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by Erica Fischer on Dec 15, 2014

Logistics of Communicative Summative Assessment

Finals that are communicative?  How do you do that?
-POPLast Thursday night, #langchat participants met to discuss some logistics of communicative summative assessment. In the middle of an action-packed hour, Twitter started to lag, and many instructors reported that their feed was no longer loading. Some Langchatters felt that Twitter just couldn’t keep up with our energetic participants. @srtakarigan exclaimed, “[We] broke [Twitter]!!” and @Mme Farab agreed, “We overpowered it.” Despite some technical hiccups, many Langchatters were able to stick with us until the end of the hour, contributing to a productive chat. @KrisClimer wrote, “Good night #langchat! Even with lag and interruptions, you still make my week!” In case your Twitter account became weary from all of the useful information circulating, your weekly #langchat summary is here!

Thank you to all of the participants who tuned in last week, and thank you to our moderators, Kris (@KrisClimer), Colleen (@CoLeeSensei), and Amy (@alenord), who stuck with participants until the end despite technical difficulties.

Question 1: When and where do your communicative assessments take place?

While some instructors schedule assessment times, others let students complete assessments when they feel ready. For example, @Mr_Fernie said

I give [students] stamp sheets with [communicative] tasks and students complete them when they are ready, usually during [individual] reading time.

Langchatters also discussed where they conduct communicative assessments, including these suggested locations:

  • in a corner of the classroom
  • at the front of the classroom
  • with individual students in the hallway
  • language labs at the school

Are you fortunate to have a language lab at your school?

@alenord said, “I am really blessed to be in a district that has language labs in every classroom,” and @SenorGrayNVD wrote, “[We] have a language lab to be shared among all language classes (40-50 classes) so we have a rotating schedule.” Other Langchatters have students take communicative assessments online. @ShaneBraverman said,

They can record and post [responses to questions online]. I download [their recordings and] post feedback.

@AndreaSchueler added, “[I also] recorded with [Vocaroo] for AP interpersonal conversation.” While assessments online or in the language lab are fast (@profepj3: “This is why I like testing them all [at] once with Google Voice or [in the language] lab. We’re all done in 5 [minutes]”), this can make for time-consuming grading (@CadenaSensei: “The tough part is grading – [It’s] so nice to grade live and not have to do it later”).

Question 2: What format do you use for interpersonal assessments?

@KrisClimer summarized Langchatters’ general format preference for interpersonal assessments: “It sounds as if many do LARGE group interpersonal [assessments] and some do SMALL pull outs.” @SenoritaHersh suggested “[partner] and [small] group activities with [the instructor] cruising [with a] clipboard to give points.” Several instructors encouraged having students switch partners regularly. @tiesamgraf said that having students form “inside [and] outside circle [or form two lines to chat and rotate partners] is awesome. [It’s] so easy [for the instructor] to circulate, help and follow up quickly [and] in person.” @CoLeeSensei said,

I am huge on switching partners – lots of [chances for students] to do [things] over [and] over [without] noticing they are!

Participants highlighted other advantages of interpersonal student-to-student assessments, namely, immediate grading and immediate feedback. One Langchatter said, “OH so fast to score! #Ihategrading.” @tiesamgraf added, “[The] immediate feedback is golden and they like the ‘safety’ of it [and] can switch partners often to optimize practice.”

Question 3: What activities do other students do while you are working with one or two students?


Engaging reading can help students learn while waiting their turn for assessment.

Langchatters shared activities to keep other students occupied during assessments. @katchiringa suggested “whatever [students] can do independently or with a partner.”  Here’s a run-down of other ideas that were shared.

  •  @CoLeeSensei: Students waiting to be assessed could “[prepare] themselves or [work on] a puzzle or some other kind of busy work.”
  • @AndreaSchueler: “[independent] reading, working on ongoing projects, etc.”; “I often pull small groups [of students] for discussions [with the classroom] across hall.”
  • @tiesamgraf: “[Other students] can do [an] interpretive task that could have an interactive [follow-up] based on the same theme.”
  • @MlleSulewski: “[Students can] work on Choice Board tasks, or read in the [target language].”
  • @mme_turner: “I set up stations which students rotate through. One station is with me [for the assessment]. [The station] after me is [self-assessment] and goal setting.”

Finally, while you might be working to keep the room as quiet and possible during assessments, @tiesamgraf pointed out that silence isn’t always ideal: “[It’s] nice if the room isn’t too quiet so the [student] being assessed is more comfortable.” @CoLeeSensei strongly agreed: “This is KEY.”

