Assessment is the Devil

I hate it, you hate it… We all HATE assessment. It is so hard to find the right way to let our students show what they know. How do we address the proficiency guidelines, accept students who develop at different paces, please the evil souls who demand RIGOR and PAIN in assessment, and give a point value to something that is not equal from one child to another… Well, friends. I’m going to say it. We can’t. We are never going to end up with the perfect assessment. But we keep trying!

My Spanish 4 this year is predominantly male and is prone to English blurts. Taking a page from my friend, Kristy Placido, they have to earn their Friday Internado by speaking Spanish during the week. They are doing it, but they don’t find it as exciting as last year’s group did. (I know, never compare your children.)

We just finished reading Kristy’s Frida Kahlo reader. It is so good and yesterday they had an AMAZING Discussion Thursday (on Wednesday) . Today they did the written part of their final assessment.

I am really excited about how the assessment turned out! I gave them choices (which I do frequently) but also made sure those choices stretched the language they would have to produce to higher levels. Check out what I did Writing assessment choices.

I have students in my level 4 ranging from just reaching novice high to “earned the state seal of biliteracy after Spanish 3″… It’s a wide swath but they are ALL still here and they are all able to communicate in TL at their own level! For this writing, I gave them the topics, we looked at the rubric, I gave them 5 minutes to plan their writing, and then 30 minutes to write. I’ll share the topics and some examples below.

Level 1 was a maximum B+ because they would be writing within their comfort zone instead of flexing their language muscles. Its target was a comfy Intermediate Low type of language… Paragraphs and known topics. This topic was simple, tell me all about Frida’s life.


Level 2 was a maximum of A because they would have to begin drawing comparisons. A few of the kids chose this one. I feel like it was a comfortable topic for even the ones with slower development of performance toward proficiency! In this topic they had to compare Frida’s life with their own… being sure to give evidence of the similarities and differences.

Level 3 allowed students the opportunity to earn an A+. These students had to compare Frida’s life with that of another famous person live or dead. This meant that they had to show what they knew from a broader range of topics and bring that into their Spanish presentational writing. Many chose this path! I love that this student used her SSR book as the point of comparison! I had everything from Franklin D. Roosevelt to Van Gogh to Amy Winehouse!!



Something I always do to encourage strong transitions is to share my Enriquécete words. I keep them in a basket and students pull out the ones they might want to use as they write. The cool thing is they eventually have to look really hard because “they already know them all”. 🙂 Such a problem!

IMG_3613 img_3612.pngimg_3614.png

I think this assessment STYLE will work for a lot of units and I’m going to try adapting it to my 2s and 3s and their tasks as well!

For more info about how I assess in class, check out this video.



Author: senoracmt

I began teaching Spanish in Illinois in 1994. I have taught levels 1-4 in a small rural high school, 8th grade introductory Spanish, Biology 1, and 101 and 102 at the community college level. My Spanish classes are partnered with the community college to offer students 8 semester hours of dual credit on completion of Spanish 4. In 2011 I met Carol Gaab and Kristy Placido and have since co-authored the book "La hija del sastre" with Carol Gaab and authored the novels "La Calaca Alegre", "Bianca Nieves y los 7 toritos." "Vector," "48 horas","Bananas", "Sostenible", and "Papálotl" through Fluency Matters. In 2006 I became National Board certified and I have been serving as a mentor both for candidates seeking certification in world languages other than English and a virtual mentor for candidates in all certificate areas. I completed my Masters degree in Spanish education in 2011 and did my research on the use of Understanding by Design to create meaningful cultural units for the language classroom. I am a frequent presenter on this topic, please consider me if you are interested in a workshop on backward design. In 2013 I was named the ICTFL Foreign Language teacher of the year and in 2014 I was selected as CSCTFL's teacher of the year. In November of 2014 I was lucky enough to be one of the five finalists for the ACTFL National Teacher of the Year in San Antonio, TX. What a "Cinderella" experience! You can reach me via email at senoracmt at

5 thoughts

  1. Thank you! This is so good and my very struggle today with a 3 chapter Frida Kahlo test!! You always inspire and teach me Carrie!!

  2. Hola Carrie! You continue to amaze me and inspire me! I will be forever grateful for all you do to help others! I am a better teacher because of you. Thank you for your generous spirit and amazing creations! Seriously- you and Kristi both are such valuable resources to our community. Thank you from the bottom of my heart! Great post and helpful. With love and gratitude. Susan Scotty St. John’s School Houston

    Sent from my iPad


  3. May I ask a question about how you assess your students in a class with such a wide discrepancy in proficiency levels? Do you continue to use just one rubric for the entire class throughout the year when assessing and placing them? In other words, is intermediate mid the target for all of your students in level 4? I teach in a very small private school. 2 transfer students who had already completed level 2 in another school, were forced to repeat level 2 because of scheduling issues. They are very high. In that same class, I have about 8 IEP students who LOVE my class but are struggling to maintain a C. As you mentioned, there is a very wide gap.

Leave a Reply