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How Do You Check Your Learners are Learning?
Don’t rely on good students and luck.
How will you know when your students are learning?
If your lesson plan goes perfectly, it’s still possible they don’t learn a thing.
Smiles, student activity, student confidence and engagement — none of these mean students are actually learning.
When planning, think about what evidence you’ll need to see or hear the learners doing to know they’re learning. Here are some ways you can do that.
This kind of assessment, where you monitor student achievement as it occurs, is known as formative assessment. It’s pretty different from diagnostic assessment, e.g. the usual end-of-term exams.
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During exercises and tasks, walk around the classroom. Get close enough so you can hear or see, not so close that students stop and give you funny looks.
Look and listen to what language the students are producing. You’ll be able to tell whether they’re on track, doing better or worse than expected. You’ll also be able to notice any errors or mistakes that they’re making.
Combine this with some error correction, and you have a winning formula.
If you include peer assessment in your activities, congratulations! You’re officially awesome.
Peer assessment is a powerful tool for students to develop their language accurately. In an exercise where you’ve set the target language and standards, you can ask students to correct each other when they make a slip with the target language.
At first, students might be hesitant to correct each other, but if you demonstrate by asking a student to correct you (and then make some silly mistakes), they’ll soon come around. Especially if it becomes a regular part of your lessons.
Some more tips:
Be sure that students know the correct form.
Don’t ask them to correct more than one thing at once.
Ask them to correct in a manner that they would like to be corrected.
Pair students of a similar level together.
Again, monitor to make sure they’re doing it correctly.
End of Class Review
A quick five-minute review at the end of class can tell you if your lesson has been a success.
However you decide to review, remember that you want to see evidence of them using the target language.
Some review formats I’ve found successful:
3–2–1: Ask students to tell a partner (or write) three things they thought were interesting, two things they learnt and one question they have about anything from the class.
Like / Dislike / Learn: a similar format, where students say one thing they liked, one they didn’t (great for getting feedback on your teaching) and one thing they learnt.
Another Context: students work in pairs and have two minutes to use the target language from the lesson in a different context.
With this strategy, students have to answer a question before they can leave the classroom.
This can be formal, where students literally have a slip of paper to write on that they give you. I prefer an informal approach, where you ask the students out loud. This way, you can differentiate the questions, making them more or less challenging as necessary. The spoken approach is also great for young learners, and you can give them a high five on the way out.
See you again in two weeks.
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