5 Tips for Grading IPAs

teacherThe first grading period ended in my school this week so there was lots of talk in my department about how time-consuming it is to grade IPA’s.  While I am enough of a teacher nerd to actual enjoy creating IPA’s, I cannot say the same for grading them!  Here are a few suggestions that have helped me streamline the process and cut down the time I spend on this task.

  1. Assign a rough draft for the Presentational Writing. I often incorporate a series of learning stations before an IPA and one of these stations consists of writing a rough draft for the IPA. Since I have only 8 students at each station per day, the process of providing feedback is less overwhelming. The students benefit from this feedback on this formative assessment and usually do much better on the IPA as a result.
  2. Use rubrics. I began using the Ohio Department of Education rubrics this year and I really like them. Since Ohio has not yet created an Interpretive Rubric, I use the ACTFL rubric, which I’ve modified to meet my needs.  (See this post for a detailed explanation.) When grading the reading and writing sections of an IPA, I lay a rubric next to the student’s paper and check the corresponding box, making very few marks on the student’s paper. Since I will go over the interpretive sections with the class, I don’t find it necessary to mark each response on each student’s paper.  Likewise, having given specific feedback on the rough drafts, there is no need to do so on this final copy, which I will keep in my files after returning temporarily for feedback purposes.
  3. Avoid math. After I have checked the appropriate box in each section of the rubric, I determine a score for that section of the IPA. (My gradebook is divided according to language skills—reading, writing, listening, and speaking, so each IPA task gets its own score.) I use a holistic system, rather than mathematical calculations to determine an overall score for each task. If all of the checks are in the “Good” column, the student earns a 9/10.  If there are a few checks in the “Strong” column (and the rest are Good), the student earns a 10/10.  If the checks are distributed between the Good and the Developing column, the student earns an 8.  If the checks are all in the Developing column, the student earns a 7.  If there are several checks in the Emerging column, the student earns a 6.  If a student were unable to meet the criteria for Emerging, I would assign a score of 5/10, the lowest score I record.
  4. Grade the Interpersonal Speaking “live.” I know that many teachers have their students record their conversations and then listen to them later. If this works for you, you have my admiration. I know myself far too well—I would procrastinate forever if I had 30 conversations to listen to when I got home at night!  It works much better for me to call up two randomly-chosen students to my desk while the rest of the class is working on the presentational writing.  I can usually get most of the class done in one period, in part because I also place a time limit on their conversation— usually about 3 minutes for my novice students and 4-5 for my intermediates. I find that I can adequately assess their performance in that amount of time, and the students are relieved to know that there is a finite period of time during which they will be expected to speak.  I mark the rubric as they’re speaking, provide a few examples, and then write a score as they next pair is on their way to my desk.
  5. Use technology for lnterpretive Listening. Each of my IPA’s includes both an Interpretive Reading and an Interpretive Listening. Because I haven’t found the ACTFL Interpretive Template to work well with listening assessments (see this post), I am currently using basic comprehension, guessing meaning from context, and sometimes main idea and inference questions to assess listening.  Although I’ve used a short answer format for these items in the past, I am starting to experiment with creating multiple choice “quizzes” on Canvas (our learning management system).  I know that other teachers have had success creating assessment items using Zaption and other programs.  I’m still reflecting on the use of objective questions to assess listening, but these programs do offer a way for teachers to provide more timely feedback and for students to benefit from additional context to guide their listening.

If you have any tips for grading IPA’s,  please share!

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21 thoughts on “5 Tips for Grading IPAs

  1. Nicole H

    I really liked the IPA you had on here with the rubrics embedded into the IPA structure for each part of the reading, for example. That REALLY helped take the headache out of grading for me!

    Reply
    1. madameshepard Post author

      Thanks for the feedback! I did like that system, but still had to go back and add the sections. I kind of like seeing the overall big picture of the student’s work by having the separate rubric, too. Who knows, maybe I’ll try something different next year!

      Reply
  2. Kerri

    This post came just in time as I am procrastinating grading my first set of IPAs. Just a quick question: Do you provide a rubric for every individual student? Thank you.

    Reply
    1. madameshepard Post author

      Yes, I do. I have tried including them in the IPA packet, but that was too much flipping. I also tried making a rubric packet, and having the students keep it tucked inside their IPA packet. Next I’m going to try copying each part of the IPA separately. Although this will mean more time at the copier. I’d love to know what other people do!

