Project Based Assessment for A2 Students

Pre-intermediate students possess the basic skills necessary to build upon their repertoire of English using the language itself, rather than relying on their native tongue. It is at this point students should be encouraged to consult an English to English learners dictionary to widen their vocabulary. It is at this point where the teacher is able to introduce new grammar concepts completely in English and the students will be able to listen and read and be able to understand. The pre-intermediate level is a bit like the Eureka moment wherein students’ perceptions to a whole other world open up, yet it is at this moment where frustration sets in because it is here where students struggle most with producing the language.

An assessment project for this level should have lots of input, because at this level the widening of vocabulary and exposure to the various uses of grammar structures are crucial. Here are some grammar and lexical concepts where students should demonstrate competency:

  • Present tenses
  • Describing places and activities
  • Expressing emotions
  • Describing and comparing people and situations
  • Describing verbs using adverbs and intensifiers
  • Past tenses and sequencing of past events
  • Describing holidays, hobbies and pastimes
  • Gerunds and infinitives
  • Describing spaces such as rooms, plazas and other venues
  • Problem solving and giving advice
  • Making suggestions and polite requests
  • Describing the organization of tasks and to-do lists
  • Modals of obligation and imperatives
  • Make plans for future events
  • Talk about the probable or improbable future
  • Describe cause and effect using conditionals
  • Use prepositions of movement to give directions
  • Talk about experiences using the present perfect

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but rather a rough guide as to what students at this level should demonstrate competency in. What follows is a sample project assessment plan based on some of these competencies.

Sample Assessment

Objectives

This project will place emphasis on a student’s ability to communicate based on a large body of input material. A book will be assigned to the student to read throughout the course. This book will be a graded reader appropriate for their level and will be 50-70 pages in length so as to encourage reading in small bits over time rather than exam-cramming behavior. In order to encourage this, students will keep a vocabulary journal wherein they practice writing short sentences using new vocabulary they’ve learned in the book. Throughout the course, students will share with their peers some of the new vocabulary they’ve learned. Furthermore, when students complete the book, they are expected to write a short book report, no longer than two pages, double-spaced. Finally, they give a short 5-minute presentation to the class about the book they’ve read using powerpoint slides.

In addition to this on-going project, there is a short series of VLOGs that run parallel to it which act as spot-checks on specific grammar and lexical points. Each video log will be 2-3 minutes and about a specific topic which demands the production of certain grammar and lexis. This ensures the students are grasping and retaining the fundamentals of what they’ve learned in A1 and are continuing to learn at A2.

Format

This project has two major components that run in parallel. The first component stretches for the duration of the course, while the second component is a series of spot-checks on competency in specific areas.

1. Overall course project

Students are assigned a graded reader 50-70 pages in length.

  1. Students will keep a vocabulary journal throughout their reading of this book. This journal is to be typed so that it can be easily delivered to the teacher in an online setting. Each journal entry will consist of the new vocabulary word, its definition, where the definition was acquired from and 1-2 sentences using the word itself. Periodically, students will be called upon in class to select 2-3 words in their journals to explain to everyone what they mean. Other students are expected to take notes. This journal will be turned in along with the rest of components of their project assessment.
  2. Students will write a book report. This report is a short, two-page, double-spaced essay that covers seven major areas in paragraph format. This report serves two major purposes: first, to assess students’ writing abilities, particularly the ability to summarize large chunks of information into smaller pieces, and second, to assess students’ competency in following directions in regards to formatting and topics to write about. The areas covered in this report are as follows:
    1. Short author bio and title of the book
    2. Characters and roles
    3. Plot / action sequence
    4. Outcome
    5. Description of genre the book is about
    6. Personal opinion of the book
    7. Whether or not book is recommended reading
  3. A short PowerPoint presentation is given by the students wherein they share their findings about the book they read with the class. Emphasis on brevity and summarizing are key here. Furthermore, students will have the opportunity to demonstrate their command of the past tenses.
2. spot-check video logs

These video logs serve to spot-check the student’s competency of specific grammar and lexical points as gone over in the class. They give students the opportunity to practice their speaking skills, as the logistics of creating VLOGs enable students to record, review and revise their videos until they are satisfied with their presentations. There will be a total of three video logs.

  1. First video log: film yourself going shopping
    • Demonstrates competency in countable and uncountable nouns as well as lexis related to shopping.
  2. Second video log: interview a friend about their career and listen to any problems they may have and offer advice.
    • Demonstrates listening ability and competency in asking and answering questions as well as problem solving using advice modals.
  3. Third video log: Tell your audience about a party you’ve planned. Give as many details about it as possible.
    • Demonstrates the ability to plan for future events and to talk about future probability.

