For many language learners, the ability to communicate orally in their target language with a native speaker is the primary objective for their studies. As such, the development of fluent speaking skills is widely prioritized by language educators, but how can they (and the student) accurately assess progress towards that goal?
In response, a wide variety of oral language assessment tools have been developed to provide a quantitative indication of the student’s ability. This blog post explores how and why such oral language assessment tools are invaluable for language educators and highlights how Sanako Connect is perfectly positioned to meet their needs.
What is oral language?
Oral language is the way in which humans use spoken words to express their emotions, ideas, and knowledge. It comprises (at least) five key elements: phonological skills, pragmatics, syntax, morphological skills, and vocabulary/semantics (Moats 2010). All of which combine to build listening and speaking skills and all of which are necessary for students to communicate and learn through conversation.
What is an oral language assessment tool?
Educators can build and develop specific exercises to develop all of these closely interlinked elements, but it is vital that they are able to accurately assess student progress. Oral language assessment tools, therefore, help educators and learners to understand their strengths and provide a clear focus to address their individual weaknesses.
Such assessment tools typically come in one of two types. Informal assessment tools usually involve a wide range of observations conducted by educators in a variety of academic contexts. These might include during classroom activities (involving pairs, small groups, or whole class) or during presentations (e.g debates, speeches, etc.).
More formal oral language assessment tools are deliberately used by educators to measure fluency and skills against specific criteria at a particular time – for example, through an end-of-unit test or end-of-course exam. As informal tools form part of generally accepted good teaching practice, the rest of this blog post will focus on formal oral assessment tools.
How can I use an oral language assessment tool in my classroom?
There are four simple steps that language educators should take to begin using oral language assessment tools in their teaching. And Sanako Connect is here to help and support you through all of them!
1. Create the oral assessment
Any assessment task clearly requires a wide variety of stimulus material for students to respond to in demonstrating their knowledge and understanding. Connect enables educators to easily upload a wide variety of material for students to work through during the assessment. Any number of sound files, PDFs, presentations, videos, and web pages can, for example, be easily attached to the assessment outline.
Example speaking activity: Students are assigned to narrate an audio book.
Sanako Connect also enables educators to quickly set up a variety of speaking tasks. Students can, for example, be tasked to record themselves speaking to a pre-prepared activity. Or alternatively, the educator can use an original soundtrack, which the student then attempts to emulate via Connect’s advanced, two-track recorder. Connect also provides educators with easily adaptable templates for common language teaching activities, including multiple choice quizzes, text entry, or gap-fill exercises.
2. Invite students
Connect’s support for educators begins as they prepare for every assessment with different groups of students. Teachers create a new language assessment directly in Connect and simply circulate a unique URL to all participating learners. Students just have to click on that link to join the online test – no login details are required, so there are no data privacy or data storage issues for the educator to worry about either!
In Sanako Connect, students join the sessions via a unique URL. Teachers can choose which exercises and assessments they would like to include into each session.
Educators will also find it easy to use Connect to provide students with instructions for the test they are about to take. These can be provided in text form or they can also be spoken and recorded directly into Connect as required.
3. Students complete the oral language assessment
Depending on the requirements of the specific oral assessment task, students can either complete the test on a particular day at a particular time (synchronous) or wherever they want to before the deadline (asynchronous)!
As a cloud-based oral language assessment tool, assessments on Connect can be accessed and completed whenever suits educators and students. Students can access the assessment from any physical location with internet access, at any time and using any device, including laptops, Chromebooks, smartphones or tablets.
4. Provide personalised feedback
Once the oral language assessment has been completed by all students, educators can then use Connect’s unique functionality to easily review their submissions. Connect’s advanced recording functionality allows educators (and students) to easily review the different types of answers provided and measure their performance against the key elements of oral language outlined above.
Sanako Connect is designed for speaking-based language learning activities and for oral language assessments. Teachers can even insert their voice comments into the exact point where the student made a mistake.
Educators are also able to easily pinpoint areas for improvement to address in future classes. By simply switching views, they can review the work submitted by individual students or use a whole class view to see the collective’s performance in specific assignments. The latter enables educators to clearly identify where individuals are struggling or where the class needs additional work to clarify or consolidate learning. Importantly, these precise feedback mechanisms enable educators to carefully target/personalize subsequent lessons and enhance ongoing academic attainment.
Feedback can also be easily shared with students via Connect’s messaging functionality. Educators can give feedback directly to individual students or simultaneously to the entire class via a text-based message or a shared audio file. Educators can also record oral feedback and are even able to target their comments to particular points of the student’s recorded oral submission.
Bonus point for all language teachers!
It’s important to note that all of your teaching and learning resources can be permanently saved and organized in Sanako Connect for repeat or future use! All of these online learning resources can therefore be easily reused and/or repurposed for other age groups or for future language assessments. Simultaneously, the materials you’ve collated and created can also be easily shared with other teachers at your institution at any time, making collaboration and sharing easier.
If you’d like to find out more about how Sanako Connect could help to transform your approach to online oral language assessment, please click here or the banner below!
This blog post was last updated 7 June, 2023.