TESOL Thoughts

Reflections on Teaching and Learning

Assessing Listening and Speaking Online

I like to assign homework for students to practice their listening and speaking skills, but it is not always easy to track whether they completed the assignment. Most of the time I teach more than 10 students, and finding ways to assess everyone’s listening and speaking skills in class is not easy since it’s time consuming, and very hard to hear everyone during the limited time we have. Online tools, such as Voice Thread and EdPuzzle, can help us track student progress, foster interaction, and provide additional practice.

If you haven’t tried Voice Thread or EdPuzzle, I recommend you open an account and watch a few of the introductory videos. Both of these sites are quite intuitive, but one recommendation I have is that you always plan a detailed training session for your students. As much as some of us in EAP (or other areas of ELT) would like to think of our students as digital natives, training students in how to use online tools can make the process go much better for everyone involved.

Screenshot 2015-03-27 09.52.47

Think about a lesson you’ve taught for which you’d like to ask students to produce a spoken text. It can be a presentation using a specific grammatical structure they’ve been learning in class or new vocabulary. It could even be the students’ introduction at the beginning of the term, which gives you a chance to assess the students’ speaking skills while you get to know them. If you ask students to give presentations using a Power Point or other tool, consider using Voice Thread instead and collect all their Voice Thread links. You could share them with classmates and ask them to comment on specific presentations in lieu of presentations in class. I have a blog where I put the students’ Voice Thread links, but you could also email a document with the links or upload them on your learning management system if your school has one. Depending on your class objectives, you can watch them, comment, and ask students to modify their Voice Thread “slides”.

For listening practice and assessment, I’ve enjoyed using EdPuzzle because it allows you to take any video from YouTube and other online sources and crop just what you need. Listening becomes interactive for students because you can embed comments on videos, add open-ended and multiple choice questions, and even add spoken commentary on different parts (or all) of the video. The best of all is that if you want to, you can easily create a class and track the students’ participation and progress.

If you would like to see some examples of how I’ve used both Voice Thread and EDpuzzle in class, check this Google doc I created for my presentation at the Electronic Village Technology Fair at TESOL in Toronto. If you have any ideas on how to use these tools, please feel free to add them to the final slide of the presentation so others can benefit. Enjoy!

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2 thoughts on “Assessing Listening and Speaking Online

  1. Hajar.H on said:

    Many English language learners have interested with learning listening and speaking. Also acquiring listening and speaking skills will enable them to communicate properly with native speakers. I have read about many online platforms which may help learners to improve their communicative skills such as Voicethread. I have been encouraged after reading your words about this app and I am very excited to use it with my young learners. Because using technology in the learning process may motivate students to speak and collaborate with each other and this will positively effect on them and increase their self-confidence. But do you think that using this kind of learning technology will increase some students’ anxiety?

    • Thanks for commenting, Hajar.
      I have had positive experiences using VT as a tool to practice listening and speaking skills, but like any tech tool, we need to give students a little time on a low-stakes task so they can learn how to use the tool first. When you mention anxiety, do you mean about speaking skills or about using VT? Either way, I’d suggest thinking of ways to reduce your students’ anxiety as much as possible. What do you usually do?

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