On Assessments

Ruth mentioned that she puts off assessments because she doesn’t like them and then they get too big. I used to have the same issue (as recently as first semester this year!) but have figured out that if I do assessments more frequently, I can pin-point particular issues and also learn from my own mistakes, whether in the specific assessments or in my teaching. Sometimes I find out that I haven’t really taught something long enough, or that the way I’m checking it doesn’t match how I have presented it. Then I can throw out the assessment, whereas if I put everything into a big-stakes test (read: more than ten minutes!), it’s a little harder to do that.

I’m still having trouble with listening assessments. Finding the right texts to read or the right soundtracks is time-consuming. I could probably be using tapes from my textbooks (we don’t have CD’s…very old-school). So I might copy Ruth’s cloze exercises with songs we’ve listened to, giving a word bank to the lower-level kids. Here’s a listening exercise I have planned for tomorrow–really more practice right now, more than listening, because there’s so much help attached to the page.

Reading assessments: Scott says that on reading and listening, we need to remember to include 30% inference questions. Those are also tough to create. But as Martina said at our meeting on Friday, she’s often surprised by how many kids don’t have the skills to infer, even when they’re reading in English. It’s a skill we can help them learn. Scott saves the inference questions as the way to award the A’s on reading and listening tests. (He keeps saying this, and I keep repeating it here, and I’ve gotten it down on vocab/structure tests, but haven’t quite made it part of my reading tests.)

Even though I talked above about more frequent assessments, I have to temper that with the wisdom that weighing the pig more frequently won’t make it grow faster. Scott says he likes to have three assessments in each area for each quarter. He doesn’t actually grade every assessment, figuring that some are like practicing for a sport…you don’t really get the grade ’till game day. And by cutting out two of his gradebook categories, he ends up with only 15 assessments over a quarter; five of which might be on the quarter exam (one on the exam in each assessment area). That makes it seem much more manageable for me.

Still, it’s the end of the quarter this week, which means that I need an exam for each class that includes at least reading, listening, speaking, writing and culture. I think I’ll dispense with the grammar/vocabulary sections this time and see if I can focus on those others.


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