Every year I ask myself the same questions about how best to evaluate the oral skills of my students, for me this is the most useful (and used) skill in a foreign language, but the most challenging to evaluate.
Obviously I assess continually throughout the year but our school has end of term exams with an oral section, these exam results count for a third of their term grade point average, which determines whether they pass into the next school year or not, so it’s important to get it right.
Another factor in oral exams is student stress, it sometimes seems that the hardest working students get the most stressed out with these exams!
This year I asked them to come in pairs, which alleviated some of the stress, I had written out a load of questions related to the year’s work, “what are you like?”, “What can you remember about the Mayflower?” …
The students took it in turn asking questions, however I really encouraged the creation of a conversation, as opposed to some kind of speed interrogation, points were given for asking extra questions and helping your partner if they got stuck.
They seemed to find it a more enjoyable experience, it gave me more time to take notes than when I question the students directly, and I also found it fun, I even joined in on a few interesting topics myself!