Small group speaking

Video posted with permission from student volunteers

I use this format for practice and for our formative speaking assessments.  I have different variations, but the basic structure is that each student presents, asks, and comments.

With students in a group of 5-6, each will take a turn presenting according to the theme.  Because my Spanish II students are learning commands, we had a “group therapy” session.  The monologue (always at least three sentences) was about a problem they have.  Some had problems with school or sleeping at night.  One student lost a dog.  Another talked about her best friend moving away.

After each monologue, students take turns asking clarifying questions “When did you last see the dog? What time do you go to bed? Where did your friend move?”  After the presenter has answered two clarifying questions from the group, the group members have to offer advice. “Find another dog. Don’t drink soda after 6 o’clock. Send an email to your friend each day.”

Scoring: I cimply have codes I use for each requirement (monolgue, questions, replies, etc..).  I add pluses and minuses to the codes to indicate their accuracy in the language.  I use my 6-10 rubric to score my data.

  • The day before our “cumulative assessment”, I put up the writing topic on the board and students are allowed to “brainstorm” without resources.  I collect the brainstorms at the end of the class and pass them back when they are taking the test.  My class is divided into four groups.  While one group has their speaking assessment, the other three groups are brainstorming. 
  • Periodically, I have the students do this entirely on their own.  I want them to know my grading system well.  When they are doing it, they rotate the list of names and each takes turns playing “teacher”.  They make the marks like I do, but without minus signs – just recording that people have said the required parts and putting plus signs if they hear good elaboration.  They also have to record “i” for every time someone in the group speaks English.
  • I also do this with one of the tables when I set the class up in stations.  One “station” is always for talking and we use the same format.  I record the marks and use them to add to their oral scoresThis really helps those students who don’t like to speak in large-group settings. 

In the video above, I was asking for volunteers for the questions and comments.  I have changed this practice because I want to remove myself as much as possible from the conversation.  They now have a rotation system to know who asks questions – questions rotate clockwise and comments rotate counter-clockwise.  I like to simply observe the assessment.

Here is a handy cartoon I made for them to give them an idea of what to expect and how this system works:



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