Language Sensei

A Language Teacher's Journey

June 18, 2013
by leesensei
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Keys For Using Student Self-Evaluation in Discussions…

MP900341496Too often in the past a student would complete an oral, turn to me and ask “How did I do?”. Didn’t they know? Weren’t they aware of how it was going? Gradually I saw the need to change my focus from oral production focussed on grammar and vocabulary to interpersonal communication. And who better to judge how the communication activity went than the person involved? I use self-evaluation rubrics a lot in my classes for various oral interactive activities.

What are the key elements that need to be in place for meaningful self-evaluation?

A Robust and Flexible Rubric: All of the rubrics I use are based upon the same 4 key areas: Asking questions, responding to questions, utilizing vocabulary and structures and facilitating conversation. The current interation of my rubric represents a collaboration  with my DELF– focussed French teaching colleague Cara Babson and  #langchat colleague Natalia DeLaat (@natadel76). The rubric is based on those used by DELF but modified to suit my current needs. Perhaps best of all the rubric is an evolving document changing to meet communication goals and class needs. My current version is here if you are interested.

Student Awareness of Language Expectations: Build an expectation of language use and practice skills needed. We practice the art of the follow up question a lot. Class often begins with a prompt in English “Ask your partner…” with the words “who? when? why? what do they think of? how often? how good at?” etc below. Prompts relate to current units or topics of study. Sometimes we change partners several times – the short bursts of conversation allow for good practice. As a result students are capable of digging for deeper meaning when finding out information from their classmates

A Personal Challenge to Meet During the Activity: I have moved to using the Rubric now before we even embark on the activity. In particular I ask students to write out or put a star/check mark next to their personal challenge in the activity. Some focus on “no English” while others choose more personal ones such as “explain in Japanese”. Choose your challenge brings a heightened awareness of the goal of the exercise and ‘sets the stage’ for the interaction.

Written “Self-Debriefing”: For ‘summative orals’ I don’t let them do the rubric right away. Rather they turn it over and must reflect in writing first. Initially I ask them to answer a key question posed by the teacher. For example “When I heard that we were going to debate the environment in Japanese I…”  I then follow up by asking them to relate some aspect of the oral that they were most proud of. If the oral is not a major summative one then the student must support their self evaluation giving the reasons ‘why’ behind their choices.

An Absence of “Numbers”: I will admit this is my latest development in my rubrics, and it comes courtesy of my correspondence with Natalia. I am replacing the ‘numbers’ traditionally used with the DELF rubrics with the ‘word’ descriptors. This allows students to focus on the ‘content’ of the rubric descriptor and not it’s perceived value. The first time that I used it with students I encouraged them to circle the phrases that they felt applied to them – no matter what ‘square’ they were in. They truly thought about their language use and were very thoughtful in their responses when they supported their choices. I do eventually ‘convert’ these rubrics to a number, as my school asks me to do, but that is then my doing and not theirs.

The more that I work with rubrics, and student self evaluation, the more I see the rewards for my students. They are more involved in their interactions with others and more confident of their strengths, and what they want to improve on. The journey will continue…

Colleen

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November 19, 2012
by leesensei
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I gave myself this mark because…..

This is a follow-up to my post on authentic assessment using rubrics.

One of the best things about consistent use of a rubric is students’ understanding of how they are being marked. A steady criteria is key. Last week my 2nd years participated in a small group discussion about the story they read.  They had key questions follow and were allowed words (not sentences) to help them in answering. During the activity they used a “Conversation Phrases Sheet” to help sustain discussion.  As usual they knew we would be using the DELF/DALF ‘Discussion Rubric’

Most groups spoke in the TL for over 30 minutes. At the end of that time they marked themselves.  I also asked them to tell me why they gave themselves the mark that they did. It’s their answers that show me that they really understand how they are evaluated.

I gave myself this mark because…

I felt I used simple sentences quite a bit…

I followed the criteria but some questions I asked weren’t proper…

I found it harder to respond…

I tried to take some risks by extending my answer with details…

I thought sometimes I depended on my partner too much…

I think I used too many of the same words over and over…

My follow up questions were not that great today…

I did give obvious answers that didn’t require much thinking or practice to say…

I stepped out of my comfort zone …

I felt very natural doing this and it wasn’t scary at all…

I was actually surprised at how much vocabulary I knew and could use…

Even though at times it felt like I was speaking English – I found myself putting Japanese together to create a sentence….

I felt at ease in the conversation…

I tried to keep the conversation going and ask more questions that involved everyone…

I gave everyone else as much chance to speak as the others

I tried using words I haven’t used much before…

We took turns as a group giving everyone a chance to participate…

I contributed to the conversation but didn’t lead…

Sometimes I hesitated because I wasn’t totally sure it something was correct but I still took a shot at it which led me to take risks…

I contributed, I didn’t use English and it was fun!

These honest self-evaluations are another reason that I continue to use rubrics with my classes.

Colleen

 

 

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October 22, 2012
by leesensei
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Pursuing Authentic Assessment in the Classroom – My 3 Rubrics

I have long struggled with the idea of “authentic” assessment. As a language teacher this not just that the activities are contextually or culturally ‘authentic’. It goes further in ensuring that students know and understand how they will be evaluated. Constantly looking for rubrics – and different rubrics all the time became an issue. A new colleague, Cara Babson, brought my solution. She is trained in evaluation used by the Diplôme d’études en langue française (DELF); a certification of French language ability administered by the French government. The rubrics used by this program allow students to be consistently evaluated, on criteria that they understand. They have now become my 3 base rubrics. My Rubrics

In the Discussion Rubric the focus is on the ability to ask/answer questions, language skills and facilitating communication. I use it for all levels of learning – adjusting the expectations to suit the level. Initially, especially with beginners, the level 5 is not used – as it is difficult to ‘exceed’ with limited skills. The Writing rubric not only looks to language skills and organization but also reflects whether the student actually followed directions as laid out. The Presentation rubric not only focus on language choice and pronunciation, but also on a developing sense of spontaneity. In all risk is rewarded and the ability to make small errors means that students don’t ‘fear the mistake’.

The rubrics work because what is being evaluated is very clear. Students are involved in the discussion of what it means to ‘meet’ and to ‘exceed’ expectations. They know that delivery of current material, done well – is a satisfactory or good level. To attain an ‘exceeds’ they my incorporate good use of prior material – be that grammar or vocabulary.  I have also found them useful for self-evaluation. This is especially true for inter-active oral activities. Changing the ‘student’ to “I” in the discussion rubric allows for quick student feedback on how they feel about their interaction with classmates in the target language.

These three rubrics, adaptable for almost class situation give my students the comfort of knowing how they are being evaluated – what their strengths are and where they can improve. It helps to create engaged, enthusiastic, risk-taking learners – and my classroom is benefiting from it!

Colleen

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