5. Building a bridge


Task Details

 

Task details

Name of oral assessment task Building a bridge
EAL curriculum level range  A1, A2, BL, B1, B2, CL, C1, C2
Text orientation Persuasive
Task type Interaction and negotiation

 


Task specification

Task specification

Purpose To assess students’ ability to plan, negotiate and complete a shared task with another student.
Description Students in pairs build a bridge to go over an imaginary river, using blocks, a building/construction set, paper, cardboard and recycled materials.
Assumed knowledge and description
  1. Content knowledge: familiarity with completing tasks in pairs, or working on problem solving in small groups
  2. Text type, genre: pair activity
  3. Linguistic structures and features:

    • polite formulas
    • language of negotiation, persuasion and instruction
    • imperatives
    • temporal conjunctions
  4. Vocabulary: please, thank you, put, build, hold, join, now, then, next, colours, shapes


Learning/teaching context

 

Learning/teaching context

Language centre/mainstream class EAL support
Key learning objective Explaining processes
Topic/teaching unit English
Assessment conditions
  1. Pair activity
  2. Formal/informal: informal, spontaneous speech
  3. Time limit: one lesson
  4. Teacher intervention: limited to response to student request for clarification and encouragement
  5. Access to resources: building sets and materials, blue paper to signify water
  6. Scaffolding (modelled/guided/independent support): independent 
  7. Accommodations: 
Notes
  • Pre-assessment activities can be extended or reduced as appropriate for the learners.
  • The building set should be appropriate to students’ age group, simple Lego blocks for younger students, Meccano or similar for older students.  Students can be given additional building materials if they request them, e.g. string, paper, drinking straws or cardboard.
  • Students should be paired with a student of similar English language proficiency.
  • Students with different first languages should be paired together.
  • For younger students this task can be undertaken as part of a free play session, or linked to classroom activities if preferred – for example, after reading the story ‘The Three Billy Goats Gruff’ students can be asked to build the bridge the troll hides under.  In this case they can be asked to build a bridge strong enough to hold the biggest billy goat.
  • Students can be asked to build a bridge strong enough for a toy car to drive over.
  • For older students the task can be used as an introduction to a science unit exploring the difficulties of spanning rivers or other roads with a self-supporting structure – students can attempt to build their own bridges before looking at the way engineers have solved these problems, for example this web page from How Stuff Works  provides information about bridge design. Alternatively it can be given simply as a problem solving task.
  • The interaction and negotiation between the two partners may be audio recorded for more careful analysis and assessment of individual students after the performance.  This will enable more focused assessment and feedback for each student.

 


Task implementation

 

Task implementation

STAGE ACTION STEPS
Pre-assessment activity
    • Allocate pairs.
    • Students are given sheets of blue paper and a building set or materials.
    • The teacher explains the task, and if necessary mimes or gives a brief demonstration of the task.  The idea is to have students attempting to build a bridge to span a river of blue paper – the width of the paper should be wide enough to provide a challenge.
    • Older students can be asked to design their bridge together before starting to build by sketching it on paper.  
    • Students should be encouraged to talk about the problem before starting their task and to share ideas about how to build their bridge. They should also be encouraged to verbally allocate parts of the task between them. Older students can be asked to plan on paper before they start.
Assessment activity
  • The students begin to build their bridge.
  • The teacher observes the students as they plan and complete the activity, giving encouragement to explain what they are doing and why to each other and assisting with resolving differences of opinion or miscommunication if necessary.
  • If students complete the task too quickly, make it harder by increasing the distance their bridge has to span, or to carry a heavier toy car.
  • Click here to view the task sheet for this assessment: 
Post-assessment activity
  • When the students have constructed their bridge the teacher asks them to explain how they made their bridge, and why they made it in the way they did.
  • Older or more proficient students can be asked to explain to other students in groups why their bridge was successful or unsuccessful, and the problems they had in building it.

