6. What I learn at school


Task details

Task details

Name of oral assessment task What I learn at school
EAL curriculum level range  A1, A2, B1, B2, C1, C2,
Text orientation Informative
Task type Interaction and negotiation


Task specification

Task specification

Purpose To assess students’ ability to discuss the topics and activities they have recently done in school – what they have enjoyed, what they have learnt, what they are interested in learning.
Description Students discuss with the teacher activities they have done at school, focusing on a recently completed unit of work or activities around a topic.
Assumed knowledge and description
  1. Content knowledge: familiarity with a recent topic or class focus
  2. Text type, genre: discussion
  3. Linguistic structures and features:
    Past tense: I learned/learnt, played, wrote, listened, made; Future tense: I would like to … ; Use of simple ‘reporting’ language, such as timeless present tense (Vegetables are good for you. A food pyramid tells you …); Simple questioning: What did you learn about …, Can you tell me about …
  4. Vocabulary: school based vocabulary sets related to a specific topic; school activities (draw, write, play, learn, talk, listen); classroom resources and materials (book, computer, internet, paper, pens); names of subjects at school: Maths, art, science, health


Learning/teaching context

Learning/teaching context

Language centre/mainstream class EAL support
Subject/key syllabus objectives, outcomes 
Topic/teaching unit
Assessment conditions
  1. Individual/pair activity
  2. Formal/informal: informal
  3. Time limit:
  4. Teacher intervention: question prompts to elicit information about school activities
  5. Access to resources: Students may use resources to help communicate their answers, e.g. use of a globe to show the country they have been learning about, referring to a report they have written. 
  6. Scaffolding (modelled/guided/independent support): guided
  7. Accommodations:
Notes
  • No specific pre-assessment activity is required, but students should have recently completed a unit of work/study, or be part way through one.


Task implementation

Task implementation

STAGE ACTION STEPS
Pre-assessment activity
  • The teacher interviews another student or adult, to provide a demonstration of the task for the students, using common questions to elicit personal information.
  • Students are paired and ask each other questions, from a prepared list.
Assessment activity
  • As an introduction, the teacher should tell the student what they are going to be talking about something they have been learning about at school. Ask the student to nominate what they have been learning that they would like to talk about. If students cannot nominate a topic, prompt them to recall some recent learning, for example: We have just been learning about healthy foods. Can you to tell me about what you have learnt about healthy foods and the things we should be eating?
  • Students tell the teacher about the topic they have been learning in school, what activities they enjoyed, what helped them to learn, guided by questions.
  • If necessary students can be encouraged to use resources to help them explain what they have been learning about, such as word lists, recently completed activity sheets, drawings or posters.
  • Questioning should begin with asking about everyday school activities and what the student enjoys, followed by questions focusing on a particular topic that the student is studying or has just completed studying. For students at earlier stages, questions can be modified or simplified.
Sample questions:

  • What have you been learning about at school?
  • What kinds of activities did you do?
  • Which activities did you enjoy, why?
  • What are you good at doing?
  • What did you use to help you learn?
  • Which activities helped you to learn?
  • What did you learn that was new?
  • What else would you like to know about (the topic)?
Post-assessment activity
  • If students indicate that there was something new they would like to learn about, help them to form a plan for investigating and doing some simple research to find out what they want to know.

 


Assessment criteria

TEAL Oral Task 6 – Unmarked criteria sheet [PDF]

TEAL Oral Task 6- 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

This task is intended to assess EAL learners’ abilities to talk about what they have recently learned at school. They need to report what they have learned, and the task can relate to any area of the curriculum. As well as assessing how well students can talk about a new topic, students are also asked questions that encourage them to think about their own learning. Students are asked about their use of learning resources, what they knew when they  as part of their awareness and management of their own learning. This is important for teachers supporting EAL students, as there is a need to conduct conversations about learning across the curriculum in order to monitor student progress and to support students in their areas of learning need.

The language related to this task can be quite variable, depending on the topic being discussed. However, there are some constants, such as the use of past tense to report learning processes and what was learned. The present tense is needed when students talk about information that is generally true, or the product of learning. The framing of the task elicits the present perfect, because it involves talking about a recent event (the recent learning and learning activities) and relating this to the present, such as I’ve been learning about how to make jelly. The present tense is used when students talk about what they would like to learn.

Students may have a sophisticated understanding of the ideas and concepts around a topic (often because it is knowledge they already have in their first language) but may find it difficult to talk about it in English, especially of course at earlier stages of development. Simply ensuring that students learn topic specific vocabulary is not sufficient to give them the skills to talk about their learning. They also need to be specifically taught academic English language skills such as learning how to explain, describe, evaluate, predict and classify. More formal spoken presentation skills are often more similar to written English, and the ability to use this kind of language in spoken texts will assist the development of their academic writing skills.

The task involves some personal responses when students talk about what they enjoyed doing and learning about, and what they would like to learn about. The questions can be simplified or modified for students at the earlier stages. This task is related to TEAL Oral Task 11 Report on recent learning and TEAL Writing Task 17 What I learn at school.

