Scoring oral practice

I’ve blogged about speaking from “visuals” before, but this post is meant to focus on how to score it. 

Frequently, I begin the day with a visual on the screen.  It does not have to relate to the current unit of vocabulary.  I have a HUGE collection of images I use, many of them completely random, but I try to also use several with cultural significance.  Anyway, it’s just to get them talking!
I work in “Pasos”, steps.  Each steps has a score and difficulty.  Step 1 is always “words”.  Anyone who can say a word from the image gets a 1 in their box on my seating chart.  Then we usually do sentences.  Anyone who can say a sentence gets a 2.  I might then move into questions – a 3 for asking a question and a 4 for answering it.  All of these numbers get plus marks if they impress me.  I might pull in current grammar – we’ve practiced different tenses, prepositions, commands, etc.  But the point is simply to get them talking.  

I periodically have them “turn and talk” – they share with small groups before sharing with the class.  Anything we can do to push more student-to-student conversation in the target language is great!  

After 5 sessions of this speaking practice, I look over their scores.  I have a rubric written up, but it’s really pretty easy to judge.  Students earn a 6 to 10 out of 10 score.  An 8 is average.  A students who talks regularly, but doesn’t really get any higher levels (the 3’s, 4’s or plus marks) earns an 8.  In order to score 9 or 10, I expect to see a range of scores and more than a few 4’s or plus marks.  Students who barely speak will earn a 6 or 7, depending on how much they attempt.  

What about absences?  No matter – I tell them that if they are missing from class on any day, mentally or physically, they just need to “bring it” on another day.  They have five days over all to show me what they can do. 

What about the kid who won’t speak?  All of them will speak in smaller-group settings.  I do “centers” regularly in my class, and the back table is always the “conversation table.”  We have a topic and they are speaking. I record scores.  It still counts.  (I will elaborate on small group speaking later…)  I also have an online format available.  I do this same activity with my virtual students.  My traditional students are invited to participate.  Sometimes my more reserved students will join us online for conversation practice and the points count there too. 

The other day, I used the image below.  I projected it onto the front board.  As students entered the class, I had them grab a marker and write their names on a “student” in the scene.  I plan to do that with a few others.  It was really fun to hear the statements they made about one another and themselves!  It also made questions really interesting. 


After our speaking practice, I always follow up with a writing practice.  It is a very simple chart I make with 4 columns – the date and three “pasos” (steps).  The first Paso is always to write words form the image.  Then I relate the second and third Pasos to our current grammar objectives (EX: Paso 2 – two sentences in the imperfect, Paso 3 – two sentences in the preterite).  Like the speaking, it is used five times before I grade it.  I grade the quality of their writing overall with my rubric, again using a 6-10 scale.  An 8/10 is average – the student completed everything and can be understood.  In order to score a 9 or 10, I expect to see great variety, accuracy, and vocabulary.  Incomprehensible work or incomplete work scores 6 or 7. (This writing portion also allows the teacher time for administrative tasks)

Pasos sheet:



7 thoughts on “Scoring oral practice

  1. Andrea C says:

    I love this idea and am feeling inspired to add it into our weekly routine! Can you tell me what some of your favorite sources for images are?

    1. getspanished says:

      I have a large collection – I just save them as I find things that I think we can use. I also scanned pictures from an old game from the 80’s called “Picture Picture”, but they no longer make the game. I specifically look for culturally relevant photos as well. I can send a .ppt to your email address that has a good collection. Also, try getting scenes from videos – like in this post:

      1. Andrea C says:

        Thanks for the help! Tried it yesterday for the first time and my 8th graders were really into it. I would LOVE it if you’d send me your .ppt! Always excited to incorporate new speaking activities into our class routine!

  2. nancyfeigenbaum says:

    Thanks for this post. I will share it with my French colleague; we’d both like to try a more systematic approach to oral grading. Can you explain a bit about how you get enough scores for each student?

    1. getspanished says:

      Scores other than this one? Or just these scores? I grade these after five days of the activity. I don’t have to do it every day, but there are times when I felt it was necessary every day. Typically in a grading quarter, they will have two or three of these scores, each worth 10 points (I use a points system). The same applies to the writing portion. I hand them back to the students with an oral grade and a writing grade on the sheet. Does this answer your question?

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