Why should we test our students?
The CIEP website advises you to evaluate your students in areas such as word recognition, memory skills, as well as oral and written comprehension and expression. It's important as a teacher to know what our students are capable of and to have a minimum of awareness about their strengths and weaknesses in these areas. Look at the evaluation suggestions made on the CIEP and Primlangues websites. However, do check first if your school already has a testing structure in place that you will need to follow.
* To test word recognition
* To test sound discrimination (recognition)
* To test grammar knowledge - present simple and present continuous
* To test oral comprehension - understanding of simple questions
* To test oral expression - production of simple sentences describing self, likes, dislikes and daily routine
* Photocopied Test Papers
* Answer key for yourself
* Minimal pairs script for yourself. See Stage 2
Stage 1: Testing word recognition
- Give the learners a series of pictures. Photocopy them onto the test paper. Make sure these are words that they would have come across in class.
- Next to a picture they will have a sentence which reads : 'This is a cat'. The instructions could read : 'Circle if the sentence is true or false'. Or 'Tick or put a cross in the box.'
- Make sure the names of the objects in the pictures belong to the same lexical group; i.e. clothes: skirt, shirt, trousers etc.
Stage 2: Testing Sound Discrimination
- You can start this section off with a minimal pairs exercise. This is when they hear two words which differ slightly when pronounced. They have to see the two words written down and have to tick the box of the one they hear. The example used on the Primlangues site is to distinguish the 'h' sound. (Discrimination de sons) Again type two columns of similar sounding words which a small box next to each and add to the test paper.
If you want to test their intonation recognition for questions and answers then go to this link. This is primarily a Christmas based test so should be adapted. The instructions are also in French so you could translate these into simple English to make the test clearer.
Stage 3: Testing grammar knowledge - present tenses/question formation/...
- Give the students a series of scrambled sentences which they have to put into the correct order. You can do this with word flashcards on the board or they can read the words and write the correct sentences underneath.
- Match the question to the answer with a line; e.g. Q: 'Are you hungry?' A: 'No, I am not.'
- You can have a mix of you speaking and them reading where they have to choose the correct answer to the question they hear and read. For examples of these task types go to this link. The vocabulary used here is food and drink.
- Do a gap fill where they have to complete a series of sentences with the correct missing word. Provide them with the missing words jumbled up in a box. This can be used to test any grammar point you've covered in class.
Stage 4: Testing Oral Comprehension and Oral Expression
This is the hardest type of test to carry out especially if you have a large class. You can organise this in advance with the teacher if he or she can be present.
- First of all make sure that the rest of the class are occupied. They need to be doing something that they don't need you for. It's great for introducing them to student autonomy and giving responsibility to a chosen few to oversee that noise levels are kept down etc. You will need to keep an eye on proceedings but discreetly as it's important that they can be independent from you for a while. Depending on your class size you may want to split this section over two or three lessons spending three to five minutes with each pair. Put a list up on the board of the test order and be strict at change over times when one couple has finished and another has to start.
- When testing Oral expression it is very useful to have an evaluation sheet per student. You just fill their names in at the top and then make brief notes as you're listening to them. Go to this link for an example of an oral exam marking sheet.
- Don't try and test more than two students at once. Testing two at once has the advantage that they can ask each other questions while you listen, intervening when necessary, but being more attentive to what they're saying rather than worried about what you've got to say.
- The suggestions on the Primlangues website include reading a sentence out loud to check pronunciation. I personally do this when reviewing homework and not as a separate testing task. Reading out loud is not something we do naturally and it is difficult to judge someone's speaking from it. The advantage it has though is that you can compare different students ability through using the same text and it takes the pressure off the children, as they don't have to think of what to say.
- The content of the oral test can begin by each person asking his partner questions about themselves; i.e. 'What's your name?' 'Where do you live?' etc. You may find that you want to ask these questions yourself if you feel they might not be able to do this themselves.
- You could get students to describe their daily routine. This tests telling the time, using the present simple, using routine verbs. Then the other student can do the same. For higher levels they could listen attentively and then repeat back to you the other person's routine using the third person singular.
- As with the written tests, examples are the key and the students should have had plenty of practice in preceding lessons to know what's expected of them.
You may decide not to give homework after a test lesson as they will have probably worked very hard revising and deserve a break. Otherwise you can give a short writing homework which expands on the oral section of the test. You could get them to write 5 sentences describing the daily routine of someone they know. This way they're using the third person singular; i.e.'He gets up at seven o'clock.'
Recommendations for follow up:
It's vital to feedback on any testing you do whether it be immediately after the test itself or in the next lesson. It's no good testing without highlighting strong areas and areas to work on to encourage and further motivate your learners. You could mark the test in class to make it less formal. Swap the tests so that they're not marking their own or their best friend's.
If you mark the test, decide what the major weak areas are for the class and do a follow-up class based on those areas.
In France marks are very important to learners and their parents, even from an early age so be sensitive to low grades. Make a real effort to give constructive criticism and find areas where there were some strengths to avoid demotivation.
- www.cambridgeesol.org - This site has downloadable examples of Cambridge reading and writing tests for young learners.
- www.cambridgeesol.org/support - This is the main page where you can download examples for all the Cambridge young learner exams.
- www.primlangues.education.fr - This site has written tests of food vocabulary. and evaluation sheet for pronunciation and varied grammar points. Oral exam marking sheets. A list of testing suggestions organised into skills tested.
by Jo Bertrand