 

 

Assessment criteria

TEAL Oral Task 5- Unmarked criteria sheet [PDF]

TEAL Oral Task 5- Unmarked criteria sheet [Word]

An explanation of the purpose, nature and use of criteria sheets is available at 4. Using the assessment criteria.


Annotations and commentary

Purpose and value of task

Task 5 requires students to complete the task of building a bridge with a partner. The task gives scope for using a wide range of language functions, including the need to employ the language of negotiation, instruction and persuasion to negotiate successfully completing the task. Students may also need to be able to resolve disputes and disagreements. Capacity to talk about the features of bridges (strength, supports, spans and so on) also facilitates discussion. Students are asked at the start of the activity to plan together how they are going to solve the problem of building their bridge, using the language of describing, explaining, and justifying, which they may also need to do as the task progresses. Interpersonal language use such as expressing approval, agreement or preference, will also be important to completing the task. Students may also need to name and describe the materials they are working with.

Students’ abilities to use all this kind of language will of course vary, and many functions can be successfully carried out nonverbally.

The task will elicit language features including the use of modals (we could.., how about…), describing thoughts (I think…), giving reasons (because, as..). The tasks demands a range of tenses, future tense when planning, present tense while doing the task, past tense if describing what they did.

Students can also be asked to talk about the process they went through and to describe problems they may have had along the way.

Contextual information

The students in these video samples were all prepared for the task, usually through a discussion with their teacher.

Commentary

The students’ responses to the task indicates the difficulty that younger students and those at an earlier stage have with planning together, even when they know the materials they are to work with, and are encouraged to think and talk before they begin the task. At these early Stages students can demonstrate a notable ability to use strategies to cooperate and complete the task, while using few words. Some of the samples also illustrate how a concrete, hands-on task such as this elicits task-completion strategies, which focus on the here and now of completing the task, and which limit the complexity of the language used. The samples also illustrate that older students may bring a greater self-awareness to some assessment tasks than younger students, with the result they are more aware of how they are expected to ‘display’ certain skills, while younger students are more engrossed in the activity of completing the task. However, useful information about students’ English language use is gained from watching them interact in a context which requires them to cooperate and communicate in order to solve a problem.


Sample 1

Biographical information

Student A (left of screen)

Year level: 3

Home language: Turkish

Student B (right of screen)

Year level: 3

Home language: Burmese

Commentary

Student A

The students work together on the task without any pre-planning. They check with each other as the task progresses, but mostly nonverbally. They communicate largely through gesture, and seek approval from each other through simple exchanges such as, Like this? 

Student A is reluctant to take part initially, and defers to the teacher and his partner, who nonverbally directs him. He checks with his partner, using the phrase, This one here? He may be unsure of the task, or is reluctant to make a mistake. With teacher encouragement he is able to describe a process, using simple phrases and gesture, not entirely intelligibly, Can do like that … and cut the paper here… He then plays a more interactive role with his partner, but again with only basic language and gestures, not like that, like that …. He does not always seem to understand the teacher.

The marked criteria sheet shows that the student meets most criteria at level 1 of performance.

The student’s language use in this task is consistent with the descriptions of students at Level B1, Victorian Curriculum F-10 EAL.

TEAL Oral Task 5 – Criteria sheet – Sample 1 – Student A

Student B

Student B is more hands on with the task, and more confident in approaching the task, once he is prompted by the teacher, but he is not yet able to explain what he plans to do. He communicates mostly through gesture and facial expression. He seems to understand most of the teacher’s comments, questions and prompts, What could you put across here? Paper. Do you think you could make a ramp to go up onto the bridge? Like this?

The marked criteria sheet shows that the student meets most criteria at level 1 of performance.

The student’s language use in this task is consistent with the descriptions of students at Level B1, Victorian Curriculum F-10 EAL.

