ESL Assessments


This is viewed as the simplest most basic of the assessments for speaking. It requires students to repeat after the instructor for focus on pronunciation or words and sounds. This puts a great deal of emphasis on phonology. Generally this will be used with beginners, but may be utilized to introduce a vocabulary unit at higher levels.
Blending Board
This is a common assessment used in classrooms, with younger students. It is a great way to emphasize phonological awareness and help students to associate sounds with letters and endings/beginning. Also, this teaches students how to stretch out a word so that they are able to read it. This is to introduce sounds for students to practice producing those sounds. It also incorporates pronunciation, which is an important aspect of language development. This is an informal way to have students show they are able to combine sounds. The teacher could utilize this to have individuals go one at a time, in small groups, called at random in large group, or as an entire class. By conducting this assessment, the teacher is able to see which specific sounds the students struggle with.

This tool is a visual way for students to look and use the sounds that each letter makes, focusing their attention to the phonology of letters. Then the students participate in sounding out the word and then deciding if it is a real word or a silly word. This is especially helpful because it requires the students to say cards sound by sound and then put those sounds together to read the word and produce it verbally. Furthermore, the students are required to think about whether this is a real word or just a silly word, as those frequently occur. By having silly and real words, the focus in on being able to produce those sounds and putting them all together. This also works well to teach prefixes and suffixes by adding those to the blending board formula after they have mastered the initial letters and sounds. This activity may be completed individually or with an entire class group.
Cards would include:
    All consonants
    All vowels
    All phonemes/chunks (ing, gr, ice, th, tr, in, ion, ian, st, ph, etc.)
The teacher then is able to control the level and may progressively add more sounds.
Phonological Awareness. Letter-Sound Knowledge. Speech Production.
Through repetition, students are able to listen to an example and then practice their pronunciation as a direct comparison. This is an informal assessment, but could be used as a summary for passages that they are expected to learn, such as the pledge of allegiance or songs. This can be very authentic depending on what the teacher chooses to have the students repeat, by choosing authentic passages the students will be able to use this knowledge of songs or poems in the future. It is a common task for native speakers as well to need to memorize a song or speech. These songs could be used to emphasize grammar or teach rhyming words, as most songs contain rhymes. A simpler assignment is simple to emphasize words that students struggle with and could be a constant assessment to draw attention to certain words or sounds.

Students are asked to repeat after the instructor. This may be as simple as repeating sounds, words, simple phrases, questions, commands, etc. The teacher could make the phrases more complicated for higher levels. For the most part, this would be used with beginners to elicit correct pronunciation. By using repetition, the student hears the sounds and quickly needs to reproduce those sounds. In doing it this quickly, the student keeps the information in their short term memory and through repetition moves it to the long term for pronunciation. It really helps students with intonation, especially for questions or commands. Similarly, it allows for very authentic input. Some examples phrases are as follows...

Sounds: st (pause) ph (pause) gr (pause) wh (pause)
Vocabulary: fish (pause) cat (pause) cow (pause) street (pause) door (pause)
Sentences: Today is Saturday. (pause) I want a puppy dog! (pause) The ocean is blue. (pause)
Questions: Do you like milk? (pause) What did you eat for lunch? (pause) When is the game? (pause)
Commands:Go to the store. (pause) Give me that paper! (pause) Wash the dishes. (pause)

Repeat after me songs:
There Was An Old Lady
(an accumulating song)

There was an old lady who swallowed a fly.
I don't know why she swallowed the fly;
Perhaps, she'll die.

There was an old lady who swallowed a spider,
That wiggled, and jiggled, and tickled inside her.
She swallowed the spider to catch the fly,
But, I don't know why she swallowed the fly;
Perhaps, she'll die.

There was an old lady who swallowed a bird.
How absurd, to swallow a bird!
She swallowed the bird to catch the spider,
That wiggled and jiggled and tickled inside her.
She swallowed the spider to catch the fly;
I don't know why she swalloed the fly;
Perhaps, she'll die.

There was an old lady who swallowed a cat.
Just like that, she swallowed a cat!
She swallowed the cat to catch the bird,
She swallowed the bird to catch the spider,
That wiggled and jiggled, and tickled inside her.
She swallowed the spider to catch the fly.
I don't know why she swallowed the fly;
Perhaps, she'll die.

There was an old lady who swallowed a dog.
What a hog, to swallow a dog! [etc.]

