Reflection, tweak, repeat.


I’ve been taking advantage of our “no school because of smoke” days to re-do my college syllabus for French 101.  I’ve had a few ideas in my head since the end of last semester that I’m finally processing.  I’ve taught this class at least seven semesters and never the same way twice.  While I haven’t found that teaching community college French is that different from teaching high school French, there are some significant considerations as I update and tweak.

  •  There ain’t no time for nothing.  I’m “supposed” to cover 15 lessons in 16 weeks.  And if I have a Monday/Wednesday day class, I always lose at least one day due to holidays.  Yes, I know the whole bit about the difference between “covering” and “mastering.”  (For more on that see my post on why I’m not ready to ditch my textbook.)  Nevertheless, the pacing is fast. I’ve reduced the number of lessons we cover and I’ve paired those down to what I feel is essential for communication.  I am constantly trying to come up with ways to maximize class time (more TL, duh) and increase authentic, engaging and meaningful activities outside of class.
  • In any class, I will have students who have never heard a word of French and students who have 2, 3 even AP level French at the high school.  I’ve been moving towards a proficiency grading model for several semesters, but this poses the question- if Novice High is the goal, the students who had French in high school could easily be at that level on day one.  I don’t want to give them the impression that they don’t have to do anything because I will call BS that for any one of them, their French would not improve sitting in a class and hearing and speaking more French, even if it isn’t at an advance level.
  • There are students for whom this is their first class back to school after 25 years.  Their affective filter is off the charts.  Tell a high school student to do something new and they are like OK, whatever and go back to their phone.  Tell the student back to school for the first time in 25 years the same thing and you can visually see the panic taking over.
  • A mix of students.  Some of these students were accepted at major universities, but couldn’t go because of financial reasons.  Some of them are just out of high school and will drop out of community college in a semester.  Some of them are only there until they get their financial aid.   (That one boggles me, but it’s true.  There’s a certain amount of attrition after financial aid is released.)  In the night classes, most of them have full time jobs and families.  And some of them are finally grown up and ready to learn.  I want to have a class that is mindful of the fact that sometimes French class isn’t the most important thing going on in their life, while respecting the students who are committed to being there every session.

Here’s what I’ve decided to do this semester:

Grading: 50% Proficiency – based on three assessments at the end of each unit.  I am comfortable with the percentage because then the student who had two years of high school French will have to work on writing (homework) and come to class in order to earn a passing grade.  At the end of the first unit I’m going to forego what would normally be a formal assessment and instead, make appointments with the students so we can talk about where they would score and what they could do to make it better.  I will give them personalized “tasks.”  For the student who had French before I will tell them what they need to do to go to the next level for them.  This is where I plan on combating the student with two years of high school French who insists on pronouncing the “s” in “est” and the -“ent” in “parlent.”

I’m also giving up quizzes.  They just weren’t worth the time it took up in class.  Instead I’m going to “grade” their homework.  (Well, let’s be clear, the textbook website will grade their homework.)  They can redo any homework exercise as many times as they want until they get 100%. It’s about getting better, right?  The time I gain back from quizzes, I’ll save for the appointments and more TPRS.

I’m going to use the new quiz feature in Google Forms to do an end of the the lesson informal assessment.  I’ve had students do a weekly reflection for a couple of semesters, asking them to rate their confidence on their ability to complete the can do statements for the lesson and then asking them to do something that I would give feedback on.  It’ll be a short, ungraded (not in the gradebook) assessment that will give me an idea of what we need to still work on and I’ll use the feedback option in the quiz to lead students to what they might need to review.  I’m going to continue to ask them to do something so I can give feedback.

Last semester I started working in some TPRS.  Or just S because I didn’t have college students stand up and do gestures.  I want to continue to do this and add more because of course, it’s effective.  Feedback I got last year was that some of the students were less comfortable (i.e. on the edge of panic) because they didn’t have anything to “review” for those lessons. This semester I’m going to use screencasting to record the stories and EdPuzzle for checking for understanding for the students who want more practice.

Google Forms for Quizzes

With the new changes in Google Forms, making quizzes is now even easier.  I’ve been using Google Forms exclusively for quizzes in my paperless classroom.  Here are some tips for making your Google Forms into Awesome Quizzes.  For more tips, watch my workflows on setting up a quiz from Google Forms.

Google Form Quizzes

Conversations with Colleagues: Flubaroo

These are the questions I get asked most frequently about Flubaroo- a Google Sheets Add-On that grades tests.  I’ve used Flubaroo as my only (automated) test grading option for more than a year.  If you haven’t already, watch the short video at for a quick over view of how Flubaroo works.

Note:  Now you can build quizzes directly in Google Forms!  It works a bit different than Flubaroo.  For a good comparison of the two, see this post from Control Alt Achieve.

Do I just have to do multiple choice questions?

Nope.  You can do any time of question you want.

Will it grade short answer questions?

No.  But, Flubaroo makes it really easy for you to hand grade by using the grade by hand option.  I frequently have students write a short paragraph as part of their quizzes and I was surprised at how fast I could “hand-grade” them using Flubaroo.  Flubaroo even has a new option that will allow you to open up a window and add comments.  (Oh Flubaroo, where were you with this option six months ago?)

How do students get their answers?

The easiest way is to email students their answers.  You can choose to include the correct answer with their score or not.  Good tip- if you automatically collect students’ usernames in your Google Form then at the end of the quiz students will see the option to send themselves a copy of their submission which, in the case of a quiz you probably don’t want to have first period send themselves a copy to show third period during second period.  Get past this by having a mandatory question that asks students for their email.  This is a good option anyways, because maybe you don’t have email turned on in your domain or maybe students want their answers sent somewhere else.

Will it automagically put the grades in my gradebook?

Uh, non.  You still have to do that yourself, but use the Tab Resize Extension and open a separate window to do it quickly.

How do I write the key?

The “key” is made by you taking the test in Forms and naming it Answer Key.  I highly recommend you doing this first, so the answer key is in the second row of the Spreadsheet and so that you can check if there are any “issues” with the test.  In the First Name box write: Answer and in the Last Name box write: Key.

How can I keep students from cheating?

You can’t completely of course, but here are some steps you can take make it more difficult:

  • In the form itself, shuffle the question order and the multiple choice order.  To do this
  • Turn the test on and off by clicking “Accepting responses” only when you are ready for students to take the test.  As soon as the test is done, click “Not accepting responses.”  To do this click on “responses” and then the toggle


  • Make a question for a “code.”  This will keep students from logging on remotely (from home or another classroom) and taking the test.  This is an issue if you share the link in Google Classroom because students will have it not matter where they are.  Only say the code out loud and change it as soon as you say it.  (Students can be sneaky.)  To do this make a new short answer question and click on the toggle to require it.  Then click on the three dots and choose data validation.

Then choose Number/Equal to and type in the number that’s the “code” and you can edit your custom error text.  I make mine say “Sorry.  Try again.”


So basically now a student has to enter the number 1642 in order to proceed.  As soon as everyone has gotten into the test, I will change the number to 1600 (or anything) just in case someone though they might be sneaky and text the number to someone not in class.

Can students take the test after I’ve graded it?

Yes.  Remember, you’ll have to re-open it or click “accepting responses” and make a new number code (and turn it off again!)  Flubaroo now has a new option that will grade only the latest submissions since the last time you graded instead of re-grading everything.

See my blog post for more tips on building Google Form Quizzes.