Buried on page 65 of one of my very favorite teaching books, The Keys to Planning for Learning, there is a real gem: TALK rubrics. The teacher uses the following criteria to assess students on interpersonal speaking tasks:
Target language use
Accuracy on specific structures
Listening and responding appropriately to peers
Kindness in being an equal and inclusive conversation partner
I find that groups of 6-8 students can each speak at least 5 times in a 10-minute session, enough to give me a snapshot of their current proficiency. This means that I can assess my my entire class (18-24 students) in one 45-minute period. And...there are no recordings to bring home! For me, that means that my students will actually get feedback from me in a day or two...instead of never : ).
I announce the conversation topic in advance, and I often assign homework or in-class tasks the day before (such as a mind map or graphic organizer table) that allows students to organize their thoughts on the topic. I allow students to reference this during the activity, since it increases their vocabulary and target culture fact base but does not take away from the spontaneous nature of the conversation. This lowers student anxiety considerably, even though I seldom see students referring to the documents during the activity.
To prepare for the activity, I use the following:
• Class expectations posted on projector screen
• Oaktag sheets printed with the conversation topic
• Box of glass jewels - each student takes 5 and puts 1 in the box each time s/he speaks for accountability
• Online timer nearby so I can stick to the 10 minute time limit
• Table with 5 columns for students' names and the 4 parts of the rubric (T, A, L, K). I mark +, -, or √ in the appropriate column as they speak. Here's what the sheet looks like at the end:
As you can see, I keep neglecting the T column. I'd like to use it for noting text type (word, sentence, string of sentences). Accuracy is for important errors. Listen reflects staying on topic and answering the question that was asked. Kind is about letting others into the conversation, and inviting reluctant speakers to participate.
In order to make it feasible for me to sit with one group of students at a time, I cross the TALK rubric with stations à la Creative Language Class. I divide my class into three groups. One group sits with me and does the interpersonal speaking task; another completes an interpretive activity individually or in pairs; and still another completes a "fluency count" or free write on the current thematic unit. All activities concern the thematic unit, so it functions a bit like a mini-IPA.
Here is a topic that my students discussed at the end of French 8 last year, as part of our unit on La Nourriture et la faim (food and hunger). You can see the rubric at the end.
So, that's my most successful attempt at interpersonal speaking thus far. We do this every few weeks throughout the year, and I see a lot of growth on all fronts - extended discourse as they aim beyond single words for sentences, more attention to peers as they work to focus on the topic and questions at hand, more target language expressions to foster conversation.
I created this document with strategies for interpersonal speaking to provide some tangible tips for students. We use it at the start of the year to introduce the task, and then it's a reference for students who need more support or practice going forward. Check it out!
And you: how do you approach interpersonal speaking tasks? What's your most successful and least painful method for assessment?