Project Based Assessment for B1 Students

An intermediate-level student typically has a good grasp of the fundamentals built upon in A2. While pre-intermediate students struggle with production, intermediate students have much less problems speaking and writing, but their production is prone to error. This is the level where bad habits picked up in the lower levels need to rectified. Furthermore, this is the level where students should begin to use the language to think critically and make sound arguments. While in pre-intermediate, students can process larger chunks of information and even summarize the more important bits. At this level a student should be able to discern what the main argument, point or theme is from what is being processed. Intermediate students have already experienced their Eureka moment where they become open to a whole new world brought about by a once unknown language. The next step to understanding is engagement.

An assessment project for this level should have lots of input, but also provide ample opportunity to digest this input, ascertain the key underlying points, think about them critically and offer a solid opinion or argument. At this level there is less emphasis on learning new grammar and more on using the grammar already learnt correctly. Furthermore, aggressive exposure to a wide variety of lexical sets is crucial here as students will need them to better engage the world around them in the language they are learning. Some key areas of focus for this level are:

  • Past questions
  • Describing places and changes
  • Describing past habits or states
  • Recap of the present perfect
  • Perfect continuous
  • Relative clauses
  • Using prefixes and suffixes to construct new words
  • Recap of adjectives and adverbs
  • Recap of the passive voice
  • Reported speech and questions
  • Critiquing and reviewing
  • Recap of probability
  • Recap of obligation modals
  • Modals of regret
  • Debating and expressing opinions
  • Deduction, possibility and probability
  • Recap of making predictions
  • Recap of zero and first conditionals
  • Second and third conditionals
  • Future continuous and future perfect
  • Expressing agreement or disagreement
  • Problem Solving

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 provide ample opportunity for intermediate-level students to process and engage with English-language content. This project is a multi-staged process which culminates in an oral presentation of a research paper based on a topic of the student’s choosing. Each step in this process will provide the student with the necessary tools in order to complete this task. Also, there will a series of short Vlogs where the student will be given an opportunity to talk about their topic as well as subject matter that targets specific grammar and lexis.

Writing a research paper requires several stages. At first the student will focus on a specific topic the teacher chooses and will be guided through reading curated materials, creating an outline of said materials and writing a short summary of that material which consists of 3-4 paragraphs. Basic reading for research strategies will be taught: how to come up with suitable research questions, how to take notes on what is being read, and how to choose the appropriate paragraphs to read in detail based on their topic sentences. Students will be instructed on how to paraphrase their chosen topic sentences and the content contained in their paragraphs. Finally, they will be shown how to construct outlines that answer their research questions based on their summaries.

Once the guided research phase of the project is completed, students will be asked to choose a topic. Choices can either be from a list of topics provided by the teacher or a particular topic that the student is passionate about. Students are to find at least two credible sources from which to write their paper. Summaries and outlines of each source are prepared. At this point, the students are taught how to formulate a thesis statement, which is a broad answer to their research questions, as well as how to write a paragraph which introduces their topic and transitions to their main argument. In order to keep the essays manageable for the students, they should be encouraged to stick to five paragraphs: introduction, three body paragraphs which give details about their arguments and a concluding paragraph which summarizes. Some class time will be spent on how to write a body paragraph as well as how to conclude an essay. Students are then to prepare a first draft of their essays.

Once the first drafts are due, students will be paired up and will spend time outside of class proof-reading their partner’s work. This proof-reading process can be guided by a checklist or questionnaire to help better facilitate it. Specific formatting instructions for their essays should be given ahead of time, as students will be assessed on their ability to follow these directions. Once the proof-reading has been completed, students work on their final drafts as well as a short Power Point presentation. The presentation should emphasize the communication of the main ideas and arguments contained in their essays, along with some graphics and pictures to help the audience to understand. The presentation itself is not a reading of the essay, and students will be assessed on how well they follow these guidelines. Furthermore, the audience should take notes and ask questions after the presentation so as to assess critical thinking ability in a speaking / listening setting.

Along with this main project, students will present a short series of Vlogs which serve to spot-check comprehension of specific grammar and lexis. In addition, students will be given the opportunity to talk about their topic and present their main arguments.

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
  1. Students will prepare an outline of their chosen topic. This outline will contain their main arguments as well as short summaries of reading material that support their arguments.
  2. A final draft essay will be submitted. This essay will be judged based on several criteria. Some of these are: is the essay properly formatted in conformity with the directions given? Is the essay well-structured in that it follows the basic plan given by the outline? Is a definite position, for or against, taken on the chosen topic? Are the arguments sound? Is the essay free of mechanical errors? Along with the final draft essay, a rough draft should be submitted so as to establish that the student was fully engaged in the writing process.
  3. Power Point Presentations will be submitted and checked for relevance to the topic and arguments as outlined in their essays. Overall performance in the oral presentation will be evaluated for poise, fluency, accuracy as well as ability to answer questions fielded from their classmates and teacher.
2. Video Logs

These video logs serve to spot-check the student’s overall competency of various grammar and lexis gone over in the class. Furthermore, the student will have the opportunity to talk about their topic in one of the video logs.

  1. First video log: Describe changes in an area of your city.
    • This demonstrates competency of past tenses as well as the ability to describe past states.
  2. Second video log: Talk about a place where you want to travel and what you would do if you went there.
    • Demonstrates ability to talk about future plans or goals, ability to describe places and activities as well as usage of the second conditional.
  3. Third video log: Describe the topic of your paper and why you chose to write about it.
    • Enables students to get comfortable speaking about the topic of their choice and demonstrates their ability to present spoken arguments.

