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|Name of oral assessment task||Retelling a folk story|
|EAL curriculum level range||BL, B1, B2, B3, CL, C1, C2, C3|
|Task type||Oral presentation|
|Purpose||To assess students’ ability to retell a familiar narrative.|
|Description||Students retell a folk story from their cultural group, after hearing an indigenous Australian legend or dreamtime story.|
|Assumed knowledge and description||
|Language centre/mainstream class||Mainstream class – EAL support or language centre
|Subject/key curriculum objectives, outcomes||English (literature), Indigenous Studies|
|Topic/teaching unit||Folk stories and legends; Aboriginal Dreamtime stories.|
|Notes and access to resources||
Examples of spoken retells of some indigenous legends are:
An explanation of the purpose, nature and use of criteria sheets is available at 4. Using the assessment criteria.
Purpose and value of the task
The task enables teachers to analyse their EAL students’ narrative and spoken presentation skills. As the task is based on narratives from the students’ own cultures, the narratives are familiar to the students, and provide a context for the exploration of cultural backgrounds in the classroom.
This is one of a number TEAL common assessment tasks that assess students’ skills in different contexts and in relation to narrative texts. TEAL Oral Task 3: Story retell requires students to retell a familiar story, and TEAL Oral Task 8: Picture sequence narrative requires students to tell the story depicted in a series of pictures they have sequenced. This task requires not only control of the elements of narrative (structure, tenses, marking of time and ways of sequencing events), but also the capacity to use this in a public spoken presentation of a narrative. So the focus on the public speaking dimension is marked in this task. Three TEAL writing assessment tasks also relate to students’ abilities to produce written narratives – Writing Task 3 (Story book captions), Writing Task 5: Story retell and Task 16: A Ghost Story. Teachers should judiciously choose a combination of assessment tasks related to narrative – a very common but basic text type – to assess students skills in producing spoken and written narratives, depending on their current level of EAL development and their prior learning and knowledge.
The students in these videos had studied a unit of work on folk stories and legends. The unit began with the teacher introducing an indigenous Australian story, which the teacher explained. The students’ explored the structure and language of the folk story, before being given the chance to select a story from their own country, prepare a presentation and deliver it to a group of classmates. In one of the schools, the students presented to a teacher, who asked questions and provided prompts, while in another school the students presented without the intervention of a teacher. The teacher prompting and questioning was important for the students at the lowest level of performance to fully present the task.
All the students give presentations of their stories, but at the higher levels of performance, apart from more advanced language use, there is more evidence of students using varied intonation, pausing, facial expressions and eye contact to give their audience an enjoyable experience. However, some aspects of language, such as verb tense accuracy are not always consistently achieved, as students seem to be working on other aspects of their presentations, and are trying to use more grammatically complex language.
The videos show students at different stages of development in retelling a familiar narrative. At the lowest level of proficiency, the student still requires the support of the teacher to move the story forward, assist the student in using comprehensible words, and clarifying what the student is trying to say. The more proficient students are able to give more fluent and extended, uninterrupted narratives. The linguistic structures and features in these become more complex with greater proficiency, although to some extent, as the students work with more complex structures, they make more basic grammatical errors.
The videos also depict increasing skill in delivering a spoken presentation, with increasing control over the production and linking of sounds, stress rhythm and intonation. The students at lower levels of performance are more focused on retelling the story intelligibly, while the students at the higher level are developing skills in adding interest to their spoken performance, to make it an interesting and engaging event for their audience.
Home language: Spanish
The story the student chooses to tell is an episode from the early 17th Century Spanish epic by Cervantes, Don Quixote. She clearly knows the story, but is not yet fully in control of all the vocabulary she needs to complete the retelling. She relies on the teacher to support her a lot, with words such as ‘windmill’ and ‘lance’. She also relies on the teacher’s familiarity with the story, in order to get over some problems of vocabulary and grammatical features. The student has a range of strategies to elicit support from her conversational partner in overcoming her difficulties.
The marked criteria sheet for Sample 1 shows this student is performing at level 1 in performance of this task. Her main focus, with the support and guidance of the teacher, is to tell the main events of the story, although she begins with a comment on the theme or moral of the story. She uses present tense verbs through the retelling of the story, and her teacher acknowledges this by using simple present in the support he gives. She tells the events in the order they happen, without any use of adverbials of time to signal a time frame for events. Her limited grammar sometimes prevents her from clearly retelling the story. Her pronunciation is generally intelligible, despite the distraction of some over-aspiration of /h/ sounds, and some vowel sounds not always being clear. The student is still dependent on support from her conversational partner to deliver this narrative, which makes it more conversational than the performance-like spoken presentations in the other videos.