There was an old lady who swallowed a goat.
Just opened her throat, and swallowed a goat! [etc.}

There was an old lady who swallowed a cow.
I don't know how, but she swallowed a cow! [etc.]

There was an old lady who swallowed a horse.
She's dead, ofcourse! [song ends here-no more repeating]

Down By The Bay
(At the * in verse, singers take turns describing what they saw in rhyming pairs. Example: "Did you ever see a bear, combing his hair" or "Did you ever see a bee crawlin on his knees"...use you imagaination)

(This is a repeat after me song)

Down by the Bay (repeat)
Where the watermelons grow (repeat)
Back to my home (repeat)
I dare not go (repeat)
For if I do (repeat
My mother will say (repeat)
* (one person only-in turn)Did you ever see a ____________rhyming pair
(All)Down by the bay!
(Repeat verses as many times as you have rhyming pairs)


Students for this assessment, are asked to produce approximately a sentence in response to a a request. The teacher structures the questions or prompts so that students are somewhat guided in their response. This is considered as "cued" tasks so there is a limited possibilities for response. Intensive speaking assessments may also be known as limited-response tasks, mechanical tasks, or controlled responses. Some examples of these may include read-aloud tasks, sentence/dialogue completion tasks and oral questionnaires, picture-cued tasks, translation (of limited stretches of discourse), and others.

Animal Adventures

This informal assessment allows for creativity as well as language production after listening. By doing this, the teacher is able to evaluate a few different aspects of language. In asking Wh- questions, the students need to know what type of answer the teacher is looking for and then the students need to use creativity to provide an answer. It gives the teacher a chance to see students' ability to formulate answers to go along with the story. This is a a specific topic, but the story could be chosen to assess their learning of a topic and knowledge on that topic.

Practices: listening, speaking

The teacher tells a story about an animal, but repeatedly asks the students to guess what, why, where, what next etc. Example:

Teacher: A cat did something very naughty. What did it do?’

Students:It ate some cheese.


Students:It attacked the pet bird.

Teacher:Yes! That's right! But why?

Students:Because it was hungry.

Teacher: No.

Students: Because it was jealous.

Teacher: Yes! What do you think happened then?

Students: The owners came home.

Teacher: Yes! (or No.)

etc, etc, etc

Each time the students "guess" something, there is another question. In reality there is no original story. It is the students who unknowingly invent it.

Of course, the "story" could be about other subjects too, and used at other levels.

Through a read a loud, the students practice their reading skills, but also their speaking. The stories chosen should be easy enough for the students to read one or two sentences per page. This is an informal way to integrate both speaking and listening. The students can be assessed based on their pronunciation and skills in sounding out unfamiliar words. Vocabulary checks could be used along the way, or as pre or post formal assessment. The teacher should also pay special attention to intonation and appropriate pauses.

In this activity, the class would read a story and have the students read one sentence or a few at a time. This can be done as large groups in a popcorn type system, or it may be done in smaller reading groups. As an elementary education major, I look more toward the "I Can Read Series" or other picture books. The reading may occur as round robin, pop-corn, drawing names, etc. but the teacher must be aware of the students' various reading and speaking levels when choosing a text. The words must correspond for comprehension and pronunciation. This assessment doubles as a reading assessment.

An upper level Read-aloud would be A River Ran Wild by Lynne Cherry. This story is about the pollution of the Nashua River in Massachusetts. This story begins with the Native American settlement in the area and goes into settlement, ending with the extreme pollution and later clean up of the river. It includes some Native American language and tougher vocabulary associated with pollution. It also ties into government, as it was a major cause for the Clean Water Act 1965.


This type of assessment requires a lot less creativity and involves shorter communication with the interlocutor. These may include simple question and answer, IRE/IRF, giving directions/instructions, paraphrasing, or many other topics that are suggested on the Test of Spoken English (TSE Test). Some of those topics from Language Assessment: Principles and Classroom Practices
1. Giving a personal description
2. Describing a daily routine
3. Suggesting a gift and supporting one's choice
4. Recommending a place to visit and supporting one's choice
5. Giving directions
6. Describing a favorite movie and supporting one's choice
7. Telling a story from pictures
8. Hypothesizing about future action
9. Hypothesizing about a preventative action
10. Making a telephone call to the dry cleaner
11. Describing an important new event
12. Giving an opinion about animals in the zoo
13. Defining a technical term
14. Describing information in a graph and speculating about its implications
15. Giving details about a trip schedule

Open-Ended Q & A

This is a formal assessment that allows each student to have 1 minutes to answer the prompt and practice their speaking abilities. They are given think time to gather their thoughts and decide how they want to answer, and what words to use. The questions are open-ended so that students may show their creativity in their answer and how they deliver it. This is an authentic task because these questions may come up in casual conversation. This is especially a great assessment because it allows for interaction. If the class has higher learners, then the assessment could continue with classmates asking questions of the speaker about their question. This would provide more interaction and allow more students to speak.

