How do you evaluate speeches?

I sometimes think you can assign a grade to most students in the first week of classes and that grade won’t change throughout the rest of the year. Maybe that’s the case sometimes, but I learned something new on a recent grading adventure.

This year I’m trying to focus on the students’ EFFORT instead of only on the results of their speech presentations. I told them that if they make a bigger effort, the results will come naturally, and accordingly, their motivation to improve more will increase. I have a Ko I class (grade 10) that seems to have bought into this idea quite convincingly. Whatever they lack in grammatical prowess, they certainly make up for in effort.

What I did

The midterm Oral Communication test was a “self-introduction” speech. I set a minimum time of 2:00 minutes and told them I would mark them on: 1) their effort, and 2) their presentation skills. We brainstormed, and then I elicited all the usual key points to a good speech. They came up with the following list:

  1. Eye contact
  2. Big voice
  3. Big smile
  4. Good pronunciation
  5. Intonation
  6. Don’t be nervous
  7. Don’t read the speech

I marked their effort simply according to how many sentences or pieces of information they wrote about. After the test I collected their speech papers and they ranged from 16 to 40 sentences. They divided somewhat neatly into 4 groups: 16-20, 21-30, 31-37, 38-40.  I graded them as 7/10 to 10/10.

I then graded their presentation skills (rather subjectively) based on notes I took during their speeches. For example: great composure, good tempo, great eye contact, reading a little, too nervous, good smile, clear pronunciation, small voice, etc. These grades ranged from 7/10 to 9/10.

I included this information along with their speech times (from 1:42 to 5:19) on a small personalized evaluation sheet to be handed back to them in the next class.

What I learned

It turned out that 5 students had the same top mark of 85%, although everyone had a different combination of strengths and weaknesses. Being a speaking type myself, I usually focus more on the students who have naturally good presentation skills. I don’t acknowledge the quiet writers as much as I could. I now realize that OUTPUT is both speaking and writing, and either are both valuable and proof of the student’s current interlanguage. I hope to have them notice the differences between themselves and their friends and encourage them to make a goal to improve something specific for the upcoming Final exams.

I wrote earlier about a Speech Rubric to offer some transparency for the students to see my scoring system. I’m still working on it but I’m sure this will help them to clearly set their own goals for improvement.

A final thought: I ‘m convinced that they believed that if they made an effort they could get “big points” on the test. Since everyone came into the test well-prepared, they listened to one another and really enjoyed the information they heard about one another. Some girls were walking out of a TEST saying, “That was really fun.” I can’t remember hearing that in a test before.

Cheers,

Steve

P.S. I used to get comments on blogger, but rarely on WordPress. I wonder why?

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