Language Sensei

A Language Teacher's Journey

“Taking A Risk” – What Does Risk in the MFL Class Look Like?


I use rubrics a lot in my classes as I feel they allow the student to really ‘see’ what they have achieved and where they might improve. Increasingly I have moved to self-evaluation of some of my oral activities – in which the students fill out their own rubric and justify their choices. One activity I do is a ‘re-cap’ of a reading – after students have read a piece and had the chance to note down answers to guided questions. They can make their notes in either the Target Language (TL) or in English – but they have to be able to ‘say’ what they want to in the TL. After the activity comes the evaluation. In the past the “4” category for grammar and vocabulary was simply “Excellent. Took Risks. Didn’t Use English”.

Lately I haven’t been happy with the ease with which students have been giving themselves a “4”. So today, prior to the evaluation I stopped them and we discussed what “risk” looked like. Here’s what they thought. Risk is:

-working without a safety net or “notes” or the dictionary

– asking and answering follow-up questions

-when you have to hesitate and say “let me think about that” and then answer

-introducing other topics to talk about when we’re done

And so I have altered my old rubric to try to reflect those thoughts – you’ll find it below. Which brings me to my own risk and one teachers sometimes have issues with – risk is not in controlling their output but in letting them control it….! Again I learn the most from them when I step back and let them take the lead!


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  1. Colleen,
    I’ve been inspired by your rubric for student self-evaluation of TL use on the interpersonal task. I like your concise version for daily use in class. However, I felt that I needed something more descriptive for more serious assessments. So I made the “very detailed” version that you can find here What do you think? Too much? Wording not quite clear? I’d love to hear your opinion. I used it with my students for the first time and got great feedback and even better reflections on their own performances which is what the purpose of it is anyway. I’ll definitely be using it again.

  2. I really like your rubric and am so pleased that it got more detailed feedback from the activity. I especially liked the ‘what can I do to better prepare for next time’ question. With your permission I will be adding some of your ideas to mine on my more ‘serious’ assessments! Will send it along when I am done. As for ‘wordy’ – the only thought would be to bullet point the statements beginning with “I am:” or something like that. If it didn’t change then I would read out the areas with them and not allow them to write until I had gone over it with them. Colleen

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