Test takers will hear the following recording or spoken prompts, and will be given 30 seconds of think time before speaking for 1 minute to answer each prompt.

Test-takers hear: Please respond to the following questions.  You will be given 30 seconds from the end of the question, or prompt, to think about your answer.  When you hear the beep, you will have one minute in which to respond to the prompt.   
1)    What is the weather like in your home country during the year?  How is the weather similar to or different from the weather in America?
2)    What is your favorite season, and what are some activities you enjoy doing during that season?
3)    What kinds of clothes do you wear during your favorite season?
4)    Describe a time when you were not prepared for the weather outside.  What happened?  Use the past tense.
5)    Imagine you are a weatherman; tell me the weather report for an average week during your favorite season.  Use the future tense.

How To

This formal assessment could be paired with a rubric so that students know what they are being assessed on. This is another great way for students to show creativity and choose their topic, or the teacher may assign them. If the students choose, they would be able to show more expertise or have more stories to tablk about an activity that they are familiar with. With older students, they may be the "teacher" and teach their peers, integrating vocabulary that goes along with their topic. This is an authentic task in that they would regularly need to be able to explain how to do something to someone else, whether it is in an instructional manner, at work, at school, or at home, giving instructions is a common task. The teacher could incorporate a peer review, to help students realize what is necessary when instructing others how to complete a task or speaking in front of others.

Practises: speaking, the imperative
Students give mini presentations on "how to do something".

Some sample topics:

  • how to start a car
  • how to use a photocopier
  • how to make a cup of tea
  • how to make an omelette
  • how to change a tyre
  • how to change baby's nappy
  • how to make a telephone call
  • how to play golf
This can be more or less complicated, as the teacher wishes. It can, for example, be a 2-minute delivery with no visual aids, or a 15-minute exposé with OHPTs and handouts followed by questions.


A rather lengthy speaking assessment, these are more interactively based. Interactive speaking requires turn taking. Some examples of interactive include interviews, role plays, discussions, games, or others. There are types that may be done in neither partner nor group settings, which are speeches, telling longer stories, translations, longer stories, or others. Depending upon the purpose of the assessment, whether it needs to be more for the individual's effort or ability to converse with others, the teacher may adapt the assessment to fit those needs.


This is a fun informal assessment for students to practice taking on another person's point of view. They need to practice their speaking in order to convince others of where they were or who committed the crime. It could be the summary of a lesson if the scene were somewhere they had studied for vocabulary such as the beach, mall, family reunion, etc.

Directions: Students will be playing a game much like Clue, but instead of a board game, they will move around the classroom and ask other students questions in order to determine “whodunit.”
1)    Students are assigned characters and an alibi for the previous night.
a.    Ex: You are Sara.  You went to the movies with Kim last night.
b.    Ex: You are Kim. You went to the movies with Sara last night.
c.    Ex. You are Jose.  You were on a date with Sara last night.
**By process of elimination, Jose is the criminal because his alibi does not match with the others.
2)    Students will move around the room and determine whose alibis are true and whose alibi is not.  Students have a piece of paper where they record the other students’ alibis.  Students form questions such as “What did you do last night?” or “Were you with Kim at the movies last night?” in order to elicit a student’s alibi.

Controversial Discussion

These topics would be more geared toward higher level of language learners. This allows them to voice their opinion and use creativity when discussing topics. This is a very authentic assessment, but the teacher would have to referee or include greater direction to keep it from becoming an open argument. For younger students, the topic could be switched and have them discuss no homework, or recess all day, or better food in the lunch room. Students should ask question of each other, and the teacher may need to divide the groups if it is a topic that is unanymous between the students. This should be a constructive conversation where vocabulary, grammar, and speaking with both are the main focus.

Here are some great controversial statements to get the conversation going. Use them in various ways. Give one or a few to students for pair/group discussion. Or casually toss one of these statements yourself into the conversation at an appropriate moment. Or organize a debate.

