Just when I thought I had my pacing mastered (1 slide per minute = a 25 minute class,) I opened my schedule and saw it…
a unit assessment!
What is a Unit Assessment? It is an assessment that gauges how well the student has mastered the information in a unit. These are introduced at the halfway point and in the last lesson of the unit. (In level one, that means they have an assessment in lessons 4 and 8. In all other units, the assessments are in lessons 6 and 12.)
As a new ESL teacher, the unit assessments lead to a number of questions:
- 50 slides? How will I cover 50 slides in 25 minutes?
- What if I get done early?
- What if I can’t finish?
- What is the project? Do they know about it?
- Do I still need to have a secondary reward?
- Should I help them if they don’t know the answer?
- How do I grade them?
In today’s blog post, I thought I would tackle a few of the most common questions for you.
I think this is the most common question I hear. On one hand, there are almost double the number of slides as a normal MC lesson. On the other hand, 100% of the material is review, so often kids can fly through it since there is less “teaching.” Here are a few tips to help you master the timing of a UA.
- Don’t panic. Many of the slides are section breaks with no discussion required.
- Review the UA in advance. Get a feel for how many sections there are and how many questions are in each section. I tend to monitor my pacing by sections rather than slides with the UA. For example, if there are six sections, I should be finishing up section 3 when I am halfway through class. BUT – remember, not all sections are created equally. If you have a student who did a really complex project, you may allocate more time in that section and less in another.
- Be ready to extend. Don’t wait until the end of a lesson to find out you have a lot of extra time to kill. That won’t be productive. If you see that your student is well prepared and doing well in the assessment, extend as you go. This has three benefits:
- You will keep them engaged throughout the lesson.
- There’s less risk of mom and dad complaining that you finished the lesson too early.
- It provides great content for your feedback. (“Not only did Bao Bao answer the assessment questions about XYZ correctly, but he also demonstrated his understanding with new examples I gave him in class!”)
- If you have a student who is struggling with the content, do your very best not to skip slides. Instead, move quickly through the section breaks. Don’t spend much time on the “game.” You read the storyline rather than having the student read it. But always try to complete all of the actual assessment.
The UA Project
The UA Project is “homework” that is done outside of class in levels 2 and above. This is a topic I’ll probably go back and write an entire blog post about. For today, I just want to touch on the basics.
- Yes, the students already know about it. It is first introduced in lesson 5. It is also reviewed in lessons 6 and 11. The students and their parents also have information about the project in their materials from VIPKid.
- No, not all students complete the project. In fact, I would guess that most do not.
- It’s possible that some have uploaded it in the portal already. There is a “Project Demo” button that gives them that option; however, I’ve only seen one student ever use it. In most cases, just ask the student to show you their homework, and they will hold it up to the camera.
- If they did not do it, you have a few options. In order of my personal preference:
- You can have the student complete the project live with you in class. They can draw or write on the blank slide or a piece of paper and do it quickly. If I do this, I generally give them half credit for the project.
- You can wait, and if time allows, have them complete it at the end of the class. This is good because you run less risk of taking up too much class time; however, I sometimes forget to return to it.
- You can give them zero points and move on. I usually use this only as a last resort. Realistically, these kids do so much in their lives. They often have 12 hour days in school plus extracurricular activities. Then they learn English on top of that! As a momma, I know some weeks we simply couldn’t get everything done. I might choose the English homework too.
It’s never required by VIPKid to have a secondary reward. However, I do recommend it. For UA’s, you can use their built-in game concept or do a reward of your own. I personally like to make a game board on my whiteboard using UNO cards. If I have time, I will print custom stars that match the UA theme, but often I just use my tried and true Dino stars. I also LOVE the UA maps in Google Slides. These usually follow the theme of the UA game, but at the end of each section there’s a cute gif or picture. My flow is simply “Yay! Good job!” I hold up my phone and show the animation to display the gif and go to the next level; then say “You get a star!” I stick my star on my game board behind me and move on to “Level 2 – BEGIN!”
UA Grading and Progress
I always do my best to grade accurately (but positively.) They aren’t trying to get into an Ivy League school with these results, BUT I think it’s very important for parents to understand how their child is progressing.
Here are a few things to remember about grading and progress:
- If they are struggling, you can absolutely help them. Our primary goal is to teach, so consider these assessments “open book” (or at least “open teacher.” 🙂
- Every exercise has a sliding scale for grading, and most include an option for “Student completed XYZ with teacher assistance.”
- The only times I give zero points are when the student fails to participate on a slide at all, or perhaps they still cannot complete the activity, even with teacher assistance. It is very rare that this happens. Usually, the student is able to complete the activities with help.
Unit assessments have gone from one of my most feared classes to my favorite. I love the flow. I love seeing the progress that my students have made. And I even love the cheesy game stories!
How do you feel about Unit Assessments? Do you have other questions you would like to see answered? Let me know in the comments!