02 November 2017

AAPPL Bites: DIY Listening Assessments

I've kind of abandoned IPAs this year. I have always been really pleased with how my open-ended assessments compared to AAPPL rubrics allowed me to focus on what kids can do, but I've never really seen any crossover on their performances no matter how integrated the topics were. What's more is I felt like I kind of blindsided kids with the actual AAPPL test last year. Sure they were familiar with the rubrics and what to expect as far as the levels, but not the format for the questions.

So I made the decision to switch performance assessment formats this year. I already had a plan for how to make my own AAPPL style reading assessments, so it was mostly a question of adapting the listening. (I still use much the same writing template, just with three specific prompts instead; and I still like the small group speaking assessment for practical and technological purposes.)

In adapting listening assessment from the reading model, I've made three main changes:
  1. I use Google Slides now instead of Google Drawings so I can have multiple topics in one file (I actually do this for listening now too.
  2. Of course listening involves videos instead of text (how relieved was I when I found out you could just double click videos while you were in edit mode instead of having to switch between edit and present mode to listen?) Like with portfolios, you DO need to make sure the videos are shared with kiddos too, though.
  3. I have to go easy on authentic samples: I discovered a few years ago that my novice kiddos weren't really even supposed to be ready for non adapted samples until at least the middle of Spanish 2. Sure I mostly had my own baby Spanish writing on the first reading "AAPPL Bite" ever, but by #2, I was able to stick exclusively to authentic texts (including a Pictoline infograph, of course!)

Now the good news is that grading still takes approximately 1-2 minutes per student this way. It is SUPER easy to do a quick visual scan to see if the pictures or textboxes are out of place, and then a few seconds to compare to the AAPPL rubric, then copy and paste suggestions.

The main struggle is finding the balance between challenging and appropriate. The trick with a well set-up AAPPL style assessment is to have something everybody can understand AND a way they can demonstrate it, preferably without resorting to L1. This means your samples have to be accessible to novices AND intermediates (at least some of them) and that your responses must make sense to pretty much anyone.


The truth is the AAPPL listening samples are typically scripted video or audio clips imitating authentic texts, so the pressure to actually use authentic texts is not too high.

Now for samples, Flipgrid has been a godsend (remember, if you send me a sample and end up in my assessment, you get a free copy--if you provide your email!) Having videos that aren't me is priceless, and these prompts generally ensure I have something even the least confident kid can pick up on. It's cool to get some different takes on the topics we're actually working on, but I might dip into videos that my amigos contributed for a previous, personalized assessment.

LAITS is also bae. The videos are native speakers, but are sorted by level and topic. They're also handy for differentiating for my native speakers (how about a Castillian accent to stretch their skills?). It also doesn't hurt to have a little practice before assessment day with one of the tougher videos in the category.

Another sample I have also been using--more to build confidence than to actually assess--is the videos of our one-word image story retells. I can't really assess their listening skills with a story they've already heard and made booklets for, but I kind of can with the story from the other class.

And this time? I did sort of resort to using Nimbus Screen Recorder to get an AAPPL demo video in, just to see how it went. (I think it did help separate novices from intermediates...or at least Novice Mid from Novice High.)


Now the AAPPL Listening generally involves picking out pictures or even answering English questions with pictures. I have to say, though, that finding pictures is trickier than I thought, even though you can search right in Google Slides now. I mean, what kind of cultural assumptions do I have to make to pick the pictures? Do they know what a mango is, what lomo saltado looks like?  Do they know Harry Potter is not just a movie?

My favorite questions are probably straight up paraphrase matching with different videos. AAPPL has kiddos move actual audio files around, but it works best for me to just have them move the textboxes--adding numbers next to each video also helped A) make sure that I had the right number of responses and B) keep the kids from asking a zillion times how many went with each picture or, you know, randomly deleting ones they didn't like (not even kidding).

I need to work a little on differentiating more intermediate levels. It's one thing matching headlines with intro paragraphs in the target language, but it seems like writing questions in English and answering with pictures is about as advanced as the lower level test gets at least.


I've been working on closing the feedback loop with portfolios this semester, so students need to know what kept them from getting the next level. I've honestly been getting a lot that got things 100% correct, and while I can't be 100% certain there's no foul play involved, I think they are actually advancing with their listening. When someone doesn't get 100% though, feedback is pretty easy: I click on the mistaken picture or textbox then change the color and size of the outline to red 8px (or just fill the textbox with red). Bing, bam, boom: done. And really, this is the only reason some take 2 minutes is the few extra seconds it takes.

Most of the feedback comes when they are completing their listening portfolios, figuring out what they did wrong. It's been a bit of a struggle getting them to go beyond "I switched them, so now I'm I2," but they're starting to pick out more details to support their points. Also I think it'll help if I at least add a "Novice" or "Intermediate" label on the slides so they can tell which videos are geared toward which audience (regardless of the tasks).

Make Your Own

So really all you need for this sort of assessment is

  1. Appropriate videos - from Flipgrid teachers, LAITS, or maybe YouTube--so long as they're uploaded to your Google Drive and shared!
  2. A slide for each level - with videos Novice Lows can handle, Novice Mid-High, and Intermediate Low at the beginning of Spanish I
  3. A task to interpret each video - whether it's images to match with words, phrases, or sentences from one video or paraphrased textboxes to sort among three different videos, it doesn't have to be too complex. Just be sure the vocabulary you highlight and the text types fit with what you can logically expect based on what you have done with this group (performance not proficiency in the classroom, right?)
  4. A Google Classroom assignment - make sure that you have your Slides set to "Make one for each" and that you have attached/shared your folder of videos.
This will require individual devices for the kiddos, and probably some emergency headphones, but the good news is most teenagers come equipped with ear buds these days. It's up to you if you want to give them the option of watching the videos on their phones while they respond!

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