Ask anyone around the Extempore office, and they'll tell you it's quite frequent (almost weekly) for me, Extempore's resident teacher, to hop on meetings with various districts and teachers to show off what you can do on the platform. With so much versatility in one application, it can be difficult to know where to begin. And like starting fresh with other tools, both digital and tangible, there's a learning curve.
Towards the end of last month, there was a stretch of two weeks where I was on five different training calls. After sharing my 'super assessment package' to different groups of language teachers and seeing their positive reactions, it occurred to me that I should be sharing it with everyone! So here you go.
#1 Comprehensive Dictations
Last year I wrote the predecessor to this post, the blog series ‘4 Unique Ways to Use Extempore.’ One of those methods is dictation, where instructors speak in the target language, and students write exactly what they hear.
With something as simple as listen and type, listen and type, I've always thought, there has to be something more students can do with this. Sure enough, as I’ve used dictation more and more both on Extempore and in the classroom, I’ve discovered extra ways to make them even more meaning and comprehension-based. Here are a few suggestions.
When you add sequencing to a dictation, students are tasked with an extra step in the dictation process: putting what they hear in proper order. Instead of just typing what they hear, students now have to read over what they typed out, interpret the language, then determine in which order these sentences should be produced in order to make a logical dialogue.
To excel at a sequenced dictation, students have an insane amount of mental processing to do. This includes..
Listening to the audio in the TL.
Transcribing what they hear exactly in the TL.
Proofreading what they transcribed to check for accuracy / typos. (Normal dictations stop here. From #4 onward, it becomes 'comprehensive.')
Re-reading each sentence they transcribed and understanding their meanings.
Comparing sentences and determining proper sequence.
For simplicity, I allow students to simply place a number next to each sentence when sequencing.
Designing and Implementing Sequenced Dictations
It goes without saying that in order for sequencing to work, the sentences (or questions) within the dictation need to be out of order. Pro tip! Write out what you are going to say (and in the jumbled order) before recording your prompt on Extempore. Oh, and don't forget to leave a 5-10 second pause in between each sentence for students to process.
Odd One Out
Like sequencing, 'odd one out' requires students to interpret the TL both through listening and reading. In this case, students have to select the item that does not belong with the rest of the list. Like many of the examples here, there's ample flexibility with how you implement this.
Designing and Implementing "Odd One Out" Dictations
An added bonus of OOO is that it's suitable for all levels. While an intermediate to advanced learner can likely handle full sentence dictations, novice students may struggle with larger chunks of language. For these students, use individual words and phrases for beginning students, as opposed to full sentences. Keep these words easily categorizable, like the words and phrases below (bold represents odd one out).
- tiger, salmon, leopard, cloud (not an animal), cobra
- in the morning, after school, on Mondays, when it rains, in the car (not a time expression)
For students to indicate which item they feel does not belong, simply have students place an asterisk* next to the item. Now put these in your target language and see how your students do!
Mediation is deserving of its own blog post (eventually, I promise!), so I'll keep it simple here. In a nutshell, mediation involves students interpreting a text (likely in the TL but on some occasions in the L1) and then producing language that reveals comprehension of that text. But students are also mediating, meaning they are serving as a connector between both the language of instruction and the TL. Let's look at an example.
Target Language to English Mediation
There are dozens of real-world tasks (and you know I love tasks...) where students will have to serve as mediators. One example is at a restaurant. More often than not, if you don't speak the target language (or worse, you can't even read it), ordering food will present a challenge. Likewise, if you are going to order, you'll have to rely on someone else to figure out what you can and cannot order. That helper, who looks at the menu in one language and then tells you what's on it in another, is mediating. And who better to take on mediation tasks than your language students!
Rationale: just like the above example of sequenced dictation, TL to English (or other applicable language of instruction) involves plenty of mental processing and linguistic ability. First, students have to accurately interpret the TL text, which they may not fully understand. Then, the student has to process the language and determine which information needs to be shared to complete the task. Even more, for a summative assessment with timed parameters, there is an even greater pressure placed on students.
