Getting ready to assess

This is the first installment in a series of posts on Assessments in the Communicative and Comprehension based classroom. This post covers considerations for setting-up the grade book and for selecting an assessments, and the three types of assessments available to us.

1. Considerations for setting-up my grade book

  • I have been using ACTFL communication modes for years to set-up my grade book. If everything I do in the classroom is supposed to foster my student’s proficiency, then my grade book should reflect that.
  • Setting-up my grade book so that it reflects students’ academic performance, not behavior (homework compliance, participation, etc.) is important to my teaching philosophy. While I have not been able to fully adopt Standard Based Grading in any school I have worked at, I have become fairly adept at making it work within a traditional grading framework. I provide feed-back on behavior outside of the grade book.
  • Note, at the time of this post, in my current school, our World Language department requires a 10% semester exam grade.

2. Criteria for selecting my assessments 

At this stage of my journey, I want my assessments to:

  • be proficiency-oriented (i.e. we are using authentic language “skills” on the assessment such as reading a passage, listening to a story or narrative, or having a conversation)
  • provide helpful data about the student’s proficiency
  • provide an opportunity for students to continue learning while being assessed
  • be as painless as possible for the students and for me (with the exception of the semester exam which is a mandated 2 hour assessment at my current school)

3. The three types of Assessments 

There are three kinds of assessments:

Source: Education Closet

I use diagnostics for my Intermediates:

  • to see what they already know about a cultural topic. For example at the start of our unit on francophone Africa, I post 4 topics around the classroom: Clothing, Food, School, Geography. Students walk around and write what they know and what they think they know about these topics at it applies to francophone Africa. This allows me to see what knowledge but also what stereotypes they have in their heads.
  • When I get students I have not had the previous year, I may run a diagnostic on their language skills.

I use formative assessments mostly with Novices but also early Intermediates:

  • I used to try to be all fancy doing an electronic portfolio but now I am low tech: I put all assessments into a manila folder for each student. I have seen teachers reporting major success with portfolios in terms of demonstrating students’ growth.

I use summative assessments only if I have to with Novices (Semester Exam, Final Exam) and roughly every quarter with my Intermediates:

  • My favorite summative assessments are Integrated Performance Assessments.

Here is a helpful checklist from the Education Closet to assess what kind of assessments you use in your classroom (Note: they are not World Language specific).

Read the second installment in this series on Assessments in the Communicative and Comprehension based classroom: Assessments for Novice learners.

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