Wednesday, November 23, 2011

#ELTchat Summary: Assessing Oral Skills in Large Language Classes

Assessment of functional language ability in the classroom could become problematic in large classes because of different variables that affect students’ opportunities to speak, and the time that teachers have to provide feedback and support to individual students.

Assessment issues include the size of the class. Size of classes considered large vary depends on the instructional context. Some language teachers have classes with more than 60 students or more, like those at Myanmar universities. In other cases, 20 students in a 50 minute-class can be considered too many to assure that every student can be assessed appropriately. Similarly, a class with 15 students can be deemed too large if it is taught in a very small room. Other factors interacting with class size and impacting teachers’ assessment of oral skills include the educational level (e.g., elementary vs. college-level language classes) and the age of the student. For example, older learners seem to work better in groups and stay on task more than younger learners or teenagers.

In order to address the oral assessment needs in their classrooms, teachers need to ponder the following elements in the assessment situation: the purpose of the assessment, the type of interaction, the participants in the interaction, and the time available to assess the students. It is important to contrast the formative assessment in which the teacher provides feedback to the students so that they improve in their performance and the more formal testing situation in which students are given a grade to indicate what they have achieved in terms of oral communication at the end of a language course. Also, the type of interaction will determine students’ amount of participation in the assessment activity. Interactions between the teacher and one student may be the ideal assessment situation to elicit a large amount of language and provide detailed feedback. However, this assessment procedure can be impractical with large classes since it will take different class sessions to assess all the students.

Language teachers striving to perform oral assessment in large classes are addressing some of the issues already mentioned by considering group interactions to reduce the assessment time and maximize students’ oral participation in the communicative situation. In group interactions, it has been suggested a task be provided and divided into mini-tasks. Each member of the group is assigned a mini-task task, a role (e.g., grammar monitor), or an assessment responsibility to control discipline and keep students on task. Once the task is completed, the teacher collects the result as a group or has a representative of the group report back to the class. Before students start working within their group, the teacher should provide a task rubric with the assessment criteria for success. Also, students can be involved in the assessment process by providing them with the opportunity to self-assess and peer-assess their oral performance.

Group assessment poses some issues of implementation or practicality. For example, how to form the groups so that they are productive? Should we mix students with different levels of proficiency? It seems that group formation is a process of trial and error until teachers find out the right group combination of students. Also, how can teachers keep track of students’ participation while they work in groups and identify weak student in order to later help them? Some strategies include devising a system in which you use groups in shifts that rotate. Then, the assessment follows the rotation, that is, the teacher goes from group to group with a checklist to record students’ participation in the group. Also, for visually-oriented teachers, a large tracking chart on the wall may work to get a picture of all the students’ progress in their oral skills. It seems that a real challenge is to provide feedback to individuals in groups. Other issues focus on students’ personality (e.g., being timid or introverted) and their willingness to participate in the group interaction using the L2. In monolingual classes, teachers often observe that students switch to their L1 to complete the task. To avoid having students rely on their L1 to complete the oral task, students should have clear instruction on how to complete the task. They also need to have the language ability to complete the task. Furthermore, groups should be encouraged not to speak the L1 and to be proud of it (e.g., Give them a banner that says “ This group never speaks Spanish in class”).

Although individual assessment in large classes is believed to be impractical, it can still be done. Teachers can have the class works on a task while they assesses a student or a pair of students. Students can work on fixing errors of other students’ written work, work on blogs, practice grammar points, while the teacher conducts the assessment. Other individual assessment strategies include using greeting sessions at the beginning of the class in which a student takes a turn at presenting a topic and the other students can ask questions about that topic. Each class session, a different student takes a turn to speak for the greeting session. Similarly, to assure individual oral participation during the class, some teachers use ice-cream sticks with their students’ names on them. When asking questions during the lesson, the teacher picks up one of the sticks from a cup and call on the name on it to get an answer for the question. The idea is to have no sticks left in the cup by the end of the lesson.

Assessment can also be performed outside of the classroom. Students can be assigned oral homework or activities based on the topics taught in class. They can record, individually or in pairs, their oral production using tools such as Audacity, Voki, Mailvu, or Voxopop. Recordings are analyzed for assessment purposes and feedback is provided. Individuals or pairs can record their homework again. One of the advantages of having students recording their oral production is that the teacher can track students’ progress from a first recording to a final recording in a course.

Language teachers have multiple challenges and issues to assess oral skills in large classes. However, they can experiment with different strategies and reflect upon their assessment experiences to find practical and useful methods to track the progress of their students’ oral abilities in their particular instructional context. It is important to remember that assessment should be a process that students enjoy and feel comfortable with.

The ideas in this summary were provided by the following ELTChat participants during the chat sesion on Wednesday Nov. 16, 2011:

Resources mentioned:

Jeremy Harmer en Chile - making larger classes smaller
Voices in the crowd: Strategies for teaching
Dogme & Formal Assessment – the odd couple?
Oral Language Development

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Códigos QR

Recientemente, he visto pequeños códigos en publicaciones, como mi periódico local para obtener la aplicación del periódico para aparatos móbiles. Me preguntaba para qué servirá o cómo el código me puede llevar a esa aplicación. No fue sino hasta que asistí al webinar de Shelley Terrell y leí el blog de Ogasawara acerca de distribuir presentaciones powerpoint sin projector a través del twitter que decidí entrar en el mundo de los códigos QR o (quick response - respuesta rápida). Estos códigos son códigos de barras de dos dimensiones que pueden ser leídos por una aplicación o lector de códigos (ej. Google search, Qrafter) en un aparato móbil (teléfono inteligente o tabletas, por ejemplo). Los códigos pueden contener textos cortos, enlaces, archivos de video o audio. Para generar los códigos QR se pueden utilizar sitios en la red como el de Kerm Erkan, la página en la web de google para acortar enlaces: , o Sparqcode.

