Part of teaching is assessment. Colleges offer entire courses on ways to assess students of English. It is easy, however, for teachers to get stuck in a rut of assessment.
If you are looking for a new way to assess your students or just want a reminder of some oldies but goodies, read on for a look at ten of the most popular ways to assess ESL students.
How to Assess Your Students: Top 10 Ways
You can do a one on one interview with each of your students to get a good idea of their listening and speaking abilities. You can schedule these types of interviews during class (perhaps take each student into the hall to have a private discussion while the rest of the class does seat work) or schedule with students individually. Asking questions that use grammatical structures and vocabulary that your class has studied will help you know exactly what each student has grasped. Do not penalize a student for not knowing content if he or she can compose grammatically and situationally correct statements or questions in response to your questions.
A presentation in class assesses a different aspect of spoken language. When you ask a student to speak in front of the class, he is able to prepare and practice what he wants to say. He can also research information on his topic. In this case, the grade you give your student should be based on both content and presentation.
Another way to assess your students’ speaking abilities is by having them perform role-plays in front of the class. By giving them a situation and roles to play, you can see how creatively your students are able to use language with one another. Be listening for content and grammar as with any oral assessment, but you can also be attuned to how your students are making creative use of their language to communicate with one another. Even if they show grammatical imperfection, are your students able to understand each other? Are they able to use the language skills they possess to get their point across to their partner? These are important skills and ones you should foster in your students.
A cloze exam is an atypical way to test the understanding your students have of grammar. To write a cloze exam, write an original paragraph or take one that your students have used in their studies. Then replace every fifth or sixth word with a blank. Ask your students to fill in the blanks with words they think would be most logical and grammatical. You will see a variety of answers among your students, but as long as the answers are grammatically and logically correct, the student should receive full credit.
Fill in the Blank
A fill in the blank test may seem similar to a cloze exam, but this type of test is used to test a specific grammatical structure or set of vocabulary. You can write individual sentences or an entire paragraph for your students, but it is probably best to provide a word bank in either case. You may choose to supply more words than will be necessary to fill in the blanks to make the test more challenging. This will force your students to choose the best answers rather than matching ten words with ten blanks.
Having your students give you a writing sample is another good way to assess their proficiency with grammar. If you have them write something for homework, you run the risk that someone other than your student will do the writing. Often friends or native speakers will correct a nonnative speaker’s writing with the intention of helping, but this will not give you an accurate picture of your student’s writing. To avoid this, have your students do a periodic in class writing. Give them an adequate amount of time to write about a subject that you assign. You will then get an accurate look at their grammatical and writing proficiency. Follow up your assessment with some mini-lessons on common grammatical pitfalls that the class exhibited.
To expand the material you base your students’ grades on, why not assign each person to assemble a portfolio. A portfolio is a collection of work samples that cover several aspects of the assignments your students have completed. This is an especially effective way to assess your students if you have the same class for reading, writing, listening, speaking and grammar. Ask each student to compile a collection of ten works for you to grade. You can include specific assignments on the list, but you can also give a category and ask your students to present their best work. Ask for a grammar homework assignment, a writing sample and a vocabulary exercise, for example. Your students can then choose the work that they are most proud of. They may feel more encouraged to be graded on their strengths rather than their weaknesses.
You do not have to spend as much of your class time assessing your students as was often necessary in the past. With the extensive collection of online resources for ESL students, you can require your students to spend time at home or in a language lab period working on exercises and quizzes available online. Have your students print out their final scores or e-mail them to you. In so doing, your students will still get feedback on their work and knowledge, but you will not have to give up valuable class time for it to happen.
Multiple Choice Exam
Sometimes the classics are often the way to go when assessing your students. If you choose to give a multiple-choice exam, keep these pointers in mind when writing the questions. Make sure all the answers are grammatically correct. Your students should not be able to eliminate an answer based on grammar alone (unless, of course, that is what you are trying to test). Also, try to keep all the answer choices around the same length. If you choose to include the options “all of the above” or “none of the above”, make sure they are options for additional questions. If you keep these tips in mind when you write your multiple-choice quiz, you will get better results from your students.
The true/false quiz is also a classic that is used by most teachers. When you use this type of test, do not give trick questions that focus on minor details. Even more important, have your students correct the questions that they say are false. If they are making the corrections rather than just identifying the mistakes, you will make sure they are answering from what they know rather than making lucky guesses. You can assign one point to each answer and another point to each correction on the test.
There are many other ways you may find valuable in assessing your students, and they will each be useful in the classroom.
The more variety you use in assessing your students, the better your picture will be of their overall language skills.
Know some other great ways to test? Please share them in the comments below!