How do I assess the level of students?

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How do I assess the level of students?

Unread postby Jane » 21 Apr 2006, 20:20

Hi Lucy,

I am struggling with a task in my module. I find it hard to know what is the level of the learner. I find that different books and internet sites say different things. I'd like a sure fast way of knowing the best way
to determine.

The problem I have at this moment is that I have been given a paragraph and that I 'think' its Upper Intermediate, but then I think it's Advanced !! Oh Dear... Well, one of the tasks is to say what vocabulary am I to teach them and WHY ????? Now I know that there a lot of other Tefl students that are having the same problem and the tutors are asking them to re-do this task. I want to know how to overcome this as I have been racking my brains out. Can you help me in anyway or tell me where to go for help please !!!!

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Level of students

Unread postby Lucy » 21 Apr 2006, 20:45

Dear Jane,

It can sometimes be very difficult to know the level of a learner. This is particularly so at high levels. For example, a student who has been learning for a long time might be at one level for listening skills and at another level for vocabulary. Authors and text book writers don’t always agree on levels. If you look at intermediate level course books, you’ll see that they vary greatly in level.

I’m sorry to say, there is no sure fast way of determining the level of a student. The closest you could get to it is public examinations of the type administered by UCLES (Cambridge). You could look at the UCLES website to see if they have a description of levels. Alternatively, you could look at course books that prepare students for FCE, Proficiency, TOEFL, etc.

Another issue is that a text doesn’t correspond to a level. The task you use with the text determines the level. For example, a newspaper article can be used at a variety of levels: if the task is to note down all the nationality adjectives contained in the text, it can be used at an elementary level. If the task is to read and summarise, the level is much higher.

It’s a shame you haven’t given me part of the text you are working on. Without seeing it, I can’t tell you what level it is. As a rule, when doing a reading task you need to pre-teach any vocabulary that is essential to understanding the text. The words you think are essential to understanding should be focussed on and students’ understanding of these words should be checked before they start reading. You can do this in a variety of ways: students match the word with its meaning; they match the word with its opposite; they match the word with a picture…. The pre-teaching of vocabulary should be kept brief; it is not the main focus of the lesson. Pre-teaching vocabulary is important even with advanced students; at higher levels you still focus on the essential words but make the review very brief.

I think you can mention any of the above to your tutors and ask them for some further clarification: what exactly are they looking for in the task? If they clarify, it will help you. By raising the issues mentioned above you can show the tutors that you are thinking about what is involved.


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