Preparation

The outline of their topic serves as a roadmap of what their final draft essay is going to be about and how it’s structured. Contained in the outline are the student’s main arguments as well as short summaries from outside reading material to support these arguments. This outline provides the teacher with an opportunity to show students sound reading strategy, for an outline has limited space and the students are tasked with finding the most relevant information from outside to fill that space. Firstly, students will learn how to write 2-3 research questions about their topic. These research questions will comprise the main part of the outline, which can be a traditional Roman numeral format, or even a mind map. Next, students will be shown how to find reading material about their topic online and how to discern if the material comes from a reputable source. They should be told to make note of the author or organization where this material comes from so they can mention it in their summaries and essays.

While reading, students will highlight each topic sentence, then determine whether or not a given topic sentence provides an answer to their research questions. At this point the paragraph with that topic sentence is read and notes are taken about the key points. After the most relevant paragraphs are selected, the students will paraphrase the topic sentences in their own words. Some class time can be spent on how to do this. Once the topic sentence has been paraphrased, the most important parts of the paragraph are summarized in the student’s own words. This summary could either consist of full sentences or a bullet list with the main points. Finally, the student constructs the outline based on these summaries. The summaries themselves will fall under a main heading which consists of one of their research questions. After the students have created their outlines, they should be turned in, along with copies of source materials so the teacher can examine them and provide feedback and guidance. The student may be asked to revise their outline a couple times either because the material itself is not from a reputable source or the student’s summaries are weak and or irrelevant. It’s crucial for the teacher to provide some feedback at this stage of the process, because it is this outline which will guide the next step, which is writing the essay.

Once essay writing begins, the students will be taught how to write a thesis statement which contains the answer to their research questions. This is the overall argument of the paper and serves as a means to organize it. After that, they are instructed on how to introduce their topic by writing effective introductory paragraphs. Then, students will be shown how to write an effective body paragraph which is relevant to the thesis statement and contains pertinent information that supports the main argument. At this point, the teacher may want to provide an essay which models the targeted end result and demonstrates how these points work. Writing an essay may be an overwhelming process for some students so it is recommended that the teacher focus on how to write a 5-paragraph essay to serve as a template, while stronger students can add more paragraphs to further support their ideas.

The essay component has two parts: a rough draft essay and a final-draft essay. This ensures that the students demonstrate adherence to the multi-staged nature of the writing process. Each of these should be turned in separately. Holding the students accountable with solid due dates encourages self-discipline, as well as ensuring that a rough-draft will be ready in time for the peer-review process.

In the peer-review process, students are paired off and they spend some time checking each other’s essays for errors as well as make suggestion on what to write in order to improve their arguments. Here, a student can see if what they wrote makes sense to someone who reads their essay. A worksheet or checklist could be provided to guide the students through their peer review. They will spend time outside of class doing this, and it could either be done through email or on Edmodo by assigning each pair of students to a small group. I recommend the later so that the teacher can monitor this process and readily be able to provide assistance if students get stuck.

After the peer review is completed, the students will be ready to make the suggested revisions and corrects and produce a final draft. This is where students will be able to polish their work and show their best efforts. During this time, students can also start working on their Power Point Presentations.

Toward the end of the course, students will give a short presentation where they share their essays with the class. This presentation should emphasize brevity and cover the main points given in the essay. The third Vlog provides students with the opportunity to practice their presentation skills, as they will be speaking about their topic, and much of what is said in the third video log can also be said in the presentation. The Power Point slides should contain less text and more pictures, charts and graphs to better help the audience digest what is being said. Students will be graded on the ability to present their arguments with minimal help from speaking notes, as this will demonstrate their grasp and passion about their chosen topic. After the presentation is given, students should be prepared to answer any questions. The class will be expected to present questions, and this will serve to gauge how well the class is engaged in the presentation as well as how well the presenter can speak on the spot.

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 first video log assesses the student’s ability to talk about how things have changed. Their speaking is focused on how things used to be and the way they are now. In some ways this exercise can help their writing process, because as they take a position on certain topics, things used to be different than they are now. This exercise gets students comfortable using the grammar around this concept.

The second video log will hone in on the ability to describe a place where a student would want to go and talk about how what they wold do if they went. The second conditional is a very useful tool in writing an argumentative essay because students can speculate on the outcome of something if things were different.

The third video log will serve as effective practice for their presentations. They will be expected to introduce their topic, talk about and and outline their main concerns. The advantage of doing this is students can self-check and correct their speaking, thus making improvements to how they are able to talk about life issues and make arguments about them.

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 25 hours on this project, which includes finding and reading source materials, making the outline, as well as writing and revising. 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:

  • Outline: 20% of final assessment grade
    • Timeliness of delivery: 5pts
    • Organization 10pts
    • Follows formatting guidelines: 5pts
  • Essay: 40% of assessment grade
    • Timeliness of delivery: 5pts
    • Rough draft delivered: 10 pts
    • Essays follow formatting guidelines: 5pts
    • Essay is well organized: 10pts
    • Grammar: 5pts
    • Spelling: 5pts
  • Presentation: 20% of assessment grade
    • Ability to answer questions: 5pts
    • Summarizes relevant points; not verbose: 5pts
    • 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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