      Reply
      1. Becky LF Richards

        Even if part of me wants to cut back on paper, I find myself making miniature rubric sets (single sheet/single-sided) for my use. Students need to understand the intended goals so they also had rubric copies at the outset, but they don’t always find their way to the final product. At this point it feels easier and faster to have my own paper checklists than putting and doing it all online. I can then scan hand-written submissions as well as my completed rubrics on the school’s high-speed printers to make pdf packets to keep for documentation purposes.

        Reply
      2. Bethanie

        At a recent conference, one teacher shared that she puts her IPA’s on 11×17 paper, then folds them in half like a book. This thrilled me because it means that I could put all the parts on one sheet of paper, including rubrics, and because you can print 2 pages to 1 sheet of paper, double siding documents like this only counts as 2 copies for 4 pages–really nice in a system where we have limited copies. I’m nerded out to to try it soon!

        Reply
        1. madameshepard Post author

          Sounds like a great idea–Let me know how it goes! (I can’t believe you have limited copies. In the era of using authentic materials it is impossible to grasp that someone’s copies would be limited. Are you one-to-one?)

          Reply
  3. Cindy K.

    I’m working through novice IPAs right now, and I agree that providing feedback on the presentational rough draft helps me move more quickly through the final version. For the interpersonal (which yes, I record and grade later), I am able to get through them more quickly if I jot down words/phrases as I listen. Then if I struggle to decide the level, I can look back to see the variety of vocabulary, if they used mostly memorized phrases/questions, if there are consistent grammar errors, etc. And usually I only have to listen once and spend 20-30 seconds at the end marking the score. I also agree that a finite time limit for the interpersonal has also helped me and the student. For most students, especially at the novice level, I find I can mark a level after only 3 minutes.

    Reply
    1. Kerri

      Yes, I just did the same with my novice kids. Jotting down the points that I thought needed reflection were helpful and made the speaking piece a fastidious process.

      Reply
  4. Sara-Elizabeth

    I’ll second #4 and also groan about it – grading them live makes the rest of the IPA grading so much less daunting, but I found my students were more comfortable if I wasn’t taking notes, but rather just talking to them and recording- which led to a lot more grading later. Ugh!

    I’m also contemplating this question and welcome your opinion: If proficiency levels simply don’t change that often, is it enough to do an IPA, say, only once a semester, as long as we’re regularly assessing all modes formatively throughout the semester? I’m leaning this way.

    –Sara-Elizabeth

    Reply
    1. madameshepard Post author

      Thanks for sharing your insights, Sara-Elizabeth! I’ll have to get some feedback from my kids about the interpersonal task. I don’t generally participate in their conversations unless they really get stuck. Therefore, I’ve gotten the impression that it’s a little bit less intimidating for them if I keep busy taking notes instead of maintaining direct eye contact with them when they’re speaking. I usually give them some quick oral feedback when they’re finished, though. I’ll follow up with them and see what they say!
      I think the question you ask about proficiency levels is a key one, and I’ve been hesitant to write much about it as my understanding is different than that of many of my wonderful #langchat peeps. I view my IPA’s as performance and I don’t assign a proficiency level on my IPA’s. My current understanding of proficiency is that it can’t really be assessed on a topic that’s been recently studied (and maybe only by an OPI.) So, other than a pre-test at the beginning of the year and a post-test at the end (both of which are unrelated to a recent theme), I consider all of IPA’s to performance-based assessments which I use as the summative asssessment for each unit. I definitely think that IPA’s could be limited to once a semester. In my particular grading system, the only difference between a formative assessment over a mode and the tasks on the summative IPA is the category that I put the grade in. The IPA’s “count” more because there are only 2-3 of them per quarter, so each task ends up being about 10% of their grade. I’ve probably digressed a bit, and since all grading systems are different I might not be making much sense. In short, I definitely think IPA’s could be given once a semester, and the important thing is to be assessing communicatively and giving frequent feedback. I’d love to know what other readers think! Lisa

      Reply
  5. Skylar

    I totally agree about the recorded speakings! I had students do a couple each year because I knew that they would have to present in that style for the ap test eventually, but it is just so much quicker to grade them live!

