We are about half-way through the term and it’s probably time to check what our students have learned so far. Here are a few ideas on how to test your students on recently covered material quickly and time-efficiently and how to make testing more fun and interactive.
- Choose 10 words to be tested.
- Give students small pieces of paper. They make a list of 10 numbers.
- Students may not speak during the test and have to keep their answers secret.
- Say a definition of the first word. Students listen and write the word that you defined. If needed, repeat the definition.
- Repeat the procedure for all the words.
- Once you finish students pass on their answers to the person on their right.
- Ask individual students to read out the answers and tell them to give points adequately and count up the total. Collect the scores.
To make it more student-centred you could put students in 2 teams (A and B) and tell them to choose 10 words from a topic to be tested and write definitions. Then you would check the definitions, put students in pairs (A and B) and they could test each other in the same way as described above. The preparation of the task allows them to revise the vocabulary and the whole set up makes it more of an interactive activity rather than a test.
Another way of testing could be through a game. Here’s an example of a game with fly swatters.
- Project a vocabulary page from Incredible English (make sure the list of words is covered)
- Put students into 2 teams. Have 1 player from each team at the board holding a fly swatter and another student on the side as a referee to keep scores. Revise rules of the game (you can hit only once, no pushing, etc.)
- Say a word from the vocabulary set. Players have to quickly hit the right picture on the board. The referee awards points accordingly and you keep a score for individual children (a point for each correct answer, no matter who was first).
- You can either have players change after one word or do 3 words in a row and then change.
- Note down the scores for each child.
To test grammar you can choose an exercise from the workbook (e.g. a gap fill, sentence conversion, multiple choice) and project it on the board.
- Give students a small piece of paper to write on and tell them to only write down the answers. Set a time limit.
- Have students swap their answers in pairs.
- Have a whole group feedback. Students correct each other’s tests and award points accordingly.
To make it more interactive and reinforce their understanding of the grammar point taught before feedback you can ask students to compare their answers and explain their choices (quote rules, explain why another answer would be wrong, etc.).
You can also have students write tests for each other. For example, they could write 5 grammatically incorrect sentences to be corrected by their partner, jumbled sentences to be ordered (on little pieces of paper), sentence halves on cut up pieces of paper (to test sentence structure), or multiple choice gapped sentences. You would have to monitor the preparation and okay all the student-created tasks before they are given to their partners.
This method is obviously more time-consuming than traditional tests but also more interactive and does not feel like testing. In most cases I would advise against using ready-made two-page hour-long tests that you can find in teacher’s resources that go with coursebooks (unless you are testing skills). They do not often meet our students’ needs and test what we have not taught, or do not test what we would like to assess. I find I often have to select or cross out certain points or whole tasks for that matter. For this reason, giving students quick tests seems to be a better option. They can be delivered in a relaxed way, they can involve some form of revision, language practice and interaction, they are easy to mark and you can quickly give feedback to the students and plan or deliver further revisions as necessary. Ready-made tests can obviously be a great and a useful resource for teachers if they are used critically and selectively. In any case there are a few rules about testing we should remember:
- Only test what you have taught.
- Make the test fair to all students.
- Make the task relevant to what you intend to assess (‘test validity’).
- Make the test reliable (producing consistent results, not dependent on external conditions).
Finally, in the context of highly exam-oriented Spanish education let’s remember we would like our students to have a different classroom experience from what they know from school and not to focus on tests so much. At the same time, collecting test results is a useful tool for the teacher and can help the student progress in the long run.
by Kasia Kepka