Monday, 24 September 2012

Assessing learners vocabulary and sequencing skills

I started teaching last week after a relaxing summer break and time in the office to plan classes.

The first week has gone really well and I'm already getting to know my students and their strengths and weaknesses. We use the first 4 weeks of the academic year to assess our students and diagnose any areas of their language usage that need work. We will be using these diagnostic tests to establish if students are in the right classes and what their learning goals should be.

I like to make the diagnostic tools un-intimidating and informal. Today I'd like to share one of my favourite tools.

I start session one of the academic year with a classic icebreaker. All you need is a juggling ball, some students and a few brain cells. The activity requires students to throw, underarm, a juggling ball between each other. The steps are as follows;

  1. Decide any rules - no throwing over arm, put one hand behind your back or sit down if you get it wrong etc
  2. Say your name and throw the ball to another person in the class.
  3. Say someone else's name and throw the ball to them.
  4. Say a day of the week and throw the ball to someone else, they must then say the next day of the week.
  5. Say the days of the week, as before, but in reverse order.
  6. Say a month of the year and  throw the ball to someone else, they must then say the next month is sequence.
  7. Step 5 but with months.
  8. You could do extensions requiring students to say students names in alphabetical order at higher levels (Entry 3 / Level 1)
I find this icebreaker to be really simple but effective. Students learn each other's names and they also produce the language you want to assess.

After this activity we complete this activity using a smart board. 


Time vocabulary

In ActivInspire the students can drag the words to the correct categories and the words stay in position if they are correct. The file above is printable and can be used as a worksheet.

Monitoring how the students complete the activity, how long it takes and if they can sequence correctly tells you a lot about a students skills. Sitting with students who struggle, of due to a lack of sight vocabulary, you can also see if students can make progress with help or if there is some block.

In session 3 I do a spelling test of the Time vocabulary and give contextual clues.

For example:

  1. What day is it today?
  2. Which month was Ramadan?
  3. How many hours in a day?
  4. Which month is after Spring?
I award one point for a correct answer and another point for the correct spelling. All of these soft assessment techniques are easy to deliver and provide me with lots of information about students skills.

What do you do in your classes to assess your students? I'll be sharing some more ideas soon.


Saturday, 22 September 2012

Parallel lives

Have you seen the recent John Lewis advert? It shows a couple in split screen living parallel lives but living 90 years apart. (1920's and present day)
It would make a good resource for any of the following; present continuous, past continuous, past simple and freetime activities.
I invite you to take a look at this article on the daily mail website which also has the video and them add to my list of suggestions.

Link to article and video.

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