Question 4: How long (time) are your interpersonal assessments?

Langchatters shared the time that they spend on communicative assessments. Most participants agreed that interpersonal assessments should not have a strict time limit. @tiesamgraf said that assessments should last “until [students] are done!,” adding “… but really for [interpersonal assessments] push [students] to just beyond [their] comfort zone.” @rinaldivlgr observed that an assessment will take longer for some students than others: “I have 5-6 [questions] loaded [and students] respond to them. [It takes] longer for some [than for] others.”

@AndreaSchueler agreed that time will vary depending on students, sharing her specific format and general timing:

[I use four] discussion circles [with] groups of 5-7 [students and give them] one prompt. [They will talk for] 5-9 minutes based on how much [the] group says and how much time I need to assess [them].

@hewalleser shared her timing for pair assessments: “[I pair students and assess them over two] days of 42 [minute] class periods; each pair takes 3-5 [minutes] if in front of me, but [their conversations] can all be done in 10 [minutes] if [I have them] record [them].” No matter how much time you allocate for assessments, @alenord reminds her students “that quality is better than quantity.”

Question 5: How much do you pre-load or pre-teach questions to be expected during assessment?

In case you aren’t familiar with the concept of pre-teaching, check out a recent #langchat summary. Many instructors strongly resist pre-teaching assessment questions:

  • @alenord “NO PRE-LOADING! Just say no!”
  • @KrisClimer said, “I agree. Otherwise, it’s not proficiency, it’s chorus singing.”
  • @profepj3 offered a justification for a lack of pre-loading: “I always tell my kids that life is not rehearsed.”

That said, @rinaldivlgr takes level into consideration when deciding how much to pre-teach: “[It] depends on the level. [In level] 1 we practice a lot. Pre-loading goes down with higher levels.”

Whether you choose to pre-teach assessment questions or not, participants overwhelmingly agreed that it is important to communicate clear objectives. Most instructors also generally agreed that, while they don’t like to feed test questions to students ahead of time, practice is beneficial. @tiesamgraf said,

[Objectives and] essential questions should be transparent. [Students] don’t know [the] exact questions – but there should never be surprises.

Participants offered some ways to help students practice and prepare. @magisterb480 wrote,

I give [students] a study guide with vocab [and] grammar points [and] tell them to review readings so they have an idea of what to expect.

 Best kind of frontloading: "You can do this!"

Best kind of frontloading: “You can do this!”

Alternatively, @ShaneBraverman suggested that “[students] can create their own assessments for each other, practicing the skills [with] less pre-loading.” @rinaldivlgr added that preparation should not be confused with feeding students test questions ahead of time: “[Of] course I wouldn’t call what we do ‘pre-loading’ either. We practice a lot before-hand but the assessment is never same.” Finally, @ProfeCochran pre-loads words of motivation:

The only pre-loading I do is encouragement: ‘You guys are so smart, you’re gonna blow this assessment away!’

Question 6: What strategies help you make the most of the time you have to grade communicative assessments?

@tiesamgraf likely spoke for all Langchatters when she wrote, “[Teachers], especially [foreign language] teachers, don’t get enough sleep 🙂 [When] assessing [there’s] no easy answer!” She recommended caffeine as a start! In order to reduce the amount of time spent grading, Langchatters overwhelmingly favor grading interpersonal assessments on the spot. @Mr_Fernie wrote,

[Have your] rubric in hand and grade while listening to [or] speaking with students. [Then you] only have to record grades into grade book.

@ProfeCochran agreed: “Anything I can grade on the spot helps. Well-planned rubrics or focal points make a happy teacher/clean desk.” @CoLeeSensei noted that “having a well-constructed rubric [I] use again and again helps me grade more quickly. Also [this] helps [students] know what’s expected.” @steph_dominguez added that instant grading is also beneficial for students in providing them with instant feedback.


There is no one right way to conduct interpersonal summative assessments. Langchat participants shared their assessment routines, reflecting on when, where, for how long, and in what format they prefer to assess students. They overwhelmingly agreed that, when it comes to communicative assessments, instant grading, rubric in hand, is ideal.

Thank You!

Thank you again to all those who joined us for last Thursday’s #langchat and to our moderators, Kris (@KrisClimer), Colleen (@CoLeeSensei), and Amy (@alenord), for directing the conversation in the face of technical difficulties. Join us next week for the final #langchat of 2014!

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. If you have a topic you’re eager to discuss, send in your ideas for future #langchats so that our weekly discussions can become as relevant and inclusive as possible!

Elementary in Spanish
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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