Shaking Up Grammar tests

If your teaching circumstances are anything like mine, you’ll be expected to give regular tests – or at least regular marks. It seems the marks are the most important thing to many of the stakeholders, and after a recent parents’ evening I have the distinct impression that some parents, and the kids too, don’t really care about what is being learnt as long as the results are what they consider to be good enough.

The “normal” way of testing in our school goes as follows: bit of vocab, grammar exercises (fill the gap, circle correct tense etc.) followed by written expression.

I thought it was time to shake it up instead.

  1. Let students use their notes during the test

My son’s physics teacher does this in tests, it’s a great way to encourage students to take good notes!

2. Give the students the test question in advance

A friend used to have to do essays like this at university and you can adapt it to language lessons. Recently a class wrote a ghost story in test conditions, I told them what they would be doing a week before and let them plan how they liked.

3. Give them vocabulary lists

It’s not just remembering the word, it’s being able to use it in the right context that counts, and this is a good way to test that.

4. Let the students write the questions

This is a great way of giving practice tests too, get the students to write a question or two each or in groups, then give the class all the questions to answer.

5. Let them work in groups

Depending on what you’re testing and how, why not let them work collaboratively?

Let the students do the marking, there are many ways of doing this, apart from the classic “pass your vocab test to the person behind you to mark”.

6. Why not give them a written text you’ve written and added some common mistakes and things you want them to pick out and ask them to correct it?

7. Or ask them to decide on the marking scale, how many points for spelling? register? What learning objectives are you testing and how will they validate them? etc.

And finally, how did the test go for you? Was it as you expected? Did you revise well enough? What would you do differently next time? Exam wrappers that encourage a little metacognition are always a good thing, and by encouraging students to think about their learning we encourage them to become more autonomous learners.

I’ll be talking about assessment at TESOL France’s colloquium in Paris this weekend, about assessment in the Inclusive Practice classroom to be precise, come along and say hi!

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About fabenglishteacher

I've been teaching English for a few years now and this blog is part of my never-ending quest to make learning English more fun, and easier for my students.
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