4 Steps for Smooth Interpersonal Assessments

Posted by Megan Smith on May 22, 2015 in 4 Assessments, Last Days, Speaking

The interpersonal assessment is a challenging and time consuming task, but it’s really important.
Being able to have a conversation is a major reason students take a language class. Give them a chance to show their growth!

Here’s a good description from ACTFL of what we try to do during an interpersonal assessment.


ACTFL’s OPI Manual from LanguageTesting.com

4 step to make the Interpersonal Assessment go smoothly in your classroom:

1.) Use sign-up sheets to organize! I ask for volunteers for the first days and then let students sign up for the day they prefer. It goes so much smoother when they know exactly when it’s their turn. I remind students to be ready “on deck” (waiting by the door) before it’s their turn.


2.) Set up a quiet spot where you and the student can talk uninterrupted.


I set up a small table and two chairs in the hall outside my classroom. I also try to record our conversations with an iPad just in case I need to review a grade. Students know the procedure and they know not to interrupt  anyone’s assessment unless there is a major emergency. If you feel you need to keep a closer eye on the class, see if you can find coverage. It’s worth it to not be distracted while you’re in the zone!

Since this happens to be the end of the year, the students who aren’t testing that day have a little freedom. Students can practice for their interpersonal assessment, finish missing/make-up work, or sometimes I show a movie.

3.) Set a time limit (I plan for 5 minutes each) and take them through phases listed below.


Examples of those easy warm-up questions:

Hi! How are you? How old are you? Are you ready for our conversation?

Level check examples:  (Hint: These are usually open-ended questions.) 

What are your favorite activities? Why? What do you like to do with your family? Describe your family. Tell me about your favorite meal.

These are level checks because their response will show you right away whether they are a novice or intermediate. You can use follow up questions to be sure.

Challenge them with a probe. 

Intermediate probes: Tell me about your favorite memory of summer from when you were a kid. What would a perfect day be like for you? What did you do to celebrate your last birthday? Intermediate Mid probes: What would you do differently? How would you change…

Finally, end when you’re back in comfort zone. 

Do you have any questions? This was very interesting. Thanks for talking to me! Bye!

4.) Rate each response with a check mark on the rubric.


This is a little trick I learned from Kara. During your conversation, rate each of their different responses with a little check. Later you can see how many questions they answered and where they were able to consistently respond. (Remember: if you ask a novice question – you’ll get a novice answer. Make sure you’re questions allow them to expand and show their skills!) Plus, if you have the rubrics ready you will get the grading done as you go!

Hope this helps if you getting ready to try an INTERPERSONAL assessment for the first time! Good luck!




13 comments for “4 Steps for Smooth Interpersonal Assessments”

  1. Joanny says:

    Thank you very much, Megan! This week, my students and I will be going through the Interpersonal Assessment and this blog has really been very insightful about what to do in very easy to follow steps. I can’t wait to put it in practice! 🙂 Keep up the good work, girls!

  2. Checking things off on the rubric is so helpful – I remember it was SO GREAT to have interpretive graded right away, whereas presentational writing took me forever, that stack of papers glaring at me. But then I also did many where I just recorded the conversation on my iPod without taking any notes, and that helped me just talk to the student and then really focus on analyzing their language when I went back to listen. They were less self-conscious too, because I wasn’t jotting things down the whole time. I couldn’t tell you which I prefer!


  3. Katie says:

    Is there an easy way to determine if a question is a novice, intermediate or advanced level question? Do you have sample questions for these categories? Or does ACTFL? Thanks!

  4. Therese says:

    This is so great! Thanks a bunch! I especially appreciate the example questions as I haven’t done the OPI training. I too would also love some to see if there is a resource with example novice, intermediate and advanced level questions. Thanks as always for the inspiration!

  5. Christina Turpin says:

    Hi, Megan & Kara! Have either of you ever used interpersonal to assess a student up front- at the beginning of the year? i was thinking of doing this for my incoming Spanish 3 and 4 students. I get them from two different Spanish 2 teachers and their proficiency skills are vastly different!

    1. Kara Parker says:

      Hi Christina! I’ve used presentational writing assessments for this very purpose! I call it “Show what you know” and wrote a post about it: http://www.creativelanguageclass.com/activities/modes-skills/writing/show-what-you-know/
      I haven’t done an interpersonal, but I think that’s a great idea however you choose to assess at the beginning.

  6. Jenn says:

    This is great. Just wondering…do the students have any idea what questions/topics you are going to cover or is it completely off the cuff?

    1. Kara Parker says:

      Thanks Jenn! They know the topics (what we have covered for the year, they usually refer to their stamp sheets as study guides), but many times their answers lead into new topics. I keep pushing them as much as I can. It’s exciting to hear them figure out, circumlocute and communicate! We practice circumlocution in class to prepare them for these situations. http://www.creativelanguageclass.com/activities/games/idea-37-30-seconds-a-circumlocution-speaking-game/

  7. Erica says:

    Do you have a pdf of the chart that you use? Would be of stellar use to me!

  8. Ryan says:

    This is fascinating. I seem to recall that interpersonal assessments CANNOT be considered interpersonal if they are done teacher-student. This is because there is less back-and-forth and negotiation of meaning between teacher and student because of the “sympathy” and expertise of the teacher. By sympathy, I am referring to the idea that teachers are extremely “sympathetic interlocutors,” a phrase I learned once that meant that teachers are a lot more understanding to the errors a student will make compared to your average target language speaker on the street. Have you made strides with student-to-student interactions and how to assess them? I’d have some semi-successes I would be willing to share.

    1. Megan Smith says:

      If you’re looking to measure student proficiency, then it needs to be done between a student and a teacher. We aren’t OPI certified but we both went through the MOPI training. In order to level check, you need to be able to ask the right questions that push the student to the max that they can handle. Otherwise, I could have a novice speaker and a native speaker, and the novice would not challenge the native speaker to show intermediate or advanced proficiency if they are asking simple, memorized questions. As the rater, it’s your job to do that. It’s true that we as teachers are more sympathetic listeners but most rubrics touch on that while evaluating.
      I love interpersonal interaction between students, and we do that often in lessons, just not for a formal measure of student proficiency. Curious where you heard that? Any sources? I’d be interested in reading another take on the topic.

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