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a place for wide-ranging ideas on team-teaching, lesson planning, activities, strategies and teaching know-how for foreign and Japanese EFL teachers.
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April 28, 2009

Teaching vs. Testing

Activities in the classroom can loosely be divided into those of a teaching nature and those of a testing nature (and perhaps also pratice). It has been very important in my teaching to understand which activities are inherently testing activities and which are for teaching. My own motto is: “Teaching or testing, at the right time.”

Teaching and testing are both important, but a student’s affective response, usually negative, to being tested in an inappropriate time or way can retard the learning process. And after years of being trained that using English equals being tested, many students will become greatly discouraged from wanting to speak English.
Language teaching, and testing, in the classroom is usually either accuracy-focused (grammar and structure), or meaning-focused (communicative). The testing function of communication is a correctly-received message; as such, communicative testing is inherent in any truly communicative activity. The testing activities below are for grammar and structure. If your present classroom activity is communicative and meaning-focused, be careful not to use them, or risk changing your students’ focus to accuracy, and not meaning and communication. Choose the right kind of test for the right focus!

Some of the testing activities involve direct teacher interaction, others do not. Done properly, either style still has the accuracy-checking and accuracy-reinforcing functions common to testing.
And remember-Teaching or Testing, At The Right Time!

Production Accuracy-focused-
Play CROSSFIRE for production accuracy checking, and also conversation skills accuracy checking.
For Conversation Janken Rounds, have one volunteer student (or the teacher) stand and do the target pattern with the opposite row all standing, while the other students watch and listen. Or, after having each seat pair practice the pattern, ask a volunteer pair to stand and do the pattern for all to hear.
The teacher walks down the aisle of desks, and does the target pattern/dialog with each student. This is much faster when you have 2 teachers in the classroom.
After a Hot Potato round, have the ‘losing’ student in each group stand and say a correct target sentence or question aloud.
After Find 3 People, have the winning students come to the teacher(s) and ask their question before sitting down.
After Liar-Liar, have the winning students come to the teacher(s) and say their sentences before sitting down.

Comprehension Accuracy-focused-

Play Pair Slap.
Play O/X Game.
See also teaching- and testing- sorted activities on The Minimalist ALT blog for examples.

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