Speaking assessment

It’s creeping toward the end of the academic year for many teachers around the world, and in Australia, the first break of the year is just 4 weeks away. In today’s post I’d like to pose a question.

How do you organise your speaking assessment items?

It can take a lot of class time for students to deliver prepared speeches or simulated dialogue, not to mention the time it takes to set up and pack up, and for the tasks that we teachers need to complete. Lets start a conversation about this important aspect of being a Languages teacher.


*Do you take notes during the assessment item, immediately after, or after the lesson?
*Do you record speaking assessments for analysis at a later time?
*Do you give immediate feedback?
*What are your other students doing during when your attention is directed to speaking assessments?
*Do you have any hints for efficiently implementing speaking assessments?
*Do you timetable assessment outside of class time?
*Do you allow digital copies of students’ speaking to be submitted, or do you require ‘real time’ delivery?

Add to the discussion in the comments below,
or in our facebook comments.


Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

12 thoughts on “Speaking assessment

  1. Rather than rehearsed speeches whereby kids learn a script off by heart (and perhaps don’t really know what they’re saying), one method is to use a variety of speaking tasks to gauge the ability of students. Rather than having one assessment task count towards the final result for Speaking for a semester, an accumulation of in-class tasks (and in the yard tasks when I can catch kids on-the-go and strike up a conversation) contribute to the grade.

    One idea to encourage spontaneous speaking includes a forum whereby kids are assessed with what they contribute to a class discussion. The topic of this discussion would mirror the current theme of study, and perhaps encompass some visual stimulus or target questions. For those who don’t contribute voluntarily, the teacher would then ask them prepared questions. Feedback would be in the lesson after the form with sample responses that were effective (accurately structured). Before such tasks kids are made aware of the criteria to know what the teacher is looking for in any particular session (pronunciation, accuracy, sophistication and initiation). Purchasing mini flags for different countries can be good for Senior classes as they can represent the viewpoints of different countries and employ sentence patterns relating to expressing ideas/ opinions and viewpoints.


    • Hi Rebecca, thanks for your comment. It’s great to see some innovative ideas. I do agree that recitation of a single, pre-prepared script doesn’t really give us a lot of information, nor does it prepare students for real conversation, which is rarely pre-planned.

      I’m trying out an information gap activity as an assessment piece next term. In the past I have also run a simulated restaurant, with students’ ability to order, converse with classmates, use the correct cultural terms, etc forming part of their speaking result for the unit.

      Having said that the expectation of a ‘formative speaking task’ at the end of each term, is well-ingrained, in my own mind if not anyone elses.


  2. While reading through, I came up with an idea for the beginning classes…it might work…I haven’t trialled it yet, but will do so by the end of this term. For students who are learning the basics of a self-introduction, why not have some fun with a kind of “Speed Dating” theme…may need to change the name to prevent any problems. Students would have to move around to “meet” others using the target language.


    • Hi Sandy, what a great idea! I’m also going to trial an information gap activity as an assessment item next term, but pairs will complete the activity in front of me. I wonder if all students are engaged in ‘speed dating’ at the same time, how you could ensure that all students were using the target language, and not slacking off and using English, something I often have difficulty with several ‘key player’ students during these types of activities.


  3. With some of the Year 8 classes, I try and do a roleplay – that way I am marking 2 students at the same time and I also record it on my digital camera so I can review it at home without any distractions. I designate 2 or 3 students who are my camera people, no one else gets to uses my digital recorder. Trying to test speaking ability in the junior classes ‘live’ is problematic as there are always some students who want to not do the right thing.


    • Hi Kerry, I appreciate your input. I totally agree with you about the difficulties we face in the junior, compulsory years of Languages. I’ve had experience in primary and secondary schools, and I must say I thoroughly enjoy the elective classes where students are, for the most part, there because they want to be and not because they have to be. It certainly makes the logistics of teaching and assessing a lot easier.


  4. I agree that speaking tasks can be the hardest thing to do ad I have tried every method possible. As the sole languages teacher at my school, this means hundreds of speaking tasks. This year I, like Kerry, am assessing speaking in Years 8 and 9 through role play ( in pairs in Year 8) ( in groups in Year 9.) I also have a Flip Video Camera to record the students so I can view the videos later at home. There are a couple of trusted students in each class who video the tasks. I have found that most of the students are interested in seeing their fellow students perform and are eager to perform themselves.


    • I understand and sympthise, Jenny. We often have large numbers of students and hundreds of speaking tasks can take so much time, and create a lot of stress for teachers. Thanks for your input, I’m sure you’ve helped other teachers in your situation. What type of Flip Camera do you use and would you recommend it to others?


      • I use the Mino HD Flip Video Camera and it’s brilliant! It’s so easy to use and you can video students at any time as they are speaking Japanese in pair work, group work, conversations etc, not just formal speaking tasks.The camera has a flash drive attached and is simply inserted into the computer to view the recordings. (Installation is simple) Students are able to assess themselves using this methods also.


  5. I really appreciate the wonderful ideas shared here. Thank you.
    In my primary classroom, I have had students perform their speaking assessments in small groups. One person is doing their assessment, one is video recording the presenter using an iPod and two are the ‘students’ who are listening and interacting with the presenter when required. This task was a ‘mini-lesson’ where the presenter was teaching a word in Japanese to their ‘mini-class’. The mini-lesson had to be conducted entirely in Japanese. Each one only took a few minutes. There was a strict ‘one take only’ rule. Once the first student had made their presentation, roles were rotated – filmer becomes the presenter, the presenter becomes a ‘student’ and one of the students becomes the ‘filmer’. This worked well. Students who would be nervous presenting to an entire class, found it easier. The whole class’ assessments could be completed in one lesson. There were lots of videos for me to view at home and assess.
    Another role that could be worked into this group would be a peer assessor – someone to take note of the language and structures used by the presenter. This then becomes a listening assessment for the peer assessor, if you can take the time to cross check the peer assessment sheet when viewing the videos.
    For ‘speed-dating’ style activities in class, I usually have the students complete two or three rotations and then call on a random pair to present their conversation for the class. Sometimes I will draw the name from a hat so that it is totally random. This keeps the students on their toes as they know that they may be called on to do their’s for the class so they need to use their ‘speed-dating’ time wisely and practise properly. Admitedly, I do not make this formal assessment. It is usually just practice. If there is an odd number of students in the class, I join in, so I know they are at least doing it properly when they are paired with me.


    • Hi Kathryn, thanks for your comment. I love your idea of giving students different roles, and being responsible for recording their own assessment in small groups. I also love the ‘one take policy’, and will be instituting that one – can get a bit tired of ‘Can I start again?’ questions – That’s part of learning a language – we have to go with the flow, mistakes and all!


  6. To check students are engaging in TL use during speed dating why not (if available) leave an iPad facing up on the speed dating desk and when time starts they click record…this keeps them honest as you have hard footage of those who muck around – kids then email all “takes” to the teacher at the end of the session (even if not their own footage) I meant to set up a comprehension sheet for my last speaking assessment (which was a dreaded “learnt off, if not read presentation” so that students had to attend to what was being said…time beat me though…. I thought I’d get students to jot down a family tree (it was an intro your family task) then add what points of interest were mentioned (e.g. Dad likes Holdens)


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