Speaking Test – How to do it safely

Posted on Nov. 08, 2021

  While some schools and teachers may still rightly be wary of conducting speaking tests (or at least in-person ones), as the daily numbers of the infected begin to dwindle, and our students receive the vaccine, we may find ourselves asked to once again tackle this challenge. This, however, does not mean that a sense of caution is not still needed when conducting these tests. Here are some things to keep in mind in order to prioritize the safety of your students and yourself.

Masks:  This should be a no-brainer at this point, but wear your mask! Make sure it properly covers your nose. If your students have been lax on mask protocol, please ask your JTE to stress to your students to wear theirs properly when they enter the test space, as well. Masks made of non-woven materials (such as the disposable ones sold in most convenience stores) have been proven to be the best at both defense and preventing further spreading. If you’re feeling extra cautious, wear two.

Social Distance:  If you are able to create a set-up of chairs for you and your students, do so. That way you can better set an acceptable distance between the two of you. Placing a desk or two in between can also create a physical barrier to prevent them from moving any closer. Some schools may also have clear barriers that are used for technology or art classes. Consult your teacher to see if you can procure one for the tests if you are worried. Unfortunately, this has the downside of possibly making it harder for both of you to hear. Speak at an appropriate volume and clearly. This may be particularly difficult for the shyer students who already struggle with speaking loudly, so please be patient with them.

Additionally, some teachers will send several students at a time to wait outside the test area. Communicate with your JTE beforehand about any concerns you may have over this. If you can set up chairs at an appropriate distance for these students to wait in, this will also help.

SanitizeThis may be particularly tricky when you’re trying to conduct thirty-six tests within forty minutes, but use disinfectant as much as you can. At a bare minimum, you should be thoroughly washing your hands and using hand sanitizer between classes. If you have any leeway between students, try using hand sanitizer at regular intervals and/or disinfecting the students’ seat. My personal method is to use a spray-type disinfectant on the chair and desk used by the students in between each one and wipe quickly with a microfiber cloth. I also carry a small bottle of hand sanitizer that I use once for every five students. It can be time-consuming at first, but once you’ve gotten the hang of it, it should only take a few seconds. When you’re done with the tests, be sure to also disinfect the area and materials that you used, especially if it’s an area that sees much use, such as a hallway or library.

TimeThe time allotted for each individual test may vary from teacher to teacher and JTE to JTE. However, it is important under pandemic restrictions to try and advocate for shorter individual test times when at all possible. Try to limit each student’s test to as short as you possibly can. However, be sure that this is also effectively communicated to the students so that they understand why this is and can prepare accordingly.

VentilationTests should be conducted in a room with airflow. Keep windows open when possible. With winter coming, this may be uncomfortable, but safety should always come first. Bundle up and use hand warmers when possible and appropriate. If the room you are conducting the tests in has a form of heater or air conditioning unit, ask your teacher about if you are allowed to use it for the comfort of yourself and the students.

If you have other concerns, it’s important to discuss it directly with your JTE. The health of your students and yourself is of the top priority and should not be taken lightly. Despite these precautions, it is also important to give each student the experience of using English as a tool of communication and to encourage them. In order to maintain this experience, let’s ensure that they are as safe and comfortable as possible for our students!

L.F – Fujimino ALT