Contextual information

The students had all either just completed a topic, or were in the process of studying a particular topic, but had had plenty of opportunity to learn and use the specific language involved.

Commentary

The students in the sample videos respond to the questions they are asked and provide an account of what they have been learning about, and the kinds of activities they have been doing. In doing this they generally use a range of relevant grammatical structures. What differentiates the proficiency of the students is the range of meanings they communicate, and the extent to which they are able to provide more complete, clear, logically presented and detailed answers, using topic specific language. In some samples it is clear that students have understood the questions but are not really able to elaborate beyond simple answers.

Some answers are limited, but others are more fluent and smooth in their interaction, reflecting greater control over stress, and intonation, which makes their speech more interesting and less repetitive.

The younger students often have some difficulty with complicated explanations of processes or games, especially in staging their explanations logically and in ordering the parts of a process, but this is common at their age. For the most part the students persevere with talking about what they have been doing and learning, recasting when they realise that they have left out important information, or in response to the teacher’s prompts and questions.


Sample 1

Biographical information

Year level: 2

Home language: Vietnamese

Commentary

The student is asked about what he enjoys doing at school and answers, Reading and writing, everything. He is then asked what he has been learning about writing and, cueing from the teacher’s question, but using the appropriate vocabulary says, I’ve been learning about … writing procedures, writing reports and recounts. He is asked to talk about a report he has recently written, but needs prompting to talk about how he has written a report about crocodiles, I just write about an animal. He can talk about the basic information he wrote about crocodiles, beginning with a topic sentence, Crocodiles are reptiles … The teacher asks, What did you need to write in it? and he mentions some of the factual information in his report (reading from his report as he speaks), rather than talking about what needs to go in a report. He may not have understood the question to be about the elements of a report, rather than what he put in this own report.

When asked about why he chose to write about crocodiles, he says, I don’t know, and, although prompted to think about it, still cannot say why.

The teacher then asks about what he has been learning about in enquiry, and he answers, In enquiry I’ve been learning about … um … experiments … and … um ….learning about the … thing (unintelligible) … smaller than Australia, Australia smaller than the world. He uses gestures to help explain what he is trying to say. The teacher asks him what activities he has been doing, but he again says he doesn’t know.

The teacher then moves on to talking about an ‘experiment’ they have recently done, and asks him what he had to do to for the jelly-making experiment. He seems on surer ground here, and more confidently describes what was done, And you … first you wash my hands, and then like, then like, make the jelly, and then make sure it’s solid or not solid. If it’s solid I can eat it, if it’s not solid I can’t eat it. Prompted to add more information about the process he is able to talk about adding hot and cold water, but his explanation is not really clear. When asked what he would like to learn about, and if he has any questions he again says, I don’t know, no questions. He is then asked about reading, and quite animatedly starts taking about an activity, Did the activity, the bunny … how to make the bunny, umm, bunny … thing, and try to make a Easter egg. Although he seems interested in describing what he did, he finds it challenging to explain in any detail what was done.

The student seems to understand most of the teachers questions but he does not give detailed explanations of what he has done or why. He uses some topic specific vocabulary, such as ‘solid’,’ procedure’, ‘recount’. He falls back on shrugging or saying I don’t know, when not yet able to talk about what he is being asked.

The marked criteria sheet shows that the student meets most criteria at level 2 of performance.

His language use in this task is consistent with Level A2, Victorian Curriculum F-10 EAL.

TEAL Oral Task 6 – Criteria sheet – Sample 1


Sample 2

Biographical information

Year level: 2

Home language: Vietnamese

Commentary

The student is quite fluent and takes long turns without prompting or questions. When she can’t remember vocabulary items or becomes confused in her explanation, she is able to back-track or to use circumlocution. Although she is somewhat repetitive in her explanations, she works hard at providing her explanations.

The teacher begins by asking the student what she enjoys at school. The student says, I enjoy making the experiments. The teacher asks her to elaborate, and she starts her explanation of a jelly-making experiment, beginning by explaining her hypothesis about the experiment, rather than explaining the process or the procedure, I figured that if you don’t put hot water inside but just cold water it won’t go solid. And I liked doing the jelly experiment. When asked to add more detail she confidently attempts an explanation, which is not always easy to follow:

So we had to … um … put some flour and sugar and make a little hole and put a, I think an egg inside and then we had to … stir and put some cold water and hot water inside it … and stir it one more time and put the jelly crystals inside and keep stirring until we can’t really see, there’s only … we can see only a little bit more jelly, and then we put it inside the fridge and we … um … and we had it to wait until tomorrow, so we waited until tomorrow, and we … and we waited and went … and then it’s tomorrow we, and the end of the day after tomorrow, yeah we … to pour it out and we got to eat it. (Teacher prompt question: Can you tell me what happened the next day when the jelly was taken out?) We could, we can’t see any more jelly crystals, we give it a good stir, and it also tastes yummy.

She is able to self-correct her tense error, and changes ‘we could’ to ‘we can’t’. Instead of saying the next day , she says tomorrow , which is no longer appropriate for the reflection.

