We teach kids to speak real Spanish. For Life

by Erica Fischer on Sep 22, 2015

Get Your Interpersonal Mode On! #Langchat discusses the ins and outs of assessment

Last week, participants met to discuss the ins and outs of interpersonal assessment. In an open-format chat, Lanchatters raised pertinent questions and weighed in with advice. The discussion touched on such diverse topics as the amount of correction that instructors should provide, assessment logistics for large classes, the instructor’s role in interpersonal assessments, teachable communication strategies to sustain conversation, and measurement of proficiency versus performance. Participants took #langchat activity to a whole new level! Newcomers struggled to keep up with the flurry of tweets; @Meriwynn wrote, “Crazy – [We] #langchat [newbies] are panting to keep up! [We are two] conversations behind at all times, just like [language learners].” Even our seasoned moderators had to resort to skim reading; @SraSpanglish commented, “Y’all, this #langchat is AWESOME, but I’m having to skip like 60 tweets at a time!”

Thank you to all those who braved last Thursday’s #langchat on steroids! We extend a special thanks to our moderators: Colleen (@CoLeeSensei), Kris (@KrisClimer), Laura (@SraSpanglish), and Sara-Elizabeth (@SECottrell).

How much output should you correct during an interpersonal assessment?

@Hjoblythe prompted fellow participants to reflect on appropriate doses of correction: “When is it appropriate to be a grammar stickler when assessing interpersonal communication?” Many Langchatters felt that correction should be limited for lower-level students. @SraSpanglish wrote, “I think grammar stickling is only appropriate for upper levels, not before intermediate.” @MCoachSalato tries not to let corrections impede conversation: “[What] a GREAT question! I teach [middle school], so my strategy is to correct ([without] being a stickler) within [the] flow of the [conversation].” @LisaShepard2 suggested only correcting errors when they hinder comprehension. @SECottrell shared guidelines from ACTFL and the College Board, writing, “[The] ACTFL answer is a novice answer: nail grammar when it impedes comprehensibility … [The] College Board answer is an intermediate [or] pre-advanced answer: nail grammar when it’s a distracting pattern.”

How do you manage interpersonal assessments with large classes?

As participants recognized, it can be a challenge to conduct interpersonal assessments when working with large numbers of students. @tmsaue1 wrote, “[The biggest] question I get from teachers is how do you assess 160-200 student doing interpersonal [assessments]? #teacherrealities.” @sen_ohsen13 welcomed “tips to assess classes of 29 [and] 30 [students] without taking more than the required 2 days,” adding, “[It’s middle school,] so [I] can’t leave my lovelies unattended.” @kltharri suggested assessing one pair of students at a time and providing immediate feedback: “I have a rubric and listen while my students talk to each other in front of me.” @LisaShepard2 echoed this recommendation: “Assess [students] in pairs [with] 2-3 [minute conversations] per pair?” Alternatively, @rinaldivlrg proposed that instructors could circulate and listen in to pair conversations occurring throughout the room: “I roam [and] listen. [I use a] mini rubric.” As yet another option, @SECottrell noted that Integrated Performance Assessments (IPAs) can be used to facilitate interpersonal assessment: “[This] is where it’s helpful to make it part of an IPA, so some [students] are doing [something in the] interpretive [mode] while others do [an] interpersonal [activity].” Finally, several Langchatters suggested having students record themselves engaging in conversation with a peer. @kltharri wrote, “Can [students] record themselves speaking to each other using devices and you listen later?” @MmeJCesario observed that this method can have the added benefit of lowering students’ affective filter: “I send the [students] off with a scenario and voice recorder. They aren’t as nervous and I can listen [to the recording] over and over!” In terms of recording technology, @CoLeeSensei just has her students use their cell phones: “I use their cell phones. [Students] record [the conversation] and send [it] to me (from home on ‘free’ WiFi).” @WescottSpanish commented, “@Schoology is great for recording. [Students can] have video discussions too.” @SraSpanglish noted that technology such as Google Classroom may speed up the assessment process but may prolong grading: “Google Classroom and class iPads and/or student devices means THEY get done in 1 day (grading however…).” For this reason, some are reluctant to have students record their conversations. For example, @CecileLaine wrote, “I don’t like recording, I prefer to listen [while] other [students] do [another] task and give more timely feedback.”

What role should the instructor play in an interpersonal assessment?

