When giving fun classes and being creative in assessing students’ progress throughout a course, it sometimes seems impossible to give an official grade to those “fun” activities. Now, these activities usually don’t show up in the final grades that the student (and their parents, bosses or institutes) sees. Doesn’t this seem a bit unfair? During these games is where they are usually put in a situation where they can interact freely in a stress-free environment using the target language or grammar, which will later be evaluated in a test. So why don’t these activities weigh in just as much in their final grade? Well, the first reason is that it’s quite difficult to quantify. How do you get a percentage from the times a person spoke during class, or his /her performance during their turn in a board game activity? I’ve learned many strategies that allow you to grade student’s performance, but in this post I will focus on the one I have found to be the most effective.
Creating a marking criteria for games
Every activity we, as teachers, do in class should have an expected outcome. The secret is sharing these outcomes with students in a way they easily comprehend what’s expected from their performance, be it in language skills, target language or grammar. When faced with this situation the best solution for me has always been to create a marking criteria that has the basic skills I expect from the given activity (2 to 3, keep it simple) and then give each one a mark (0-5, 0-100, whatever works for you). By grading them in each criteria and then obtaining a final average, you can show students which areas they have to work on the most, and which ones are their strengths. This way you can grade any activity, as long as you’re doing it with a clear objective in mind.
Adding a self-assessment component to a course is a great way to compliment any grading system. Almost all text books come with the “I can” statements at the end of each unit, so why don’t we take more advantage of them? When planning games and activities make sure that the end result are these “I can” statements, which are usually communicative, allowing them to clearly demonstrate if they know the grammar rules, but more importantly if they know how to communicate using the grammar and target language. So, when doing the activity place these “I can” statements on the board, letting students know what they are expected to do during the activity. At the end have them evaluate their own performance, assuring in this way their active participation in their individual learning process.
At the end of the day evaluation and assessment are necessary in any learning process. In today’s ESL/EFL classrooms where we are expected to take activities and make them fun, engaging and creative; we also need to find strategies to not forget the student’s need to recognize their individual learning goals and take part actively in their process.