  • A woman's place is in the home.
  • Fare-dodging on a train or bus is ok if you can get away with it.
  • Boys and girls should not have equal education.
  • A foreign language cannot be taught. It must be learned.
  • A country gets the government it deserves.
  • A man should have a wife for the family and a mistress for pleasure.
  • All property should be owned by the state.
  • Murderers should be executed.
  • Soft drugs like marijuana should be legalized.
  • Beauty is only a matter of taste.
  • Riches are for spending.
  • We are all basically selfish.
  • Punishment never has any good effect.
  • Those who can do, those who can't teach.
  • You will be happier if you stay unmarried.
  • People work better if they are paid more.
  • Committing suicide should be made legal.
  • Royalty and democracy are incompatible.


Again this is a lengthy type of speaking assessment. The monologue or dialogue is generally a long stretch of discourse. These may include oral presentations, picture-cued storytelling, retelling a story/news event, translation (of extended prose) or others. These require the student to say a little more than just answering a question and to allow them to really tell a story and take risks in their verbal language production.

Oral Presentation

This is an assessment for high proficiency language learners. It is a formal summative assessment, as the students are being graded specifically on a variety os aspects of their speech. It is important that students are given ample time to prepare and practice/rehearse their speeches. However, if they are given too much time, then it will not show their true ability, but rather how well they can practice and prepare.

In this assessment, students will create a poster and give a report about someone in their family.
Students are given the option of presenting someone in their own family, or presenting an individual in an imaginary family, such as the Simpsons or the Baronne family (Everybody Loves Raymond).
Rubric for Assignment
Poster of (real or imaginary) family member includes the following:
        Picture (photo or drawing) of family member                5 pts
        Family tree showing how student is related in the family            5 pts
        5 sentences describing the individual’s personality            10 pts       
            Grammar and spelling will be graded!    
        5 sentences describing the individual’s physical characteristics        10 pts
            Grammar and spelling will be graded!            
        Organization and neatness of Poster                    5 pts

    Presentation of (real or imaginary) family member includes the following:
        Describe your individual’s personality                    10 pts
            Use more than just the phrases you wrote!
        Describe your individual’s physical characteristics             10 pts
            Use more than just the phrases you wrote!       
        Delivery of presentation                        10 pts
            Use of Poster
                Don’t just ignore your poster – use it!
            Rate and volume of speech
            Length of presentation (3-4mins)               
        Comprehensibility                             10 pts
            Grammar does not impede comprehension
            Pronunciation is clear enough to understand           
    Total Points for this Project                            75 points!

Persuassive Speech

This is an assessment for high proficiency language learners. It is a formal summative assessment, as the students are being graded specifically on a variety os aspects of their speech. It is important that students are given ample time to prepare and practice/rehearse their speeches. However, if they are given too much time, then it will not show their true ability, but rather how well they can practice and prepare.

Overview: Students need to understand that how they say something and how they physically present themselves are just as important as what they say. By understanding the dynamics involved in effective persuasive speaking, students will improve their overall confidence in communicating.

Purpose: The purpose of this lesson is to improve students' oral persuasion techniques by understanding the appropriate speaking skills. The lesson is presented in second person, making it more meaningful as a resource for the students, and easier for the teacher to use as a handout.

Objectives: Students will be able to...

  1. Demonstrate the appropriate classroom public speaking and listening skills (e.g., body language, articulation, listening to be able to identify specific examples of the speaker's coordination of talking and action) that would be necessary to influence or change someone's mind or way of thinking about a topic.
  2. Define the elements of persuasion.
  3. Recognize the elements of personal credibility.
  4. Develop methods to analyze other students' speeches.
  5. Understand outlining main ideas.
  6. Create a persuasive speech.
Resources/Materials: Teacher-prepared topics for persuasive speeches.

Assessments: The Class will assess each speaker's performance in terms of voice and body coordination, and in terms of persuasiveness. Each class can develop performance assessments such as rubrics to facilitate this process.

Teacher's Anticipatory Set: During class discussion, define and explain how people make decisions based on what they see and hear. Explain that sometimes we have to use skills to convince others about our positions. Have the students recall and list their own experiences trying to convince their friends about something, and then ask them to share these with the class.

The Procedure

Pick a proposition that not everyone would agree with such as: "nuclear power plants are superior energy sources." Write a 6- to 8-minute speech in outline form to persuade the group.

The Lesson: Your Voice and Body are Your Best Tools

You are a natural persuader! You have done it all your life. Every time you enter a conversation, you engage in elementary persuasion techniques. It is true, that any time you make a statement of fact, you are asserting its validity and assuming that your listener agrees.

