This post will show you all the exciting and fun activities for Spanish class that involve speaking practice and – even better – how to conduct speaking quizzes and assessments in world language. Let’s dive in!
So what do my speaking quizzes look like? In a house unit for example, 3 questions would be:
- naming three parts of your house in a complete sentence.
- where do you spend the most time in your house? What do you do there?
- what are three activities you do in one of these rooms: and I would give a list of rooms)
- what do you do outside?
For each of these questions, I’m looking for: “I played baseball in the garden” or “I play video games in the living room a lot.”
Speaking Practice & Activities
So that’s what we would practice and when you think about it, 90 minutes like that’s a lot of review and practice time for something like this. But at the end of it, students will get a lot of speaking time and they would hear a lot of speaking for me. So, for this, I would usually have students come up and do this one-on-one with me.
Speaking Assessment Dos & Don’ts
Should Students or Teachers Ask the Questions?
I would ask the questions because getting students to memorize the question is such a disaster. And it’s also not mentioned anywhere on the novice, lower novice mid proficiencies. In my opinion, it’s just not worth your time and considerable frustration.
Be the question asker even if it takes you more time because it will save you so much of a headache, trying to teach students how to say the question. That is the number one hang-up that I find the speaking quizzes and questions. Don’t teach students how to say the questions. Don’t expect them to understand how to ask the question. They are not ready for that in Spanish 1-2, French 1-2, Japanese 1-2. Wait until level three. If you even want to try that.
They are ready to give you simple short memorized phrases and answers in novice low novice mid, and maybe even into novice high. In novice high, what they start to be able to do is ask simple questions. Not a crazy question like this: “list three activities you do in one of these rooms.”
They’re not going to be able to ask each other that so don’t put them in partners, and expect them to ask each other that question.
How to Conduct Speaking Activities in Class
How Long Do Speaking Quizzes Take?
It will take you 25 to 30 minutes with 30 students only after much practice. If you get it rolling and you get to teach students how to logistically do this. You can get through this very, very quickly. In class, it’ll take about 30 minutes. If you have 30 students, it’s about one minute per person. You can’t let them dawdle because if they dawdle then it will take you all class.
How Many Questions?
Okay, so what I would do for you is let’s say we want to set up the logistics for your speaking quiz. If you’ve got 45 minutes, and you’re working with these same questions from above. Let’s just say you’re doing a housing unit.
I often get this question: “Do you think I should only stick to three at a time? Or can I have them be practicing all six questions?”
You’ll get two different outcomes with each option. If you do three questions, your review your assessment, and logistics are much simpler. Because your students will all go much faster. The assessment will also be much more performance-based than proficiency-based. This means that students can practice it, it’s not necessarily their true ability of what’s in their heads.
If you have six questions, you’re gonna get a much more accurate reading of what your students how much effort they put into it, and what your students understand, because you’ll be able to get a fuller range of questions out there, right? It will take you maybe 30% longer to interview each student. So as long as you’re okay, with having an extra logistical day to get the actual assessment part done, then yeah, I say go for it. Because it is It depends on your priorities, and what you think is more important.
Why Speaking Activities and Quizzes?
Performance vs Proficiency Assessments
When would a performance-based assessment be useful if it’s not proficiency-based?
Great question! The answer is for true novices – novice low and novice mids who understand far more than they can speak. The speaking quiz doesn’t actually assess their speaking ability for true novices – it actually shows their ability to understand and respond to simple questions. It’s interpersonal.
But if you do six questions, then you know which students know the content. Because they prepared for all the questions there’s a lot less of the just memorizing stuff that can happen with this type of speaking assessment.
Speaking Quizzes in Level 1
They’re little listening sponges, but it’s very helpful to do speaking assessments I find in a high school environment. Why? Because students want to use their Spanish before they are ready anyways. What we’re doing right now is performance-based. This is rehearsed language. It’s nothing fancy. It’s not at all There’s a difference between a performance assessment and a proficiency assessment. This is a performance assessment, what we’re talking about right now at level one, and level two, or three, you can get into more proficiency-based assessments. But one doesn’t have enough language yet to get into that. And that’s okay.
What you’re doing for them right now with speaking, is you are teaching them how to understand questions and respond. But that’s all that they can do. They can respond with simple memorized phrases. So none of it’s going to have creative language in it.
So, on that, on that tangent, there are many teachers who, when they have freedom, don’t do speaking assessments at all in level one, because they don’t believe that it lines up with the research. So that’s also an option to consider.
Special Note about NOVICE LOW and LEVEL 1s with Interpersonal Speaking:
In all truth, doing a ton of speaking activities or assessments in level 1 truly doesn’t line up with current research and what we know about SLA – so don’t waste your time on it in level 1 if you can avoid it. However, there is a way to use it to your advantage if you have to or if you are in the early stages of transitioning to methods rooted in comprehensible input.
Speaking Activities Logistics
What to Do About Shy Students
Number one, play loud music. That will make sure that most of the students who are like “I’m not doing this in front of other people”, they’ll get the gist that you’re going to protect their privacy during speaking activities. If your desk is over here, and you’re playing loud music throughout the room, they’re not going to be able to hear, realistically. And to prove it to them, you can test it.
I did this once where I gave a student a secret answer to a quiz. So everybody wanted to hear it. I turned the music up really loud and they couldn’t hear. So you can prove to them that they won’t be able to hear you if you play really loud music.
Next way to gain trust is to give students the option for privacy. To go outside to do it at lunch, whatever it might be. Always give them the option to do that, on one condition: it must cost the student something, such as their own lunchtime, or their time in the hallways, etc. That way you know they have skin in the game and only the people who truly need this option will request it.
Lastly, ask for volunteers to go first. This is very taxing on students, there’s no need to spring things on them. Once you run out of volunteers, use a random system of your choice to call the remaining students up for their turn.
How to Manage Your Classroom Environment During a Quiz
Instead of inside class, you can also create more privacy by having students come just outside the door. But make sure you keep a foot in the door, and stand at an angle where you can still see almost the entire classroom – surveillance as I like to call it. The door must stay open. Also, the students inside must have an in-depth activity. Preferably review of the speaking quiz.
Make sure that they have something that is going to take up a lot of their attention. Just so that if they’re sneaking out their phones etc,, you can peek your head in the door and be like, “Hey, you put that away and get back to what you’re working on,” and move on with your life.
Tips for Successful Speaking Activities
Another key tip – the question is not the focus of the speaking activities or quiz, so make sure that students have a written copy with the meaning of each question. Make sure you practice often with them what each question means as well. (Great review activities!)
Last tip for you: do this often. Part of figuring out a speaking quiz is getting students used to the whole setup. So they get the gist. The more that you do it, the fewer problems you’ll have with all the logistics of it. Model the exact behavior you’re looking for.
So I would say you could do a speaking quiz, like every three weeks, on the most important questions that you think summarize whether they know the vocabulary and the content or not. Make sure you include plenty of speaking activities to review as well.
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