a flurry of speaking tests

It’s finally here. Speaking Test Week. This is Day 1.

Instead of teaching lessons, all my class periods this week are being used to test every student in the school on their speaking abilities (or more accurately, their composing-an-answer-and-memorizing-it abilities).

Tomorrow I’ll test 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grade classes all in one day, but today I only had a total of four classes, three 1st grade and one 2nd grade.

Which means I have said a billion times already,

“How are you doing?”

“How can I get to the bakery?”

“Can you introduce yourself?”

“Tell me about your best friend.”

“Which do you prefer, the math club or the art club?”

“Can you tell me 3 differences between American and Korean school?”

“What do you think about English? Why?”

“What do you think about traveling to other countries? Why?”

When the bell rings, the class stays in the classroom and (if they’re lucky) have time to study more while their classmates come into my adjacent office one by one to take the test. Some of my co-teachers have them draw random papers to see what order they’ll test in; others just go by student number (either Student 1 – Student 20 or Student 20 – Student 1).

Even after conducting countless speaking tests last year at both of my schools, I still don’t feel like I’ve got the grading quite right. It’s a really subjective process, like How many ‘the’ or ‘a’ articles do I allow to be missed before I downgrade them? Was that four or five sentences? Wait, this kid got an 85 and he definitely did better than this kid but they got the same score… Okay, give me a second to process and write down this score – oh too late, the next kid is coming in the door.

Fortunately I’m using a little handy-dandy USB audio recorder this year. While this is good for me so I don’t stress about getting each score exactly right in that moment and trying to remember exactly what each student said, it also means I feel obligated to carefully review the entire 45 or 50 minute recording afterwards and go over each grade to make sure it’s as accurate as possible.

I don’t know why I’ve been thinking about Speaking Test Week as some kind of break for myself – yeah, it’s a break from teaching, but I’ve essentially doubled my class hours compared to a normal week!

But it’s okay. I want to do right by the kids and be fair. Even if it means staying till 6 p.m. on a Monday, and knowing I’ll be here even later tomorrow and a couple more days this week.

I do enjoy actually conducting the tests as well, since it’s a chance to see each kid one-on-one for at least a minute or two, and give them a chance to show their personality or ability more. I also get the occasional hilariously creative kids who, even though they can’t speak English much and don’t study, make me laugh with their answer and get a few extra points for it.

Today’s example:

Q: Can you tell me how to wash a dog?

(Suggested answer, based on their textbook: “First, put the dog in the water. Second, wash the dog from head to tail. Third, dry it with a hair dryer.”)

Student: Put the dog in the animal hospital.

Me: *confused* Second?

Student: Yes.

Me: That’s all?

Student: Yes. Animal hospital. Put.

Me: Ah, the animal hospital will wash it?

Student: Yes. “Clean please!”하고(and) money *makes money transaction sound*


And side note: it was climbing towards 90 degrees with 50%+ humidity at EIGHT O’CLOCK IN THE MORNING today. You can imagine how the rest of the day has been. Thank God for air conditioning.

Edit: After publishing and walking home, I have to admit that some late-afternoon rain showers cooled everything down a bit. In fact, you could even say the breeze was chilly… but it’s a moist chilly. Humidity is currently at 61%. More like swimming home than walking home, am I right?


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