TEAL Oral Task 5 – Criteria sheet – Sample 1 – Student B


Sample 2

Biographical information

Student A (left of screen)

Year level: 4

Home language: Burmese

Student B (right of screen)

Year level: 5

Home language: Burmese

Commentary

The students were instructed to talk together to plan how they were going to build their bridge, but did not do this. They launched straight into making their bridge, and their exchanges are limited to the here-and-now functions of getting the task done, such as: put here, one more here, yes stick here, this is tricky, we have to cut this. They cooperate well, asking some questions, Student B: … how, how you stick it? directing each other where necessary, and largely agreeing with each other on how to build their bridge. When Student A asks Student B for assistance with where to cut the paper, he uses mostly gesture and mime. When they make the central span of their bridge they cooperate closely on folding it (although it is not clear that they both have the same plan) Student B directs and explains more than his partner: Fold to be strong, half more, there, we leave it there. He then takes over directing Student A in making the ramp, to go um, where he climb … Student A has been directed by the teacher to tell Student B how he wants the bridge to be built, but Student B largely takes on this role, perhaps because he has more English, or is more confident. At their current stage of English language development, these students have limited capacity to plan ahead, and to explain to each other what they want to do, yet they manage to complete the task. It is notable how few nouns they use as they work.

Student A: The marked criteria sheet shows that Student A meets most of criteria at level 1 of performance, and some at level 2

The student’s language use in this task is consistent with the descriptions of students at Level B1, Victorian Curriculum F-10 EAL.

TEAL Oral Task 5 – Criteria sheet – Sample 2 – Student A

Student B: The marked criteria sheet shows that Student B meets most criteria at level 2 of performance.

The student’s language use in this task is consistent with the descriptions of students at Level B2, Victorian Curriculum F-10 EAL.

TEAL Oral Task 5 – Criteria sheet – Sample 2 – Student B


Sample 3

Biographical information

Student A (left of screen)

Year level: 6

Home language: Burmese

Student B (right of screen)

Year level: 6

Home language: Hindi

Commentary

The students work well together, even though they also do not plan ahead. They quickly seem to develop an unspoken agreement about how they will build their bridge. Their conversation is about what they are actually doing with little or no reference to what they are working towards. They verbally direct each other in solving the problem, Student B: I think we have to stick on it. I think we have to use this. Student B: Yes you must stick on it … do here … then I think this one do here … now you have to hold it. They encourage each other as they work together, Student A: It doesn’t matter, hold onto it. They using lots of ‘thinking aloud’ language, which also serves the purpose of moving the project forward, Student A: … need another one, yeah? Student B: Yeah. They notably use few verbs apart from stick, cut, put, and name few objects as they work. At the end of the video, when the teacher asks them to explain what they did they are not really able to. They name the things they used, but were not able to answer open ended questions, such as: What were the problems you had when you were trying to build this? Student B: By sticking them … Student A: This thing, what do you call it this thing … that one we had problem with this one, so … When the teacher asked more specific questions they were better able to answer. Teacher: When the middle went down, you were trying to do something, Student B: We were trying to use this but it doesn’t fit, so …now we have … They understand quite complicated questions such as, Teacher: What do you need to do to strengthen it? Student A: We need the thing there, it goes like this. As can be seen by the previous exchange, the students are hampered in their communication by lack of specific vocabulary, but compensate well by use of circumlocution and other strategies to get the task done. Although their English language resources are still developing, they manage to work cooperatively, watching each other rather than questioning.

Student A: The marked criteria sheet shows that Student A meets most criteria at level 2 of performance, with some at level 3.

The student’s language use in this task is consistent with the descriptions of students at Level B2, Victorian Curriculum F-10 EAL.

TEAL Oral Task 5 – Criteria sheet – Sample 3 – Student A

Student B: The marked criteria sheet shows that Student B meets most criteria at level 3 of performance.

The student’s language use in this task is consistent with the descriptions of students at Level B2, Victorian Curriculum F-10 EAL.

