Elementary School Speaking Tests in Japan
The speaking test for elementary school students is a good way for teachers to understand the current level of each student. These types of tests are usually for Grades 5 and 6 students in Japan. Speaking and listening holds a higher priority than reading and writing in the elementary school curriculum. So the speaking test is crucial!
There are various ways to do speaking tests. Here are some tips and advice on how I was asked to grade, evaluate and administer these tests.
Where to do Speaking Tests
In most cases, the class would be split in two and the JTE and the ALT would be responsible for about 20 students each. The setting of the test can vary depending on the space available. The best option is to use any classrooms that are available. These provide the best atmosphere for both the speaker(student) and the listener(teacher).
However, if there are no extra rooms available, the hallway may be used for speaking tests.
How to Time Speaking tests
Time for some quick math. One lesson is 45 minutes and to cover 40 students within one lesson is cutting it pretty close. With the ALT and JTE each taking about 20 students, that gives you about 2 minutes for each student. That’s not a lot of time!
It is best to discuss with your JTE the best way to get all the students in sync and ready. It will help to form an assembly line where students have a place to wait. As soon as one student finishes, the next one is ready to start. This will ensure that you get to everyone before the chime rings.
How to do Speaking Tests
Essentially, the speaking test plays out like an interview. The tests are usually held at the end of each term. The test can be used as a review for both units 4 and 5.
Here’s an example of what a speaking test might look like at the end of the first term for the 6 th grade:
2. What’s your name?
3. Where are you from? (unit 1)
4. What are you good at? (unit 1)
5. In Japan, what can you do in winter? (unit 2)
6. What do you want to watch? (unit 3)
7. Thank you, see you!
Use Prompts When Possible
For some of the questions it may be necessary to use a prompt. For example, when asking the question: In Japan, what can you do in winter? You can show a printout of all the events in Japan for all 4 seasons. You do not need to include any written prompts, but visual aids may be helpful. Discuss with your JTE their ideas for prompts before the tests.
Speaking Test Evaluations
You may be thinking, ‘how can I evaluate a student’s ability in basically 30 seconds?’
It can be pretty tough to get an accurate assessment in the time granted. Here is a general way I have evaluated students.
Every JTE/HRT may have a different set of evaluation points. But here a list of commonly used examples:
・Point 1- Understands the content.
・Point 2- Shows enthusiasm for learning.
・Point 3- Gesture, eye contact, smile etc.
For each evaluation point listed above an A, B or C grade can be marked accordingly (A being the best, C being the “needs improvement”).
Once a student has finished their test, you can quickly assess and evaluate their performance. AAB, BCB, CCC, AAA, BBA and so on.
Grading Speaking Tests
The ALT’s job is not to grade the students. The final grading is the responsibility of the HRT/JTE. For all of the speaking tests I’ve administered, I’ve always recorded them using a laptop computer. Recording the tests provides the HRT/JTE a chance to make their own judgements and evaluations regarding the student’s ability. The ALT’s evaluations should be for support and reference.
Give Students Your Full Support
The speaking test is a very straightforward way to assess a student’s oral ability. Yet, the speaking test may not always be an accurate way of grading a student’s English ability overall.
There are many factors that should be considered when you conduct speaking tests.
For example: For one student, those 2 minutes may be the most nerve-racking, terrifying experience of their life. For another student, speaking may come naturally for them. For another, they may know the content and the correct responses but can’t raise their voice above a whisper.
What I’m trying to say is, many students have different strengths and weaknesses.
My advice is to:
・Try to be as approachable and non- threatening as possible.
・Smile and encourage the students.
・Push them towards the responses without just telling them what to say.
・Move on to the next question if a response isn’t coming.
・Try to avoid the awkward silences.
・Keeping it light-hearted and friendly
Remember, as an ALT, you are only evaluating, not grading. So please don’t worry when you come across a few CCCs!
Author: E.P – Musashino ALT