While data and proficiency ratings mean a lot to me (and my district), they do not necessarily thrill students. It’s that time of year when students are preparing for finals (we’re on trimester schedule) and most are tired of tests, a little burnt out, and pressured about grades. I have had most of my students all year and I really want them to see much they learned this year before they finish up level one!

How do we (and most classes) measure progress? Assessments!

Since most students take Spanish to actually learn how to speak I think it is really important to practice and measure just that. I’m not saying it is easy or a quick task. Assessing interpersonal skills takes time and patience but it shows the students’ true proficiency – and that is important.

As much as I don’t want to admit it (sniff, sniff)… they are NOT as pumped to talk to me 1 on 1. They do it everyday and I’m old news! So how could get my students ready for interpersonal assessments?

I was brainstorming about how to make speaking more “real” when a friend, who teaches across the hall, got the ball rolling. She suggested I borrow some of her Spanish-speaking students. So that’s just what I did. I brought in the big guns…


Since I don’t teach native Spanish-speakers I didn’t even know they were right there – right outside my classroom! When my students came into class I told them it was time to test their speaking skills. They groaned. Not another test! Then I told them we had “guests” joining us and they had to have a 5 minute conversation with them – NO PHONES and NO ENGLISH. Now I had their attention. Their first questions were… “Is it Shakira?” and “Are they young like us?”

I gave them 10 minutes to get into groups of three and plan and prepare for the task. I’ve never seen anyone work so hard. Why? Because THIS mattered to them. This was a REAL test.

I set up three small groupings of chairs in the hallway, set the timer, and sent the small groups out to chat. It was awkward and nervous and maybe the best practice ever!


After their conversation, they came back in the classroom and laughed about their mistakes  and got ready for the next round. Oh, to have second chances! We all need them! Afterwards I asked them to reflect on the conversation and most said “We should do that more often.” I agree!

This was my New Year’s resolution – to bring in guest speakers. I was originally planning to get a few of my Hispanic friends to Skype or visit somehow. I didn’t need to though. I’m lucky to work with great teachers who are glad to help each other. This trimester I have had 6 latinos (3 Mexican, 1 Spanish, 1 Peruvian,  and 1 Cuban) from three different classes in to talk to my students. They were glad to “help” and gave my students the kind of test they really needed!