It’s common assessment time in my district, which means I get to see one of my favorite things as I walk down the hallway… a teacher with iPad in hand, filming students having a conversation in another language! Our assessments have been revised many times, and we are now year five into implementation. Still, there is always something to tweak and revise, and this year our new rubrics are being highly critiqued by all of my incredibly passionate teachers. While I believe that there is no such thing as a perfect rubric, and have come to accept that we will never be done revising ours, our speaking prompts feel solid and we’ve found that they elicit good speaking samples from students to show us what they’re able to do.

Here’s how our Interpersonal assessments work. Teachers give students the prompt one day ahead at the most so they can have a little bit of practice time. On the day of the assessment, however, we pair students at random so that no one can rattle off a memorized script. Teachers then film students in the hallway speaking with their partner. There are no notes, no scripts, no nothing… just what you are able to do with your language skills. Although we’ve let students have a bit of practice with the prompt, they have to be ready to answer any question thrown their way by their new partner, so can’t rely on memorized phrases alone.

A strength, I believe, of our assessments is also that they are language-independent. In our first years, we had written prompts that were tailored to each language. But as we moved increasingly towards a focus on proficiency development, it became obvious that we should have the same prompt for every language so that we could compare student progress across languages, not just within one language. We do separate Mandarin out with a different prompt as we move up in levels due to the different proficiency targets, but otherwise, all students get the same prompt for their level.

Here’s the prompt for our level three languages, where our proficiency target is Intermediate Mid (weak):

“A cute French/Spanish/Italian exchange student asks you to show them around while they’re in Arlington for the year. They are getting to know the area and wonder if you could bring them into Boston this weekend for some sight-seeing. You’re a bit nervous to make a good impression! As you walk around with them in Boston, you try to show off your knowledge and sound smart as you discuss what you’re looking at. (You and a partner will each take one role in this scenario.)”

It’s always fun for me to see students standing in the hallway, being filmed speaking in the language. And with this particular prompt, we always get some giggles as students argues over who gets to be the “cute” foreign exchange student!

Here’s our full range of prompts, tied to our district proficiency targets: CommonAssessmentSummary-Interpersonal

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