When talking about another experiment she says:

I also enjoyed doing the lava experiment, the lava experiment is quite … you have to put some powder inside and, and I think a little egg, and then stir it, put some water … if you put your hand inside, just one hand, it feels a little hard, and gooey, so .. we had to wash our hands.

After this recount, the student seems to have ‘talked’ herself into improving her explanation, as she then is able to provide more accurate detail, saying: And for the lava experiment we had to put in a bag of soda, inside and a little bit of water, and it exploded.

When asked about what she would like to learn she says, I would want to learn how to make a bird nest and how to make (unintelligible) so we can write letters and books, and I would also want to know how do people make candles. Her grammar is at quite a high level, for example she uses the future tense (after teacher modelling), I would like to learn…in the above quote, and sustains this to the end of her sentence.

She uses the past tense appropriately when talking about what was done. She uses ‘then’ to talk about what happens next. She uses the word ‘inside’ in places where ‘in’ would be more appropriate. Her topic specific vocabulary is good.

She needs little questioning or prompting to continue her explanations, and does not need to rely on the teacher to provide vocabulary or sentence starters.

The marked criteria sheet shows that the student meets most criteria at level 3 of performance.

Her language use in this task is consistent with Level A2, Victorian Curriculum F-10 EAL.

TEAL Oral Task 6 – Criteria sheet – Sample 2

Sample 3

Biographical information

Year level: 1

Home language: Syriac

Commentary

The student fluently describes some maths games that he likes playing. Although it is not always easy to understand exactly how these games work, the student perseveres in his explanation, and readily responds to the teachers request for further clarification:

What kind of activities did you do?

Computers and working with people, like there’s a book over there, and there’s another book over there … you put four and there’s … and you put how many, and then you can put a little bit more … and then they don’t say how much are there … and then we keep doing it for the person.

His explanation of another game is more successful, once the teacher asks for more information:

There’s this game, and you roll the dice and there’s counters, you do it you win, and there’s this game and I like it a lot. (Teacher question: So can you tell me more about the counters game, what happens, what do you need to do first?) First you have to start, and get counters, how much people there are, and then you play and you roll the dice, and then you see who’s the first, and then when you’re finished …

At around 3 minutes 40 seconds on the video, the teacher asks the student, what else he had enjoyed in the classroom. The student gives an explanation of a recent experiment with flowers, beginning:

When you put one flower and then you put water and then you put like the colours that you like put, yeah, three days and then it’s going to change colour. Flowers need water, and then they need to grow a little bit.

His subsequent explanation shows that he has understood the process very well.

The student’s uses tenses appropriately, including the future tense in the extract above, … it’s going to change colour.

He is able to appropriately stage his explanations through the use of simple time markers, ‘first’, ‘then’, and ‘after that’.

The marked criteria sheet shows that the student meets criteria at level 3 and 4 of performance.

His language use in this task is consistent with Level A2, Victorian Curriculum F-10 EAL.

TEAL Oral Task 6 – Criteria sheet – Sample 3


Sample 4

Biographical information

Year level: 5

Home language: Tagalog

Commentary

The student begins talking about what she has learn about the solar system, saying: That … some the planets have other rings too but there’s light … the Jupiter the biggest planet … that’s all.

When the teachers asks her what activities she did when learning about the solar system, she says, We made posters to show how, well, like we put them in order and did the same colour, and we put the rings on it, and we did Pluto as the smallest one, and the Sun in the middle. Why did you put the Sun in the middle? So, to show that’s its very big and can shine everywhere.

She can describe other activities, but doesn’t really add much detail, Some of us did a book and they showed how it works and wrote it, and then wrote the names on it.

When asked where she found information about the solar system, she lists, books, internet, and says, you search them you read the book and you find out what it is.

When asked what else she would like to know, she says, If there are aliens living there, how hot or cold it is. When asked how she could find out this information she eventually answers, I’m not sure. When prompted further she says, Maybe ask somebody. The teacher asks her what else she could do, but she again replies, I’m not sure.

When asked about activities for sharing her poster, she says, We wrote sentences, we showed that … umm … we read, we read (corrects – past tense) all of us, we read it, we had turns, and we read about each planet.

When asked about why she most enjoyed learning about Pluto she says, Because I never knew it, I never knew it was a planet … our teacher said it was the smallest one, and it was called the dwarf planet.

Although the student is prompted to elaborate, she often doesn’t add additional information, saying, I’m not sure. She shows that she is able to use a range of grammatical structures, such as comparatives, ‘smallest’.

The marked criteria sheet shows that the student meets most criteria at level 3 and 4 of performance.

Her language use in this task is consistent with Level B2, Victorian Curriculum F-10 EAL.

TEAL Oral Task 6 – Criteria sheet – Sample 4


 

 

Using the assessment to improve learning

Assist student to research one of the things they said they would like to learn about, and tell them that they will have to tell you or another student about what they learnt and how they found the information.

Assist students to clarify their learning goals and to think about how they could best record what they learn, so that they can tell someone else about what they learnt and how they researched it. Help students to find appropriate resources.

Ask students to record the process of researching and recording what they have learnt simply on a chart or table, for example:

What I would like to know Where I will look for information What I found out
I would like to know …    
     


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