Choosing an oral assessment task

In choosing tasks, you will be asking yourself the following questions:

  • What do I want to find out about my students’ listening and speaking skills?
  • How does this relate to their overall language development?
  • What aspects of my students’ speaking and listening do I want to better understand?
  • What do students already know/can already do?
  • What do they need to learn/learn to do to extend their oral English language skills?
  • What task will give me this sort of information?
  • What sort of task is relevant to the students’ level (language level, age/year level and stage of learning)?
  • What contexts of language usage will be most useful to assess through?

In order to help you to choose appropriate tasks, the TEAL common assessment tasks are organised across three broad text purposes, informative, imaginative and persuasive, which elicit different kinds of English language use from students. Choosing tasks from across these three purposes will ensure that you gain a broad view of students’ English language usage.

Tasks are also provided for a range of EAL stages. Tasks will be suitable for students at early or later stages of English language development.

A number of tasks should be undertaken with each student. In general, a minimum of three tasks, one from each of the text purposes, would an appropriate starting point. Additional tasks can be given to broaden your view of student’s abilities. Time the tasks in your teaching program so that students are not overloaded, and to ensure a balance between teaching and assessment.

The tasks are designed to provide information about your student’s oral English language development, regardless of the content of their communication. For example, the student may not be able to satisfactorily complete a task, such as building a bridge that falls over, or giving you incorrect information about an animal or a graph, but you will still be able to learn about and assess their oral English language skills.

When choosing tasks for assessment, consider the following:

  • Tasks should be chosen from across the three text purposes, informative, imaginative and persuasive.
  • Tasks should be at an appropriate EAL stage for students. The difficulty level for each task can be ascertained by looking at the spread of stages for which it has been written. Reading the Assumed knowledge section of the task will also help you to assess its suitability. If the student has not been taught these aspects, then the task may be too difficult.
  • It is better initially to choose a task that is too simple, then move on to higher stage tasks.
  • Tasks should be age appropriate, and likely to be engaging for the students you are assessing.
  • Ensure that the time, space and resources needed for the tasks are available.
  • It is important that students feel some sense of accomplishment when they undertake any task including an assessment task. If it becomes clear that the chosen task is too difficult, modify the expectations, or provide a simpler alternative

Videoing or recording assessments tasks

Videoing or making an audio recording of students doing the oral assessment tasks will help you to assess different aspects of thier performance. The transitory nature of spoken language can make it difficult to really focus on more than one or two aspects at a time. Being able to watch or listen to assessment tasks more than once means that you can focus on a range of aspects, for example the first time you can focus on the overall success of the text, on subsequent viewings you can focus on more detailed features, such as grammar or pronunciation, and then again to assess interpersonal aspects or strategies.

Audio or video recording of students’ oral language can also be used as a concrete basis for you and your students to talk about what may need to be done to improve and move to higher levels.

Such recordings must be for the private use of teachers and students and be erased when they are no longer needed in order to respect the privacy of students. Some may be kept using security measures, for comparisons of a student’s oral language over a longer period of time.

If videoing or audiotaping, consider the following:

  • recordings do not need to be of high quality, for example, using an iPhone or iPad will usually give sufficient quality for assessment purposes
  • the more familiar students are with being filmed the more natural and spontaneous they will be
  • choose a quiet spot away from other students so that background noise does not interfere.


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