TEAL Oral Task 5 – Criteria sheet – Sample 3 – Student B


Sample 4

Biographical information

Student A (left of screen)

Age: 14

Year level: 9

Home language: French Creole

Student B (right of screen)

Age: 14

Year level: 9

Home language: Oromo

Commentary

The students are able to complete the task at a higher language level than the previous samples. Although they do not plan before they start, they are able to instruct each other as they proceed, and to discuss how the task is unfolding, as in when they discuss the size of the bridge, and when Student B explains the need to ‘decorate’ the bridge. They have a shared understanding of what they are doing, and they discuss the task and how to complete it as they go. Student B is able to negotiate on the length of the bridge, Student B: … that’s too long bridge mate. They are more fluent and accurate in their speech, particularly the grammar, where they rely far less on novel constructions than the students in the previous samples. Their stress and intonation is clearer. They lack some topic specific language, such as ramp, and Student B uses the word decorate to describe the need to add railings or barriers to the bridge. They use less circumlocution.

Student A: The marked criteria sheet shows that the Student A meets most criteria at level 3 of performance.

The student’s language use in this task is consistent with the descriptions of students at Level C2, Victorian Curriculum F-10 EAL.

TEAL Oral Task 5 – Criteria sheet – Sample 4 – Student A

Student B: The marked criteria sheet shows that the Student B meets most criteria at level 3 of performance with some level 4 criteria observed.

The student’s language use in this task is consistent with the descriptions of students at Level C2, Victorian Curriculum F-10 EAL.

TEAL Oral Task 5 – Criteria sheet – Sample 4 – Student B


Sample 5

Biographical information

Student A (left of screen)

Age: 14

Year level: 9

Home language: Persian

Student B (right of screen)

Age: 14

Year level: 9

Home language: Nepali

Commentary

The students work cooperatively, planning their bridge on paper, as they were directed to do. Student A leads asking What do you want to do for this part? She uses the word probably to signal possibility, as well as we could. She uses technically appropriate words such as stable, equal, half. She monitors her partner’s responses to her plan, getting his approval as they start work, explaining more fully as they begin. As she senses that he has doubts about her plan, she asks him: … or if … do you have another idea that we can do? She makes few grammatical errors, apart from difficulties with the uncountable noun paper, using a paper, papers. Her intonation and stress are near native like. Student B listens and adds to his partners plan, To make the stairs, That’s great. He questions to clarify the plan as the work proceeds, So how are going to … He explains the new plan as she builds it, commenting at the same time, We can actually do this … and just like make the blocks here and here. Student A expands on what he says, Student B: … do one thing is … a stairs, Student A: So building the stairs. Student B’s use of the more basic verbs, do and make contrast with Student A’s use of build. Student B: Can do stairs … do this on the side to make the stairs … to look like stairs. They support and encourage each other as they work, repairing mistakes, Student B: … it’s alright. The task may not be challenging enough for the students to exhibit the full range of their English language resources, especially Student A.

Student A: The marked criteria sheet shows that the Student A meets all criteria at level 4 of performance.

The student’s language use in this task is consistent with the descriptions of students beyond Stage S2 EAL AusVELS, and the EAL Developmental Continuum.

TEAL Oral Task 5 – Criteria sheet – Sample 5 – Student A

Student B: The marked criteria sheet shows that the student meets all criteria at level 4 of performance.

The student’s language use in this task is consistent with the descriptions of students beyond Level C2, Victorian Curriculum F-10 EAL.

TEAL Oral Task 5 – Criteria sheet – Sample 5 – Student B


Using this assessment to improve learning 

Older or more proficient students can be asked to explain to other students in groups why their bridge was successful or unsuccessful, and the problems they had in building it.

They can be asked to frame their talk around the following ideas:

  • How did you plan your bridge?
  • Did you agree on how to build your bridge?
  • What materials did you use?
  • How did you work out any disagreements?
  • Was your bridge successful?
  • What changes would you make to your plan?

 


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