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Organising, managing and assessing speaking activities

In this step, we look at how to organise, manage and assess speaking activities.
So we’re talking about organising, managing, and assessing speaking activities. So Lindsay, let’s start by talking about outcomes and instructions. Yeah, I think we need to make sure that speaking tasks obviously have a very clear communicative outcome and learners know what it is, so they know what it is that they’re going to do and what they’re going to produce. Are they finding… are they coming to a decision of some kind? Are they taking notes and putting them somewhere, something like that? And we need to make sure that students are obviously paired and grouped effectively. Would you do it randomly, or would you decide on that before the task? I think I would do a bit of each.
So sometimes, I just do it randomly, let Zoom decide who’s going to work with whom. Otherwise, perhaps, I would look at it in advance, decide to put stronger students with weaker students, or perhaps put all the stronger students together or all the weaker students together. I think a little bit of variety amongst your lessons, so that every lesson they’re not always working with the same other students. I think mixing them up even during a lesson is a good idea, as well. Great. And then of course, we need to monitor, don’t we? So obviously in breakout rooms, you can’t go in and see all of the pairs and groups at the same time.
You have to drop into one breakout room at a time. Now, I don’t know how you feel about this, Marie Therese, but I know for some teachers, they find that really frustrating, because they feel that they like to be in the classroom where they can zoom in onto different groups or pairs whenever they want to, and they can keep an eye on everyone at the same time. But I actually quite like being able to sit undistracted and listen to just one pair or group. How do you feel? Yeah. And I mean, you can’t see everybody, so you just have to put up with that, really.
But I think also, it gives the students an opportunity to take a bit more control over the activity itself and to be a bit more in charge. So instead of always having to– in real life, the teacher is not there, are they, to help them with their speaking activity in real life? So it’s an opportunity, I think, to let students listen to each other, evaluate each other, perhaps give a checklist of things that they can listen for, accuracy of English, perhaps listen for how often they use a particular tense. And so they listen to each other. They do a bit of evaluation. And then maybe they do the activity again to try and improve it.
So I think it’s an opportunity, really, rather than a disadvantage. I agree. I like the fact that learners have to take more control. But of course, we can quickly drop into breakout rooms, can’t we, just to check they’re on task. And then we can drop in and listen more carefully to one– to a few groups. You probably won’t get round all the groups in one activity, especially if you’ve got a large class, but I think it’s really worth dropping into as many as you can and then taking note of their.. the learners’ progress, and so on, and giving feedback on that.
And then in the next speaking task, make sure you monitor other students, so that students over a week’s lessons, are monitored and receive feedback so they’re not missing out on your feedback. But at the same time, when you’re not there, they are able to take that control. Yeah. And I think it’s an opportunity, as well, to discipline yourself so that you don’t take charge and you don’t operate inside the speaking activity, and suddenly all the students have nothing to do because you’re there and you’re being the teacher. So I think it’s a good opportunity to kind of train yourself to monitor.
So write down what they’re saying, make a note of some errors that you can deal with in feedback, and that sort of thing. Great, yeah. I mean, I turn my video off when I go into breakout rooms. Usually… I know some teachers do that so you don’t– you’re not looming over them. But also, of course, speaking activities can take place outside of the classroom and don’t necessarily need to be in class, and we’ll look at that in a step that’s coming up.

Organising, managing and assessing speaking tasks in online learning contexts is both similar and different to doing the same in face-to-face lessons.


Listen to Lindsay and Marie Therese talking about speaking lessons and make notes on the following:

1) Task outcome and instructions

2) Setting up pairs and groups

3) Monitoring breakout rooms

4) Assessment criteria and self-/peer assessment

5) Out of class speaking activities

Check your notes.

Reflect and share

What’s your view on the way teachers are able to monitor breakout rooms online? Is the fact that you can’t see all learners at once an opportunity for learners to take more control, or an opportunity for tasks to fail? Share your ideas in the comments below.

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Teaching English Online

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