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Tips for Assessment in Elementary Foreign Language Classes PART 1

I RECEIVE A LOT OF QUESTIONS ABOUT HOW I DO ASSESSMENT IN MY ELEMENTARY SPANISH CLASSES, and I see it mentioned regularly in professional forums online. With the sheer number of students most of us carry, and the limited time we have with them, assessment becomes a significant challenge, especially if we want it to be valid and reliable. On top of that, we want it to be MANAGEABLE! To that end, I thought it might be helpful to gather together some tips and resources that I have found helpful; because it is such a big topic, I decided to break this into three posts-in this post I focus on TYPES OF ASSESSMENTS that I have found effective and accessible. Part 2 focuses on ways to TRACK DATA on large numbers of students (click here to read!), and Part 3 will tackle WRITING RUBRICS and DETERMINING GRADES. (Post 3 coming soon!)

Tips for Assessment in Elementary Foreign Language Classes

BEFORE WE MAKE A FORAY INTO TYPES OF ASSESSMENTS, let's be sure we have done our backward planning. Before you start a theme/unit, identify key vocabulary and skills that you want your students to acquire by the end of the timeframe. This step is crucial; if you don't know what your expectations are, how will you know if your students have met them? And, how will you even know what to teach? Eeekkk! Whether it be students demonstrating comprehension of a key set of vocabulary (listening comp), or being able to answer a set of questions on a familiar topic, or writing a short description of their pet using adjectives and full sentences, be sure you have this laid out ahead of time. This will then help you determine what TYPES OF ASSESSMENTS will work best to glean the data you need.

OK, SO TYPES OF ASSESSMENTS...what kinds work well for elementary level? Here's a bulleted list of ones that I have found effective (and are generally those that are used at many levels! :) ).. I also think they highlight the WHAT I ASSESS also:

*EXIT/ENTRANCE SLIPS: I like these for quick formative assessments- they serve to practice reading comprehension of simple questions that recycle old vocabulary. I use these mostly for my 4th grade classes, with questions such as '¿Cómo estás? (How are you?), ¿Te gusta el guacamole? (Do you like guacamole?), ¿Cuál es tu color favorito? (What's your favorite color?) and so on. Sometimes the questions are directly related to the theme we are in, such as ¿Cómo eres tú? (What are you like?) when we are learning 'I am ___' phrases or ¿Qué escribe Arturo con el lápiz mágico? (What does Arturo write with the magic pencil?).

*LISTENING COMPREHENSION TASKS: At the elementary level, these typically run the gamut of very simple instructions to hone in on a key vocabulary set (Point to the ___, put the dinosaur on the ____,  etc), or 'Draw your favorite food and label it', etc. This also includes asking questions orally and having students answer verbally or in writing (A TIP with oral questioning- you can do this two ways- a) an open ended question that has many answers to it or b) questions which have a predetermined answer such as those tied to a story you are reading or are fact based such as 'What color is an elephant?' In the second scenario, you can develop a set of questions that all assess the same skill of comprehending a question based on a familiar topic, and rotate the questions so you don't have students just copying what the last person said. You can also rotate the questions over the course of a few classes so students end up answering multiple questions.)

Tips for Assessment in Elementary Foreign Language Classes

*SPEAKING SKILLS- I find these the most challenging to assess individually due to time constraints, so I try to get as much bang for my buck when doing them. For example, with my 1st & 2nd graders, I will frequently do polls, tables, and graphs which elicit personal information from my students such as 'What's your favorite color?', Which fruit(s) do you like?,  Do you like strawberry ice cream? Which flavor ice cream do you like the most?, How many brothers/sisters/cats/dogs do you have? etc. I keep charts (see my post on tracking data) over a certain number of classes so I can tell whether they are able to answer a series of questions. With the ice cream questions, for example, I might ask that question (changing the flavor) three, four, or five times (with the answer choices being: yes, I like it; yes, I like it alot; no, no I don't like it, etc). By the fifth time, I have a good sense of whether each kiddo can answer the question appropriately or whether they still a prompt.

Another speaking assessment I do is to track the answers kiddos give during our greeting activities. Since we do a greeting every day, I can get a fair amount of data over time to be able to gauge whether they can answer the question 'How are you?', and for my older kiddos, if they can engage in a mini conversation with someone else. If you would like to see/use my tracking data sheet for Spanish class, you can download it free here.

*WRITING- Yes, writing! I am firm believer in giving students opportunities to write in the target language, even if it is as simple as labeling a picture by using a word bank. Writing is another mode of practice, and I see my students building on spelling and reading skills by doing writing activities. I do not expect my students to have perfect spelling (or even be able to spell out words, I just don't have the dedicated time to get to that point- two 30 minute classes a week), but I do expect them to use our resources to copy words, and piece together sentences based on word banks.  At the end of some themes, I have students bring together what they have learned in a writing/ sharing 'mini project'. For example, at the end of our Pet Theme in 3rd grade, students write a simple description of their pet using full sentences. As they write, I circulate around the room, monitoring their progress and giving prompts as necessary. I can easily grade kids since I am amongst them, paying attention to who needs help and who doesn't.


*CULTURAL KNOWLEDGE- I also assess cultural knowledge at different points throughout my grade levels, most specifically facts about countries, people, and/or celebrations. For example, in 2nd grade my kiddos learn about Days of the Dead, and then illustrate/label 4 Datos sobre el Día de los Muertos (4 Facts/Aspects). If they can identify FOUR aspects of the holiday (such as marigolds, sugar skulls, candles, monarch butterflies, etc) they meet the expectation. Simple but effective :) Another simple assessment I do is for my 4th graders, at the end of our salsa theme, to illustrate the ingredients and label them. In First Grade my students identify 4 Datos Sobre Venezuela (Four Facts about Venezuela), again illustrating and labeling things they have learned. Another great way to assess at this age level is to do a Venn Diagram, such as the one my First Graders do comparing Mexican hot chocolate and hot chocolate in the US. All of these are culminating activities that we do in the course of the theme, rather than as separate stand alone assessments, which is to say, they are activities to do in and of themselves, I just happen to assess them, also :)

Assessing Culture in Elementary Foreign Language Classes

THIS IS BY NO MEANS AN EXHAUSTIVE LIST, but I hope it has sparked some ideas for your classroom! Be on the lookout for my next posts coming soon-follow us on Facebook and Twitter so you hear about them first! And don't miss my post on 35 Report Card Comments for Elementary Spanish Class-click here!

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2 comments

  1. Thanks so much. This is very helpful.

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    1. I am thrilled! Part 2 should be out within a day or two :) Julie

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