Friday, January 28, 2011

Spontaneous Production?

Oral assessment is often tricky….how do you equip students to express themselves orally and what is the best way to evaluate them?

As Denise and I prepared to write Level II of REAL FRENCH tout de suite, we thought long and hard about these questions. It’s one thing to have students memorize and perform a conversation, but how do you assess their ability to produce language spontaneously? How do you know if they own the language?

In the past, Denise and I would have students write skits and perform them; if we guided them well enough, these skits ended up being fairly well written and well presented. However, they were scripted and students were not asked to react to the language coming at them—a skill that is essential for using language effectively.

So we came up with a rubric for the Jeu de rôles—an oral assessment where students are asked to prepare a number of situations and perform them spontaneously for the class. A situation is chosen at random, a partner is chosen at random, and the students are asked to improvise and act out a situation on the spot. Here is an example of the Jeu de rôles rubric :

Of course, it takes time to prepare students to speak spontaneously. I give the students at least two class periods to prepare. The situations are based on the conversations they have already practiced, so they begin by being able to reference the conversation, and then slowly they rely on it less and less. In this video clip, my eighth graders are practicing the different situations, and switching partners often.


And here you see the end result: two students acting out the situation from Conversation 3e- Making plans.


As you can see, they are very comfortable with the language, and they are responding spontaneously to one another!