Free formative assessment tools for language teachers

A guest blog post by Joe Dale

One of the challenges language teachers face today is formative assessment. How do you manage to find the time not only to teach the content but also review students’ progress and help them improve, while keeping the pace of a lesson going and keeping motivation in a subject that some students’ may find less than engaging?

Online assessment tools

The answer? Integrating online formative assessment tools into language lessons and for distance learning are a ‘win-win’ for teachers and students alike. Firstly for the students, they are motivating and encourage healthy competition through gamification. They can allow learners to learn languages at their own pace wherever and whenever they wish. For teachers, self-marking vocabulary or grammar tests are helpful time-savers. The tests can be easily shared, edited and tailored to the needs of individual learners. They provide evidence of every student’s performance on a given day and work on any internet-connected device too. They also allow for quick responses and reflections from the whole class which inform the teacher of what the students are thinking in real time. This information is of course useful. It should inform future planning as well as create immediate teaching opportunities.

Tools such as Google Forms with Flubaroo, Socrative, Mentimeter, Kahoot or Quizizz run in the browser or have cross-platform apps making them perfect for a bring your own device (BYOD) environment. They are good time-savers too for busy teachers as they are quick and easy to set up. Some also generate Excel spreadsheets with individualised scores which can be stored in the cloud.

Google Forms are versatile for carrying out surveys, submitting web links for students’ work and administering tests. When combined with the Google Sheets Add-on Flubaroo, results can be marked automatically and saved to Google Drive.

Socrative lets you generate multiple-choice, true or false and short-answer questions on the fly as well as pre-made quizzes which can be shared with colleagues. Kahoot and Quizizz add gamification to quizzes as well as a motivational scoreboard for the highest scores.

Q&A feature

In addition to multiple-choice questions, Q&A features in Google Slides and Mentimeter also include the ability to crowd-source opinions from the class, publish content in real time and give an immediate real audience to student work and ideas.

The Q&A feature in Google Slides, once enabled, displays an URL in the header of the current slide. Students type in the link on their devices and send the teacher questions which they can choose to display with one click of the mouse or one tap of the finger. Students have the possibility of posting anonymously or be named if they log into their Google account. They are also able to see each other’s questions. They can vote for their favourite one (if they are logged in) in the hope the teacher displays it on the screen. The idea behind the Q&A feature is to make presentations more interactive and engaging through audience participation. Being able to ask questions about their teacher’s presentation allows them to clarify meaning and deepen their understanding. They feel more directly and actively involved in their own learning process.

Mentimeter includes a range of exercise types and allows you to post responses to different pre-prepared questions. You can generate a word cloud in real time, a bar chart from a poll or open-ended questions. You can also have the answers appear as tiles on screen. It is easy to export the results as a PDF or individual images too.

Additional tools

For those hungry for further free formative assessment tools to explore, I suggest checking out Quizlet, NearPod, Triventy, ClassroomQ, Glisser, Quizalise, Goformative and Plickers for starters.

Check out these wonderful and free services for reducing time spent marking and shortening the feedback loop in your classroom.

Joe Dale is an independent languages consultant from the UK. He works with a range of organisations such as Network for Languages, ALL, The British Council, the BBC, Skype, Microsoft and The Guardian. Joe was host of the TES MFL forum for six years, former SSAT Languages Lead Practitioner, and a regular conference speaker. He is also a recognised expert on technology and language learning.