Chatbox activities to collect assessment data

In the second and final part of this article, I will share with you a few activities that I have used in my online lessons to collect assessment data using the chatbox. In the first one, I presented the theory behind using the chatbox to give feedback. As the process of converting the collected data to numbers and marks can be challenging for teachers, I will also provide an example of how to perform this based on level of difficulty and help given, mentioning the benefits of adopting such approach.

Is teaching Use of English’ a chore?

Most definitely not! One of my favourite games to revise language, and also to practice lexis and language patterns, is called “Don’t Judge Me”.

First, you show students a table like the one below and ask someone to pick a prompt Then, the others must opt for  ‘Group work’ either or ‘Mind Reader‘ mode! In the first, all the students play against each other and those who give matching answers get a point.

In the more difficult ‘Mind Reader’ mode, everyone tries to guess the answer that will be given by the student who selected the prompt. If these are a match, the student who had chosen the prompt and the one who guessed correctly, get points. Regarding instructions, the teacher should just point out that students must complete the prompt as accurately and coherently as possible. After checking if everyone’s ready, the teacher uses the “3…2…1… go!” technique and students could then decide whether points should be awarded for the answers given.

Figure 1: sample of “Don’t Judge Me” cards

Let’s look at an example!

For instance, if a student chooses the prompt “Don’t judge me, but I was once prevented…” and a classmate types in the chatbox “from getting into a club”, it is clear that the latter shows awareness of the pattern being tested, adjective + preposition (+ gerund/infinitive). The real treat is, however, that learners are not told what the purpose of the game is until the very end!

After having a laugh and responding to each other’s statements spontaneously, the teacher could highlight particularly accurate or complex use of patterns, as well as promote a brief error correction stage drawing the students’ attention to recurring issues and things to watch out for next time the game is played. This is a really great way to practice the often nerve wrecking ‘Use of English‘ exercises present in most Cambridge exams, since students are encouraged to take the lead and personalise the language studied, which will make the focussed items more memorable and hopefully contribute to the ongoing development of autonomous learning.

Other low prep tasks and techniques

Indeed, there is a plethora of quick activities to assess your learners using the chatbox, but these ones are real no-brainers! 

  1. The teacher (or another learner) sends a word to a student and asks them to define it without using any part of that word, monitoring who gave the right answer and how long it took them to do so. This is an online version of taboo and could also be played in breakout rooms to maximise student participation and opportunities for more individualised practice;
  2. The teacher reads jumbled questions out loud and students race to see who can type them in the correct order first, then ask and answer these questions in pairs. This is an integrative activity which combines all systems and skills;
  3. The teacher spells a word incorrectly on purpose in the chatbox and asks students if the spelling is fine. Should they notice it is wrong, ask them to supply the correct spelling;
  4. The teacher monitors a speaking activity in breakout rooms, typing relevant inaccuracies onto a Word document. Then students are brought back to the main room, at which moment the teacher copies and pastes said notes into the chatbox to promote a grammar/vocabulary auction, giving learners a chance to self-correct;
  5. Students do pair work in breakout rooms and the teacher checks immediately whether they have actually discussed the topic as required, asking them to brainstorm their ideas in the chatbox for a minute or so. The purpose here is to keep students on their toes, avoiding idle time and aiming for retrieval of short-term information. The pair who gives the most answers can choose the next game, for instance. The example below is a discussion about likes and dislikes in an A1+ class, but one applicable to virtually every level or language point.
Language focus:
  • to review and further practice of does and doesn’t, 3rd person -s, state verbs (love, like, don’t mind, hate)
T instructions:
  • “in the chatbox, write sentences about what your friend told you” (alternatively, use their names or model with a strong student)
Sample marking scheme (considering a pass mark of 12):

Numbers can be overwhelming, but they are almost always inevitable… AND productive!

Transforming data collected via chat into quantitative assessment as shown in the example directly above might be a daunting task at first, but one which tends to get easier if done consistently. Your students themselves will end up realising that the chatbox is not merely a pastime but actually an important element in assessment, which will help put forward the view that none of the language produced in class should be taken for granted, with students becoming more aware of their attitude to learning and quality of production. Nevertheless, since classes can be mixed ability and students might have different levels of tech-savviness, it is key to give more capable learners a different job to do after completing an activity, so as to allow those who are having more difficulties to think about what to say and/or focus on any mistakes they have made.

At the end of the day, everyone needs to partake in activities to recycle language in order to see progress, and the chatbox is definitely your ally when performing such important task.

We come to the end of this short series about the chatbox, a wonderful resource to engage students and an effective assessment tool that your learners can come to respect and validate if used purposefully. I hope you try these activities in your next few lessons and let me know how they went in the comments below. See you next time!

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About Mannie Monteiro 2 Articles
Mannie has worked as an English teacher in Brazil, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, Spain and England before coming to IH Coimbra in Portugal, where he worked for the past couple of years as Senior Teacher taking a key role in enacting the school's CPD programme. He holds a Bachelor's Degree in English Language and Literature, as well as the Cambridge Delta and CPE certificates. His special interests include teaching and creating exam preparation courses, teacher observation, feedback and learner autonomy.

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