    Reply
  6. sally

    madame Shepard!
    You’re AMAZING! holy cow. Merci mille fois pour toutes ces ressources fantastiques! Where I teach in Illinois, we are unfortunately WAY BEHIND when it comes to best practices (instructional, assessment, etc.) My department is spectacular and we all are motivated to make major changes — we just lack some of the means to do so with budget constraints and more. would you mind if I looked to you, perhaps emailed you directly, with some questions on where to start?

    What textbook series do you use at your school? We are still using Discovering French (not AT ALL performance-based) and there is zero money in the foreseeable future to use for adopting new series.

    merci encore, vous êtes une inspiration!
    Sally K.

    Reply
  7. Denise Wagstaff

    Hi Lisa,

    When you give an interpersonal speaking task, where students talk to each other (not teacher/student), do you give them any prep time to work through the topic before you randomly call them to your desk? Do they see the topic before test day (like you do for presentational writing/drafts), or is it a surprise that day? Also, do you have any suggestions for groups of 3 (many of my classes have an odd number, and I much prefer pairs)? I am going to attempt an IPA with an interpersonal speaking task very soon & am trying to figure out the logistics of how to do this. Merci!

    Denise

    Reply
    1. madameshepard Post author

      Hi, Denise. Nearly all of my IPA’s are student-student. We do lots of practice activities to prepare the students in class. They do know the topic in advance, but in most cases it’s quite general (Level 1 Examples: Talk about your school supplies, talk about your family, talk about what you usually eat at each meal, talk about what you like to do, etc. French 2: Talk about your typical day, talk about what you like to do with your friends on the weekend, talk about what happened at school yesterday, etc.) They do not know who their partner will be in advance, so it is not possible to rehearse. I encourage the Novices in French 1 and 2 to prepare by memorizing relevant questions (which we have practiced using in class), but this doesn’t always happen. When I have an odd number, I have them talk in groups of 3 or ask a volunteer to jump in, with the chance of possibly earning a higher grade.

      Reply
  8. Rebecca

    Hello dear Lisa! Just perusing your blog over vacation with a mug of chocolat chaud…lovely. Can you tell us more about #1, the draft for presentational writing? Same/different topic? What sort of feedback do you give them? I am putting the final touches on my wrap-up of a unit on le temps libre for my French 7s and am trying to figure out how to best prepare them for an on-demand writing assessment. Merci mille et bonne année 2017!

    Reply
    1. madameshepard Post author

      Bonne Annee, Rebecca! I am in a constant state of flux about the role of rough drafts! I usually have them do the same topic for the draft. Most recently, I have allowed them to use resources (wordreference.com) on the draft, but not the final copy. I try to give feedback on the content (“Add detail,” “Improve transitions,” etc.) as well as on grammatical errors. I have so often read that error correction does not improve writing, yet I still remember corrections on papers I wrote in college and I don’t make these same errors as a result of this feedback. I have, at times, allowed the students to have their rough draft in front of them while writing their final copy, but ended up feeling like their final copy did not accurately reflect their own proficiency. Unfortunately, however, the majority of my students do not seem to look over/remember/understand the feedback I give them before writing the final copy. I think the best option might be to conference with each student as part of the draft process, but I haven’t found a way to make time for this yet. I think I could make conferencing work during learning stations (which I haven’t been doing as often because we’re 1:1)but I haven’t quite managed to implement this yet. What are your thoughts?

      Reply
  9. Rebecca

    Dear Lisa,

    Sorry for the time it’s taken me to reply – I forgot to click the “notify” box on your blog and lost track of this temporarily. I share your skepticism of the critiques of error correction, and your desire to give feedback on content & structures. At present, I only take the time to do careful error correction (with codes) for polished presentational work such as projects. I usually allot some class time for students to begin their edited final copies so that they can ask questions about my comments as they work – but I agree that many students are not willing/able to incorporate feedback into improving their writing. Have you ever made that part of the rubric in order to press them a bit more?

    Individual conferences would probably be great but again, I couldn’t get to all 70 of my students in any reasonable amount of time (I think…?).

    As for drafts, I agree that once edited, they don’t reveal much about students’ true proficiency. I’ve been trying to balance that my giving on-demand presentational writing assessments at the end of each unit. For those, I announce the topic in advance and give my students a graphic organizer to complete using any and all resources. On the day of the assessment, however, they have only a fresh, blank copy of the organizer to write from. This is my attempt to balance students’ nerves with the need to see what they can do independently.

    Reply

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