Many French teachers struggle with how to assess French in their upper elementary classes. This is especially challenging for teachers who aren’t feeling confident with their own French skills.
Assessing French is the same as assessing many other subjects that are taught in school, but the degree of progress can vary greatly between students. Here are some of the ways we assess French in our classroom.
If you are new to teaching French as a Second Language, it might be helpful to read this post first. It’s an outline of all the materials we use to teach our students.
Whether You Assess French or not, it’s Still Assessment
Assess your students’ progress in different ways. Each assessment approach serves a different purpose. Having a good balance of different types of assessments is important to have reliable information. It gives a better, well-rounded picture of overall achievement. Using a variety of assessments accommodates the different learners in the class and compares students against the outcomes and not each other.
Generally, you can assess students through three basic things: observations of their work during class time, conversations between yourself and the student or other students and products the student creates. Gathering assessment information through all these methods helps create a clearer picture of what a student truly knows and understands. It is important to use different types of assessments.
Whether it’s French or any other subject, assessment should be both formative and cumulative. Formative assessments are generally informal and give the teacher information about where the student is as a certain point in time. This information is used to help plan future lessons, target specific concepts or determine if it’s time to move on to a new concept. Cumulative assessments are final judgments and the ones we use for report cards.
When planning your lessons, you should be thinking about assessment. What will your students be able to do? How will you know they are able to do it? What will you be looking for as a measure of success?
If it is your first time teaching French, it maybe difficult to know where your students should be. If possible, consider reaching out to other FSL teachers from other schools or online.
How to Assess French as a Second Language Simply
Quizzes and Tests
The most common way students are assessed in second language classes is through quizzes and tests. But do they really matter? For some simple, basic checks of understanding, they can be a good indicator of what a student knows.
The activities we include in our FSL Bundle have simple quizzes. These are just quick vocabulary checks or short checks on the specific skill from an activity. Short quizzes that are held regularly can help students because they are constantly reviewing the information. Language learning is spiraled so that students always add to their knowledge base.
While quizzes and tests are the easiest way to produce products that can show progress, they should be used in balance with other modes of assessment.
Boom Cards are self-checking task cards that are played online through the BoomLearning.com site. They can be used for basic vocabulary assessments if you have a premium account. Premium accounts allow you to assign decks and record the results. Free accounts allow students to practice. They will see their own scores when they play, but it will not save these results and teachers will not be able to see how students have scored. To learn more about Boom Cards read our post Explode Your Teaching With Boom Cards.
Animals Set 1 on Teachers Pay Teachers or Boom Learning.
Animals Set 2 on Teachers Pay Teachers or Boom Learning.
Birds and Bats on Teachers Pay Teachers or Boom Learning.
Insects and Spiders on Teachers Pay Teachers or Boom Learning.
Ocean Creatures on Teachers Pay Teachers or Boom Learning.
Kitchen on Teachers Pay Teachers or Boom Learning.
Bath and Laundry on Teachers Pay Teachers or Boom Learning.
Clothing on Teachers Pay Teachers or Boom Learning.
Furniture on Teachers Pay Teachers or Boom Learning.
Outdoors/Yard on Teachers Pay Teachers or Boom Learning.
Fruit on Teachers Pay Teachers or Boom Learning.
Vegetables on Teachers Pay Teachers or Boom Learning.
Food on Teachers Pay Teachers or Boom Learning.
Colours on Teachers Pay Teachers or Boom Learning.
Classroom observation is important in a second language class. Listening to your students every day can help you give feedback immediately. You want students talking so you can hear their growth. It doesn’t have to be a formal process. Eavesdropping while students are playing games or completing activities will allow you to gather so much information. It helps to track the information while you are at it to make report card writing easier.
We use a checklist to keep track of which students we’ve heard. This makes it easier to check in on every student over the course of a week, The Name Checklist can be found in our Resource Library or we can send you a copy when you sign up for our email list.
Try to make a point of observing four to five students every session. This means you should be able to hear your whole class over the course of two weeks.
To some, this may seem like a strange thing to assess. In fact, learning anything new requires risk-taking. Creating a classroom environment where students are comfortable taking risks is critical. Emphasizing risk-taking over getting everything right is important. There is a lot going on when learning a new language like pronunciation, sentence structure, and spelling. It can be intimidating for students.
Participation is vital to learning a new language. We use the Name Checklist to keep track of students who are taking learning risks and trying-even if it’s not perfect. Confidence comes as students feel comfortable, so your ability to set the tone of the classroom will make all the difference.
A French class where everyone is too afraid to speak French is not going to have any success. Encourage participation and show appreciation for trying-even when it’s not perfect. Praise students who try. Save correcting for more private settings.
Have short conversations with your students in English and French to check for understanding. This can be as simple as asking a question in French and having the students reply as best they can. Use the Name Checklist to make sure you have a conversation with as many students as possible each week.
And if you teach French to your homeroom, this conversation doesn’t have to happen within the walls of your FSL class. Ask questions when students return from breaks, while they’re entering or exiting the room, while waiting for other activities or during transitions.
Keep French happening in your classroom throughout each day and it will provide you with plenty of time to assess conversations.
When we think of assignments as teachers, the first thing that always comes to mind is products. What are students creating? Since language learning is much more oral and aural than other subject areas, having students spend all their time writing doesn’t quite work.
Writing does have a place in French class. Creating scripts is a way for students to think out the words they need.
Products do not have to be written forms. Students can make voice recordings, video recordings, drawings or even comics to show their understanding.
One of the best projects I had as a student was creating a French soap opera in my high school French class. Our entire class wrote scripts, recorded scenes and acted our hearts out. Even though the French was far from perfect, we were able to speak French, tell a story and create a lasting keepsake that we have viewed several times over the years. It was the eighties and we really wished those hairstyles weren’t a thing back then.
When products are recordings, teachers can replay them as many times as needed to assess speaking. Furthermore, when done over the course of a year, recordings can show progress and improvement.
Many of the activities in our FSL Bundle include simple products that can be created in a lesson or two.
Similarly to how we use Readers’ Theatre to help improve fluency and expression for reading in English, performing plays and telling stories can help students with fluency and expression with French. Audiences do not have to speak French to enjoy a performance that includes actions, costumes or expression.
If you don’t have any formal scripts, try taking simple fairy tales and turning them into short stories or plays with your students. The process of doing this will give you plenty of opportunities to assess them as they create scripts or practice performing. It doesn’t need to be a formal presentation or performance to gain knowledge about your students’ progress.
How to Assess: Keep it Simple, Be Organized
Depending on where you teach, the format in which your grades are entered into report cards can be quite different. Observations, performances and conversations can be difficult to show in a percentage or grade. Keep anecdotal notes about what students are doing well or what they need to improve. These comments combined with other assessments can show a bigger picture of what your students know and understand.
One way to keep track of all these little assessments is through Name Checklists. We name the concept on the top of the list along with the date. Punch holes in these lists and keep them in a binder in chronological order.
Another way is to have a page for each student alphabetically in a book. Write down a note or two after each class about each student’s progress (or lack of progress). It will be much easier to refer to these pages when it’s time to write reports.
Don’t wait until the end of the term to start collecting assessments. A good rule of thumb is to assess something each week. That will give you a good collection of information by the time the term or semester is over.
I have to teach french with no French background. Thank you so much for this resource. It is easy to use and follow. Merci– Teacher
How do you assess French in your classroom? Do you have any other tried and true methods that we could learn about? We’d love to hear from you.