Mi aprendizaje sobre estos códigos comenzó con una tarea, cómo generarlos y hacerlos funcionar en el aparato móbil.
Lo primero que hice fue seguir las instrucciones de Ogasawara:
a) Tome una de mis presentaciones en slideshare (images and slideshows in the language classroom) y copié la dirección de url de esa presentación (
b) Luego fui a para acortar el enlace: - Una vez obtenido el enlace en su versión corta, hice click en la opción "details" al lado del enlace y me llevó a otra página donde aparecía el código y el enlace de ese código
c) Copié la imagen en un papel u hoja de un documento word:
d) Después fui a mi tableta iPad donde ya tenía la aplicación Google Search. Allí seleccioné la opción buscar por fotografía. Apunté la cámara de mi iPad hacia el código, tomé una foto del código y Google search buscó el enlace relacionado con el código. Al llegar al enlace me llevó a la presentación de slideshare.

Ahora bien, me parece fenomenal que ahora pódamos compartir información de esa manera y que haya maneras de tener acceso a ellas usando aparatos móbiles, pero me interesa saber cuáles serían las posibles aplicaciones de estos códigos en el aula de lenguas. Nick Hockly sugiere algunas ideas en su blog. Por ejemplo, el profesor puede generar códigos para claves textuales alrededor del aula o de la escuela para que los estudiantes practiquen el entender y seguir instrucciones en el segundo idioma. Por ejemplo:(1) Salga del aula. (2) Doble a la derecha hasta la puerta del edificio. (3) Al salir del edificio, doble a la izquierda y siga derecho por dos cuadras. (4) Ahora ha llegado a su destino, tome una foto del edificio y diga cómo se dice ese edificio en español, por ejemplo - la biblioteca. Los códigos se pueden tener en cada uno de los lugares a los cuales llega el estudiante en cada clave. Los estudiantes al volver a clase pueden resumir de forma escrita las instrucciones que siguieron sin recurrir a las claves en los códigos.

Para otras ideas que se pueden adaptar al salón de lenguas ver el siguiente Glogster de theohiobloke:

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


A pesar de que hay muchas herramientas en la web para grabar tutoriales o hacer screencasts, he decidido probar CAMTASIA para Macs, algo costoso pero muy fácil de usar. Esta herramienta me permita grabar tutoriales para mi clase de tecnología sobre diferentes herramientas a utilizar en la clase. Lo bueno de esta herramienta que es formatea el tutoria y lo exporta directamente a Youtube o Screencast. Estos dos sitios te proveen de código para incluir tu tutorial en una página web o blog personal. He aquí mi primer intento con un tutorial de cómo crear un blog en Blogger.

Scoop it - tu propio periódico de noticias

Como parte de mi preparación para la clase de tecnología de este otoño he empezado a usar la herramienta Scoop it para recoger noticias en la web sobre el tema de la clase la tecnología y la enseñanza de lenguas. El periódico se actualiza cada vez que incluyo una página o recurso que encuentro en la red. El servicio también te ofrece sugerencias de blogs, twitter, etc. que se relacionan con el tema escogido. Espero que los estudiantes pueden beneficiarse de estas noticias.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


Week 3 in our podcasting evo session has been so interesting. I learned new skills, like editing audio files with audacity tools such as the envelope, and to add jingles to introduce and close audio segments.
Another task was to record a skype interview. I have been using skype for personal reasons, but with the option to record calls I think a whole new world of possibilities are open for educational purposes. I can continue my project of recording native speakers to develop my students' listening skills, for example, or record narratives by beginner teachers to use for mentoring purposes. As I have a Mac, I could not use the tools suggested in the course "Mp3 skype recorder". However, I bought a call recorder specific for Macs from ecamm. I was pleased with this first try recording an interview. The call recorder I used produced a quicktime movie of the call that can then be converted into a mp3 file, and then edited with Audacity.
For this call, I interviewed Samantha, one of our young Spanish teachers at NAU. The music at the beginning and at the end is a song that I found in one of the websites suggested by the moderators: Freeplay music . The title of the song is "Wherever you are" by Carl Vincent Varvel in Latin Fusion Vol. 1.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

My Podcasts

In my podcasting EVO session, week 2, we used podomatic to record our first episode of a podcast. It was really easy and what I liked was the possibility of adding pictures related to the content of the episode. This was my first attempt at using podomatic:

Another tool we explored is podbean. This site allows you to upload mp3 files as episodes. I recorded a short introduction about me using podbean.

Towards the end of the EVO session on Podcasting, we got the chance to explore other audio web tools like Audioboo, Vocaroo, and Chirbit. Here are my attempts at using this tools:




Check this out on Chirbit