ESL speaking evaluation can be something that is quite difficult because it happens in real-time. Some ways that you can make it easier on yourself are:
- To not act as a conversation partner-have the students go with one another and just observe. The best kinds of tests that accurately measure speaking ability are those where students have a random partner and random questions so they can’t just make a script ahead of time.
Record the conversations and evaluate them later, especially if you’re acting as a conversation partner.
Simplify your speaking evaluation criteria into a few simple categories. I usually only have three categories for evaluating ESL speaking:
Grammar and Vocabulary
This only includes the specific grammar/vocab that we studied in class together. If you evaluate everything, it can quickly descend into chaos.
I explicitly tell my students that they need to take what they’ve learned in my class and personalize it (IE: they can’t just repeat what it says in the textbook verbatim).
They also must give their answer plus a few more details. One word answers will result in a failing grade. Only one sentence answers will result in a D.
I include fluency in this category as well. If a student is speaking so slowly, their answer will not be “interesting.”
Questions/Ability to Keep the Conversation Going
This is where I evaluate how well students can initiate a conversation and keep it going. This category works particularly well for when students are speaking to each other, but less well when they’re with you because they’ll usually feel awkward and shy about taking the lead.
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