PANdemIC & ASSESSMENT

Whether you’re two weeks in or five, you’re probably beginning to think about what assessment looks like in the pandemic classroom. Maybe it even makes you sweaty and short of breath… We just can’t control the environment for a test like we could last year this time.

How do I take these faceless cells in my Zoom and administer a hybrid assessment?? It’s a real conundrum! But I’ve done it once and here are my takeaways:

  1. Set realistic expectations and be clear about what they are. I have been planning using the UbD (Understanding by Design) “backward” model since 2010. I design my assessment before I begin the unit and before I present ANY new content, I share with the kids what their assessment will be. This allows me to spend the entire unit explaining how each piece fits into their inevitable success on the test!
  2. Allow choice. In a normal year, my assessments have often included interpretive, interpersonal, and presentational elements. This year, I am streamlining. My goal is for students to acquire language AND enroll again next year. If I over burden them when they’re already carrying a lot of extra weight, it does not draw people to my program… it scares them away. In our first assessment, I did the interpretive assessment with them as a large group as a completion grade then gave them the option of speaking or writing for their presentational element. I have a WONDERFUL young lady whose biggest concern is always her spelling. She is so afraid of making mistakes because she knows that she doesn’t spell well in English. Offering her the option to speak took the pressure off and let her soar.
  3. Assess less! You’ve heard the cliche a million times in workshops… weighing the pig more often doesn’t make it grow faster. Quit rolling your eyes and weigh that darn pig less.
  4. Set up assessment day expectations in advance. Two weeks ago we did the final assessment for my Bajo la mesa unit. (Bajo la mesa is unit 1 of the Huellas 1 curriculum) I told students in advance that everyone… at home or in class… would need a sheet of paper and a pen/pencil. In class students would write with all of their other materials on the floor and at home students would write with the camera on and at an angle that allowed me to watch them as they wrote. I had two of 90 writings that were suspicious for using a translator (I suspect they pre-wrote). I privately messaged both students and told them that I could only give 1/4 credit for work that was run through Google and offered them the chance to meet for a re-take. I feel like it is important right away to establish that I know when they are using language beyond their proficiency level.
  5. Grade with compassion. This isn’t a normal year. Intermediate language is MESSY. Mistakes are part of even ADVANCED level proficiency. Look for evidence that they’re acquiring the new structures in your unit but don’t expect them to speak and write at the same level as YOU do! They’re still brand new language learners and they need a lot of time with the language to reach the levels we have reached! Grading with the proficiency descriptors in mind can really help keep those expectations realistic AND encourage kids to continue their language study! Check out my proficiency based rubrics here for FREE!

For more information on how and why I assess the way I do, you can watch my Assess with Finesse training session here.

This year is going to be great. It will be different, it will be exhausting, it will have a lot of peaks and valleys, but in the end… if we do it right… we can give our students a lot of positive experiences in the language classroom that will draw them back next year and fill our rooms with students who are confident that they are capable of becoming bilingual!

Stay safe and healthy!

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" and "Bananas" 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 gmail.com.

One thought

  1. Hola! I just watched your Assess with Finesse webinar and I really love it…now if I can just get the rest of my department in board 🙁 In the webinar you said to email you requesting the Proficiency Descriptors. I am interested in seeing what these look like and hope you could share. Have a good upcoming week!

    Sent from my iPad

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