This speech goes further than a normal conversational assertion: now you have to assume that not everyone will agree with you from the start, and it is your job to make them see things your way. The goal of this speech is to change someone's mind or way of thinking about a topic. This is not a speech to sell, as you do not ask that the listener do anything except to agree with you or to begin to listen to your way of thinking. Your message is, of course, very important in this speech, but your voice and body language are even more important. Here you will see how your delivery can help.

There are several important aspects of presentation to keep in mind:

  1. Body language - make sure that you have a proper posture. If your shoulders are sagging and your legs are crossed, you will not appear as being sincere and people just will not accept your message.
  2. Articulation - articulation means how your total vocal process works. There are several steps to this entire process. First, you need air from the lungs, your vocal cords in your larynx must be working, your mouth and tongue must be in sync, and you have to make sure that you have got some saliva in your mouth to keep things oiled. You should be aware of your physical makeup to be able to understand how you speak.
  3. Pronunciation - pronounce each word. Avoid slang, except to make a point, and do not slur your words. Avoid saying, "you know."
  4. Pitch - pitch refers to the highs and lows of your voice. Whatever you do, avoid a monotone!
  5. Speed - your speed, or pace, is an important variable to control. Between 140-160 words per minute is the normal pace for a persuasive speech. Any faster and you may appear to be glib; any slower and you sound like you are lecturing. If you are not sure about your speed, tape yourself for one minute and then replay it and count the number of words you used in the minute! The human ear and brain can compile and decode over 400 spoken words per minute, so if you are going too slow your listeners' minds are going to start to wander as the brains finds other ways to keep themselves occupied.
  6. Pauses - the pause, or caesura, is a critical persuasive tool. When you want to emphasize a certain word, just pause for one second before; this highlights the word. If you really want to punch it, pause before and after the word!
  7. Volume - volume is another good tool for persuasive speech, but you should use it with caution. If you scream all the way through your speech, people will become accustomed to it and it will lose its effectiveness. On the other hand, a few well-timed shouts can liven up the old speech! Try to "project" or throw your voice out over the entire group - speak to the last row.
  8. Quality - quality of voice is gauged by the overall impact that your voice has on your listeners. Quality of voice is the net caliber of your voice, its character and attributes. Try to keep your vocal quality high; it is what separates your voice from everyone else's.
  9. Variance - variance of vocal elements is your most important consideration of all! One of the most persuasive speakers in modern history was Winston Churchill. One of his most remarkable qualities was his ability to vary the elements of his voice. He would start with a slow, laconic voice and then switch gears to a more rapid pace. People were light-headed after listening to him! Even if you have no desire to run for political office, you can still use the tools of variance. Change your pitch, volume, and speed at least once every 30 seconds, if only for just one word. Never go more than one paragraph without a vocal variance. This keeps your group locked into your speech, if for no other reason than it sounds interesting! Let the words speak for themselves; reflect their nature through your voice. If you use the word "strangle," say it with a hint of menace in your voice. If you say the word "heave," let the group feel the onomatopoeic force behind it. If you say the word "bulldozer," make it sound like a titan earthmover, not like a baby with a shovel.
The Strategy: Appear Rational

When you are trying to convince someone of something, you must first establish your credibility, or in other words, you must sell yourself before you sell your message. If people feel that you are not being reasonable or rational, you do not stand a chance. You must be committed to the ideals and goals of your speech and what you are saying. Do not use words such as "maybe" or "might"- use positive words such as "will" and "must."

You are the authority figure in this speech, so you had better supply enough information to prove your points so that you can seem knowledgeable, and you had better know your material cold. People can usually spot someone who is trying to "wing" a speech. You should also appear to be truthful -even when you are really stretching a point. If you do not appear to be earnest, even if your message is the 100% truth, people will doubt your word and tune out your speech.

Lastly, do not be afraid to show a little emotion - this is not a sterile or static speech. Your body and voice must match the tone of your words. If your language is strong, you must present a physical force to go along with your delivery.

The Comments and Goals


You cannot sit back and let your words do all of the talking. You must use your total self to deliver your message, and this means that you will have to expose a little of your personality to the group. Your group will be supportive.

The Group Reaction

The group has two major criteria to consider after each member's speech. First, the delivery. Were the speaker's body, words, and actions in synchronization and harmony? Did one support the other or was there tension between the body and the voice? Secondly, were you persuaded? Why or why not? Discuss what makes a persuasive speech work and how the intangibles effect a positive outcome.