Asking and Answering Questions about a Picture Oral Testing

Steven Smith describes the talking about Photo card questions oral testing which is one of the three parts of the oral testing for the GCSE (General Certification of Secondary Education) in the UK. He describes the activity in which a student sees a picture, the student asks three questions about it and the teacher asks the student two surprise questions about it.. The pictures are based on common topics/themes. The same picture can be used at all levels of the language but the language sophistication increases. This type of testing eliminates pre-learned conversations/ presentations.

I have used a variation on these for many years, both when I taught public school and now that I teach college beginning Spanish. I have my students, in pairs, look a topical or thematic picture that they have never seen before. Without any preparation, they alternate asking and answering questions. For example, Student A asks a question, Student B answers it and asks Student A a different question, then Student A answers it and asks a different question. They talk for three minutes. I grade them on a combination on the total number of questions/answers times the number of different questions as long as their answers/questions are comprehensible and appropriate (answers the question). For example, if Student A asks four different questions and answers four questions, the score is (4 questions + 4 answers) x (4 different questions) = 8 x 4 = 32. If Student A asked variations on the same question such as How is the father? How is the mother? How is the son? and How is the daughter?, the score is (4 questions + 4 answers) x (1 question) = 8 x 1  = 8. Students learn that to do well in the question asking picture activity, they need to ask a wide variety of different questions just as they do in a real life conversation.

http://bit.ly/mlcomcult  contains many communication activities for beginning to advanced students; they have high structure to help students. These activities are for all world languages and specifically for Spanish.   90 Mobile Learning Modern Language Activities contains many speaking activities for beginning students.

Students Paired Oral Testing Better Than With Examiner Modern Language

Based on Brooks, L. (2009). “Interacting in pairs in a test of oral proficiency; co-constructing a better performance”. Language Testing 26(3): 341-366.

Brooks’  research shows that students who are tested in pairs outperform students who are tested one-on-one with the examiner.  In addition, the students’ interactions were more complex and revealed that students co-constructed a more linguistically demanding performance. In addition, when students worked in pairs, they more closely resembled the oral interactions typical of a real conversation.  In paired testing students demonstrated a wider range of interactions (17) to the individual format (10).   The paired students mostly commonly had these interactions: seeking confirmation, asking a question, asking for agreement, clarification requests, and prompting elaboration, finishing sentences, and referring to partner’s ideas.  Over half of all interactions in the one-on-one with the examiner was asking a question.

As Modern Language teachers, we will want to encourage oral communication in the classroom.  We can have our students do more oral work in pairs.  We can structure students speaking  from very basic conversations up to free-flowing spontaneous conversations about common topics. Our scaffolding will allow our Second Language students to have more complex and personally meaningful conversations.

Most of the  Spanish activities I have developed are for pairs. A few of them are

-Spanish Tell Me About Yourself Substitution Sentences    (Partners substitute in their own answers to tell about themselves

Spanish Conversation Questions Spontaneous Speaking Partners  (Partners ask basic questions and then variations on those questions)
Spanish Friend /Family Member Detailed Description – Partner Talk   (Each partner talks about a family member using possible words)

My Spanish spontaneous speaking activities (20+) includes Modified Speed Dating (Students ask  a question from a card-whole class), Structured Speaking (Students substitute in or select words to communicate in pairs),  Role Playing (Students talk as people in pictures or drawing from 2-4 people) and Speaking Mats (Can talk using a wide variety of nouns, verbs and adjectives to express their ideas- pairs or small group),  Spontaneous Speaking (based on visuals or topics in pairs),  and Grammar speaking games (pairs or small group). Available for a nominal fee at Teacherspayteachers:  http://bit.ly/tpthtuttle

My three formative assessment books:   http://is.gd/tbook

This blog appeared at my EduwithTech blog http://wp.me/p262R-JL  before I started this blog.