Jen on Assessment

Jen wrote this and it cuts to the chase big time:

I am trying to spend the least amount of time possible thinking about, entering and scheming the grades. It is such an energy suck. But inevitably I get sidetracked by CI teachers who have these elaborate systems and who address every point in ACTFL 5 Cs and the various breakdowns of that. I do not want to spend my time cross referencing. Ugh! Then I feel inept and lazy because I just want to have Interpretive reading, listening and interpersonal in the grading system and call it good.

I am aware of the universally accepted law that “we do not grade behavior.” And I agree with this. But in our classes we are not “grading”, we are “assessing” and we are assessing specific observable skills that help each individual student attend to the input, in addition to helping the group to maintain an input-conducive atmosphere.

I know this is outside the scope of “the research” but “the research” attempts to describe and quantify the mechanisms and causes of acquisition. It does not deal with individual student’s coping and management of externals (all the distractions that prevent them from physically hearing the input and those that prevent them from processing it). Aren’t these issues the biggest elephant in the whole school system?



14 thoughts on “Jen on Assessment”

  1. Yes they are. That is why Ben and Tina are the only ones that have an answer for this. Scott Benedict has some good stuff too and I respect him as a TPRS/CI guy (he is pro-NT by the way and he always gives Ben credit) but his grading stuff seems like a bit too much work for me.

    And in the end the only thing that parents are about from a language class is the percentage grade at the end of the year. They don’t care if that means proficiency or it’s participation. They want the grade, they want the hoop to jump through. If you can give them the A and their kids actually learn something and enjoy it- even better.

    I mean there are parents that genuinely want their kids to learn but I think that most people believe that “You can’t learn a language in high school anyway.”

  2. Alisa Shapiro-Rosenberg

    The parents think that as a result of generations of futility in WL in the US. Well-educated adults have given up on the idea of successful WL classes that beget proficiency!
    Re-educating them on the potential, but also showing them our successes in acquiring basic proficiency (send home the stories for the S to read to their parents in the TL and then summarize – that kinda stuff!) is a powerful antidote.
    It may take a while to convince the lost generation – the parents who had their own futile experience in 4-8 yrs of waste-of-time WL instruction -and now see it and expect it in their own kids’ classrooms… that there is a better way…hopefully our ranks will swell, as Ben often alludes to on the PLC, and we’ll become the norm…

    1. Just wanted to share that I had Parent Conferences last night and I didn’t open my grade book once. I talked from the heart about how my job is to speak to the students in French that they understand and their job is to listen, understand, and stop me when I’m not being clear. I referenced the rubric, and talked about observable behaviors. Parents nodded their heads and smiled. My grade book is fudge city, and the grades are high high high for most students. If your kid is a real person with me in class and ready to play and interact, they are getting an A. No one argues with me on that. This was my best conference evening of my career because I DIDN’T TALK ABOUT GRADES AT ALL!

      1. Those are the best! I had a few disgruntled parents during Open House in April last year. I just sucked it up and had my freewrites ready for the next set of parents, praising their child for writing so much and so well.

        1. The free writes and the accompanying bar graphs set the standard and when you open up a spring parent conference w the bar graphs and ask the STUDENT to start the conference and the kid – even a snotty one – leans in and points to their increasing gains over the year there in bar graph form it sets a nice positive tone that changes the entire conference vibe. All that snot dries up fast when you have such an artifact for the spring. And you are pretty much guaranteed increased word counts as long as you keep giving them CI all through the year. Even snots can’t help but learn when you just keep giving them CI.

  3. I have to submit my semester final exams to my admin in 12 days. To be honest I haven’t tested the kids very much this year. I haven’t done a quick quiz in ages. Most of the grade book is their weekly jGR a.k.a. communication grades. I used to do daily quick quizzes last year and dropped them this year. I just do a choral class quiz at the end for self-evaluation some days. And the classes are so good. The best I’ve ever had. We are living in this blissful stress-free world where we are learning for the sake of learning. What kind of final can I give them where they feel successful and I don’t have to work too hard. We did circling with balls the first 5 weeks and about 3 class stories and a lot of song lyrics because we had a concert field trip to go to. Can I just give them excerpts of various things we covered and ask them to translate it into English. Maybe an excerpt with some English comprehension questions. Yet these sound hard to grade. Are they time-consuming to grade? What is the non-targeted CI way to test? I used to just test all my target words. But that doesn’t feel right anymore and it never did before anyway. It was way too hard for some kids without context.

    1. Jennifer Goldszmidt

      Thanks, Greg! That helps me get my mind around how to write the midterm and final exams this year. However, I still need to do a speaking assessment for both the midterm and final exams in my district. Any suggestions?

  4. My opinion is that speaking should never be assessed early in a student’s language career, unless you are forced to do so and it sounds like you are.

    For summative assessments, you can conduct an individual speaking assessment wherein students speak to you, using a visual aid such as the class calendar or the class artwork to describe or narrate familiar material discussed in class.

    To prepare them for this formatively, which obviously would be an essential thing to do, you can conduct small group speaking assessments (they generally enjoy them if no grade is involved but they have to be short since English creeps in fast, within a minute or so) wherein you ask students to rate themselves on the Speaking Self-Evaluation Rubric found on page 405 of Appendix C in ANATTY.

    However you do it, you probably have the option to enter the grade at an extremely low percentage of their grade, which I would certainly do.

    This is one of those areas where you make it look like you did what you were required to do, but didn’t really. Why? Because massive amounts of research say that kids even up through AP are not yet ready, have not yet made sufficient neurological connections, to speak AUTHENTICALLY (not memorized) in any way that is meaningful and does not break their confidence.

    If kids need thousands of hours of auditory and reading input before they can speak, and they do, and we only have 500 total hours to work with them before the end of level 4, and much of that time is wasted bc it is school, then we need to wake up about what is realizable and practical in this charged and dangerous area of testing speaking.

  5. Jennifer, if you feel like you need to have a speaking part of your summative assessment you could a) conference with each student individually where you speak a lot about a visual you both are looking at and then ask them questions along the way. Your rubric could be 1 -responds in English, 2- gave one word answer in Spanish, 3- gave a multi-word answer in Spanish, 4- responded in a full Spanish sentence, or 5- responded in multiple sentences in Spanish.


    b) use the same rubric I described above but direct it at the entire class while partner pairs grade each other on the rubric. That is, you show a visual on the screen. You talk about it. Then you ask the class a question. Student A answers. Student B listens to student A and gives them a score. Then switch.

    This idea comes from Tina Hargaden’s Speaking Board Game idea, a.k.a. a speaking rubric but called a board game just to make it sound fun.

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