Instructors also reflected on the role that they themselves should play during an interpersonal assessment. @CoLeeSensei asked, “Should the [teacher] be part of the [interpersonal] assessment?” adding, “[My] goal is to watch [and] listen – not [participate].” Some participants favor only using peer-to-peer assessments. For example, @kltharri wrote, “I never do [teacher-student assessments] anymore.” Others take student level into account; @tmsaue1 said, “[Here’s my] rule of thumb: [If students] are novices, [their] teacher has to be a partner. If [students] are intermediates, they talk to each other.” Still others use peer-to-peer interactions as a form of ungraded practice to prepare students for assessments with their instructor at a later time. @SECottrell wrote, “I [frequently] assign but never *assess* novice [student-to-student] interaction. [I always assess teacher-student interactions].” Lastly, @KrisClimer proposed having learners self-assess: “Why is it that WE do all the assessment? Can’t [or] shouldn’t the learner share the curation responsibility of what he [or] she CAN DO?” He added, “[I’m not] shirking my duty here; [I] just wanna build ownership.” @CoLeeSensei replied, “GREAT QUESTION – I do LOTS of self-assessment as well,” and she shared a link to her blog: @SraSpanglish commented on the importance of training in self-assessment: “I think self-evaluation can be useful, but [students] need PLENTY of training first.”

What are some teachable communication strategies to help students sustain conversation?

Communication may break down or become strained at times during an interpersonal assessment. Langchatters discussed ways to prepare students to handle such moments. @kltharri wrote, “Communication strategies are important to teach at all levels to avoid things falling apart.” @cadamsf1 commented, “I’ve taught my kids to rescue their peers. They actually earn an extra [point for doing so].” @CoLeeSensei also trains students to help a partner in need: “We practice the ‘rescue’ too [and] saying ‘I don’t understand.’” @Meriwynn replied, “[This is such] a simple yet brilliant idea because this is what happens in real life,” and @LisaShepard2 wrote, “I know we’ve discussed this before. I totally agree. Kids need to learn to negotiate meaning.” @CoLeeSensei added, “I teach my [students] that your partner not understanding you is YOUR responsibility to clear up!” @WescottSpanish suggested that instructors could also “teach novices to repeat questions,” noting, “[They] can always get different answers.”

How can we be sure that we are truly measuring proficiency and not just performance?

@shakejively wrote, “My challenge is figuring out ways to assess proficiency instead of performance. [It seems] like everything’s a bit too rehearsed.” @caraluna34 replied, “[I’m working] to get more … spontaneous [production from students. I have big] classes, so [I’m] trying [to ask] a short [and] sweet random [question] on [a] topic for [students] to [answer], then [I ask for] extra [follow-up].” @WescottSpanish pointed out that this doesn’t mean catching students ill-prepared: “[I don’t] tell [students the] task [ahead of time] but practice similar tasks leading up to [the assessment] so they are prepared.” @SraSpanglish agreed, writing, “I think it’s important that the general topic be familiar, but the task [be] spontaneous.” @LisaShepard2 offered another way to keep output spontaneous: “Although my students know their topic, they don’t know their partner in advance—[This way they] can’t memorize [the conversation].”


In an open-format chat, thoughts about interpersonal assessment ran wild as participants actively raised questions and weighed in with advice. The discussion touched on the amount of correction that instructors should provide, assessment logistics for large classes, the instructor’s role in interpersonal assessments, teachable communication strategies to sustain conversation, and measurement of proficiency versus performance. As the hour neared a close, @MartinaBex wrote, “[I’m not] gonna lie, [but I’m] kinda glad that there’s only 10 [minutes] left since I’ll need the next 10 hours to sift through tonight’s chat.” In case you still haven’t finished reading, we hope that this summary has helped you catch up!

Thank You!

Thank you to everyone who contributed to last week’s chat. Now you can get your #langchat on twice a week– Remember, #langchat will take place on Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET AND Saturday mornings at 10 a.m. ET!

Due to space limitations, many tweets had to be omitted from this summary. To view the entire conversation, you can access the full transcript on our tweet archive. As @CoLeeSensei reminded participants: “Got a topic to suggest? #langchat gets its ideas from teachers like you! [Yes,] you!” Send us your ideas for future #langchats so that our weekly discussions can become as relevant and inclusive as possible!

Erica Fischer
Erica is the founder and CEO of Calico Spanish. Her passion for teaching her own children to speak Spanish led her to create Calico Spanish. Our mission is to give all children the opportunity to learn to speak real Spanish for life.

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