The student’s English language use in this task is consistent with the descriptions of students at Level C1, Victorian Curriculum F-10 EAL.
Home language: Greek
The story chosen by the student is one of Aesop’s fables, The tortoise and the hare. She gives a well-controlled presentation to her classmates that flows and incorporates many of the elements of a successful narrative. However her pace of delivery is quite fast, and her control and accuracy in verb tenses and structures suggests that the student has memorised and rehearsed a written text, and so the spoken presentation dimension of her completion of the task is not as strong as the narrative dimension. The presentation of the plot is emphasised, and the moral of the story is explicitly addressed at the end.
The marked criteria sheet for Sample 2 indicates this is a more complete and independent retelling of the narrative than Sample 1. There are some rudimentary elements of a formal spoken presentation. The student makes eye contact with her audience (although her gaze is not as varied as in the higher level performances), uses some varied intonation to add some interest to the story, and signals when she has ended. However, these elements are limited. Despite the almost perfect accuracy in use of past tense verbs and accurate presentation of the narrative, incorporating direct speech, the presentation is limited as a spoken presentation, as it lacks the animation, responsiveness and varied intonation that would make it a more engaging event for her audience.
The student’s English language use in this task is consistent with the descriptions of students at Level C2, Victorian Curriculum F-10 EAL.
Home language: Nepali
The story chosen by this student is a traditional Nepali story about the Alnus tree and the Rhododendron plant. This is another well-prepared presentation with well-controlled narrative elements, including accurate use of simple past tense for the events, the use of adverbials to provide a time frame for the narrative, conjunctions to express causality, and direct speech to give an element of reality to the account. This presentation provides a competent presentation of the plot, and adds discussion of the characters, which contributes to being able to present the moral at the end of the story.
The marked criteria sheet for Sample 3 also indicates the spoken presentation has elements that will engage the audience, including eye contact, contextualisation and explicit marking of parts of the presentation. There is clear articulation and linking of most sounds, although the pace of the presentation seems a little rushed. A small number of problems with sounds are evident, but these do not impede the intelligibility of the presentation. The student is working at using varied intonation to signal direct speech, and to add interest to parts of the narrative. She uses some strategies to help her through a performance she is clearly a little nervous about.
This performance includes more elements than Sample 2. The student’s English language use in this task is consistent with the descriptions of students at Level C2, Victorian Curriculum F-10 EAL.
Home language: Indonesian
The story this student chooses to tell is an Indonesian folk story about a tortoise who wanted to be able to fly. The narrative and presentation is more ambitious than the performances in samples 1 to 3. The presentation of the ploys involves some development of the characters, the building up of a climax and the resolution and lead to the moral of the story. It is more competent as an interesting and engaging spoken presentation to an audience, as it incorporates elements such as varied intonation, repetition to give emphasis, and explicit marking of direct speech. The student is attempting to use more complex structures and uses varied intonation to add interest to her presentation.
However, as the marked criteria sheet for Sample 3 shows, the student has lower accuracy and makes more errors in her use of past tense verbs and prepositions. While many important verbs, especially those with irregular forms in the simple past are correct, there are many errors evident in the use of regular simple past tense verbs and prepositions. These don’t impede the comprehensibility of the presentation, or the extent to which it is interesting. However, they are a noticeable aspect of this performance of the task.
The student’s English language use in this task is consistent with the descriptions of students at Level C3, Victorian Curriculum F-10 EAL.
Using the assessment to improve learning
- Students can be asked to look at the video of their retelling of the story and focus on one of the following aspects of a narrative (after class discussion of how these can be used in narrative):
- using the blank task sheet to review that covered all elements and how well each was covered
- past tenses and present tenses
- the use of adverbs and adverbial phrase of time to sequence and link event in the narrative
- the use of adjectives and adverbs to make the narrative more interesting
After watching the video, comment on their own strengths and weaknesses in this aspect of their presentation
- Students can be asked to look at the video of their retelling of the story and focus on one of the following aspects of a spoken presentation, following some teacher input about how these can add interest:
- use of direct speech within a narrative
- use of eye contact with the audience
- use of varied intonation
- use of rhetorical devices (rhetorical questions, evaluative comment)
After watching the video, comment on their own strengths and weaknesses in this aspect of their presentation. The students can also be asked what they have learned about their speaking from doing this task and reviewing their own performance.
- Students work in pairs to look at their partner’s videos, and make suggestions to their partner about some ways they could improve their narrative and their presentation to the class.
- Ask each student to look at a stronger performance of the task than their own, and make a list of some things the student they are watching does to make their presentation more interesting.