Preparation

The first component of this assessment is the vocabulary journal. Students are prepared for this by being shown by the teacher how to use an English to English learners dictionary and how to write a typical entry in a word processor that includes the definition and 1-2 example sentences which can be elicited from the class. The vocabulary journal is a tool to encourage students to keep up on their reading, as they will be periodically called upon and expected to introduce new vocabulary to the class.

The second component is the book report, which is a two paged double-spaced document. Here the teacher should emphasize the seven parts that are expected to be covered in this report. A simple worksheet could be provided to help the students capture the information needed to satisfy each of the parts. Class time will be spent on writing short paragraphs that summarize larger bodies of content, such as reading exercises in a textbook or videos. Finally, in the last couple of weeks of the course when the book report is formally assigned, students will be given a sample report with comments to help guide them in this process.

For the presentation component, it must be emphasized that students will need to produce PowerPoint slides, as this will give them the opportunity to further practice their summarizing skills. An emphasis on more images, less text for these slides will be placed. The overall idea that should be conveyed to students here is that they are presenting their book reports, not the book itself. Since in the report they’ve already done the heavy lifting of summarizing, it makes sense that the report is what should guide them in creating their presentations. Finally, a sample presentation can be given by the teacher to serve as a model for the students, so they are clear on what is expected of them.

VLOGs present a couple challenges, one of them being logistical. How do students actually go about creating VLOGs in the first place? One way I like to go about it is to introduce the students to Youtube video upload or another platform such as Vimeo. Videos can be uploaded on these platforms and the links can be shared with the teacher on an asynchronous learning platform such as Edmodo. This is a great opportunity for students to practice following directions, as there are technical hurdles the teacher must guide them through.

After the logistics problem is addressed, the teacher should spend time on preparing the students on how to structure their video logs. Usually a short personal introduction is made, then the topic of the video is introduced followed by the actual content. It is here that students are encouraged to write short speaking notes – either using cue cards are short bullet points to help remind them of the main ideas they are going to talk about. It is here that emphasis on not reading word for word from a script is placed, as the students at this point in the course should feel somewhat confident enough to speak on their own with a little help. One thing that can be stressed about this project is that students have the opportunity to record themselves and watch the video to see where their errors are and to make more recordings until a comfortable level of error-free speech can be produced. Finally, it is important to provide the students with a teacher’s VLOG so as to model exactly what is expected of them.

The second video log will present a special challenge to the students as they will need to find another English speaker to interview. This may not be easy for some of their students as their social circles may not include any English speakers. Here, it is possible to pair the students up so they can interview each other. This is an excellent opportunity for the students to practice their listening skills and ability to answer spoken questions. The teacher could also volunteer to be interviewed by a couple of the students and perhaps some of the teacher’s colleagues or friends might be on-board for this activity as well.

Dates

The course is several weeks in length and the students would be given wide latitude in producing the components of their final projects. However, it is important to set firm dates for the various milestones to in effect evaluate a student’s self-discipline. Dates set for the milestones depend on the pace of the class and of the teacher.

Duration

It is estimated that students will spend a total of approximately 20 hours on this project, which includes reading the book. Completion of this project will require a significant amount of self-discipline and buy-in from the students. It is therefore important for the teacher to periodically check on students’ progress and hold them accountable.

Monitoring and Evaluation

This project has several components, some which build on each other in series and others that run in parallel to the overall project. There is also a time-frame which each component is expected to be delivered. Here is a rough breakdown of how to evaluate this project:

  • Vocabulary Journal: 20% of assessment grade
    • Timeliness of delivery: 5pts
    • Class participation: 10pts
    • Example sentence grammar: 5pts
  • Book Report: 30% of assessment grade
    • Timeliness of delivery: 5pts
    • Follows formatting guidelines: 5pts
    • Spelling: 5pts
    • Grammar: 5pts
    • Demonstrates ability to summarize: 10pts
  • Presentation: 30% of assessment grade
    • Timeliness of delivery: 5pts
    • Includes powerpoint that follows guidelines: 5pts
    • Summarizes relevant points; not verbose: 10pts
    • Speaking fluency: 5pts
    • Speaking accuracy: 5pts
  • Video Logs: 20% of assessment grade
    • Timeliness of delivery: 5pts
    • Demonstrates relevance to task: 5pts
    • Speaking fluency: 5pts
    • Speaking accuracy: 5pts

This is by no means an exhaustive breakdown but a rough guideline. One setback about assessing projects is that it is difficult to remain objective. It is us to each teacher to decide how to award points for each category appropriately. Sometimes breaking each category down further can be helpful – for example on speaking fluency, we can consider if the student is reading from a script or not as well as how much of a strain does their pronunciation place on the listener.

Thank you for reading. I hope you find this sample assessment helpful in your efforts to guide your students through their exciting journeys on learning another language. Please feel free to make comments and provide feedback on how to improve this framework.

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