expression. flat voice.

I listened and scored something close to 360 students in 2 days. It was pretty easy to score them on a 5-10 scale. No, not 0, but 5. If you just stood there and did nothing, I had to give a 5. Total crap, because I was only allowed to give out so many of each score, just like last semester. If only there were a more accurate scoring system and a more accurate test in which to asses actual speaking abilities… hmm…

During testing of my class that I like to call the “Future Diplomats Club,” (they’re all really bright and many have lived abroad,) I was really disappointed in many of the girls. Usually, my girls are much more active and involved than the boys. In English, they’re also usually much more charismatic than they were on test day. They all acted like they had no clue what they were doing. We had even delayed the test 3 days so that they could have some extra time to prepare for the speaking test. So they should be up to par, right?


Anyway, after I finished with the class, I showed them their scores. One of my girls was absolutely livid that she got a 9 out of 10. She was furious. She demanded to my co-teacher that I change her test, because she “did better than her partner,” who also earned a 9. Her partner was a girl who was always active in my class, came to see me the day before for help with the test, and is generally a much better student in my class. Miss Dramatic here went ranting and raving about how I grade unfairly and blah blah blah. I told her she should have been more expressive and pronounce things better. Then I left.

My co-teacher was nervous, I could see it. I asked her why that whole thing just happened. Apparently Miss Dramatic is the student with the best GPA in her grade, and she has the mom to back it up. I told my co-teacher that if the Tiger Mom had anything to say, she could come talk to me, since I did the grading, and I didn’t plan on changing the score of the little hellion.

MD is still mad at me, but whatever. I haven’t heard from her mother, and neither has my co-teacher. Thank god!

Pretty accurate portrayal of Miss Dramatic can be found in the video below. Enjoy!

Minsu = Miss Dramatic

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