Oh, and one more note. Mediation is not translation. For one, there's a purpose behind the student interpreting the TL source. They are doing it to complete a task, be it helping a friend order food, getting the gist of a train announcement, managing informational signs in airports or train stations, or navigating an emergency situation.
Mediation is not translation... there's a purpose behind the student interpreting the TL source.
Likewise, mediation differs from translation in that students are not just taking words in one language and putting them in another language for no reason. It is a purposeful translation, if you will.
Designing and Implementing Mediation Tasks
The second most critical element of a mediation tasks remains the target text. When considering your resource, make sure you ask yourself the questions below.
- Is this text at an appropriate level for my students? Will they comprehend the target language or will it overwhelm them?
- Does this text fulfill the needs of the mediation task?
- If the text is an audio file, what considerations do I need to take about pronunciation / word choice? (By all means, expose students to accent-diverse resources, but keep in mind how differences in pronunciation and lexical choice may influence student comprehension when compared with what they normally hear).
The most important piece, however, of the mediation task remains the task itself. To create a high-quality task, determine what the students will do (help someone order food, interpret a street sign, etc.), how they will do it, and what evidence from students will indicate successful completion of this task.
In the example above (and in the video), here's what happened:
- What the students will do: help a friend order food from a restaurant because the friend cannot read the target language.
- How they will do it: reading the menu in the TL and sending an appropriate message (or speaking to the friend, if the response is oral).
- Successful completion entails students naming four (or other #) items on the menu in English, indicating comprehension of the TL text.
#3 Image Interaction
They say a picture's worth a thousand words. While I'm not sure I can come up with a thousand ways to use them on Extempore, images indeed provide substantial room for creativity and experimentation on the platform. Let's see a few examples of how instructors can create and customize assessments when images are included in question prompts.
Freewrites / freetalks
I know, I know, freewrites might sound familiar to you. Honestly, it's the low-pressure, 'do what you can' nature of the assessment that encourages me to use them so frequently. Better still, this type of assessment, where students produce as much language as they can is perfect for measuring proficiency and growth. In this situation, have students look at the image and produce as much language as possible about what they see. Have students do it once on February 20th, then have them do it again on March 30th. Students can easily return to their completed assessments within the app and immediately see their growth.
High-quality listening assessments are elusive. Outside of textbook materials or other recordings made specifically for language learners, teachers have limited options for finding reliable listening content, particularly for novice-level students. And wait a second, aren't we talking about images here? Where does listening come in?
Well, now that you asked, here are a few ideas for creating listening assessments with images.
- I will not even try to hide putting dictation first on this list. When pairing the dictation with an image, have students indicate which statements are true / false. Or, in the dictation, pose questions that students have to type out, then have them answer those questions about the image within that same prompt.
- Multiple choice questions for comprehension. In the video above, information is given about a group of students, and questions are posed in the TL about these students. Questions could range from "What nationality is Xiaoping?" to "Who is wearing a green shirt?" to "Which character has long hair?" For these prompts, questions and answers should both be in the target language.
- Finally, students can demonstrate listening (and a bit of interpersonal) comprehension via audio prompts with an oral response. Add an image to the question then record a question in the target language based on that image. These would be similar to the multiple choice questions, except the student responds in speech or in writing.
Guilty. Again. Yes, I have gone on enough about oral reading in this blog, but its versatility and simplicity is what makes it such a useful strategy. When pairing oral reading with an image, this fact still stands. Simply have students read the text aloud and then determine whether the statements are true / false.
So, so super
Comprehensive dictations demand students to show off both listening and reading skills. Mediation has students interpret an authentic text and understand just enough to complete a task. Interacting with images creates a plethora of opportunities to demonstrate target language prowess and proficiency. The more I experiment with creating assessments on Extempore, the more I discover its boundless versatility. What ideas will you come up with?