Monthly Archives: December 2011

Using Visual Aids & Manipulatives in ESL

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Hello guys, in this post I am going to talk about visual aids and manipulatives; what they are, and the way we can use them to help our teaching and students’ learning. Fortunately, English teachers are surrounded with all type of visuals which they can take advantage from, the key is to make a correct selection.


Visual materials are all the objects which are seen by students in order to learn. There is a great variety of visual materials.

Types of visual materials:





-real objects.

charts, etc.

Visual aids have different use, for example they can help teachers to present a topic, as a part of language practice and when reviewing language that was presented earlier.



Manipulatives are objects that can be touched or moved by students to reinforce a concept. And it is a way that students can physically interact with their learning. Manipulatives help reach students whose learning styles are often ignored, for example: kinesthetic, tactile. Manipulatives empower students to process and organize information at their own pace. Also they add novelty to the classroom and get students’ attention. And they can be used in a variey of ways such as these:











Taken from:

Grading is one of the most difficult issues to teachers, you have to be aware of everything may affect the result of student`s grading, details must be taken into account. This paper will shows some suggestions for a better grading and some aspects that you must take into account at the time of grading. It is said that grades reflect personal philosophy and human psychology, as well as efforts to measure intellectual progress with objective criteria. For students, grades are the most frustrating thing and their importance means that all the time the teacher has to be in constant effort to be consistent, fair and reasonable and to maintain grading standards you can defend if challenged. In the grading process what is learned is quantified and feedback is given on how much the students learned.

In my case when grading time comes I feel very overwhelmed and nervous because I know it is going to be a hard job, but now as I have been reading interesting and helpful articles about grading besides the presentations of my partners have shown a wide perspective about grading, so that I can share interesting issues concern grading.

Before grading you have to take into account important aspects such as how much responsibility you have assigning particular or overall grades maybe for most teachers it is like a sign of power but it is not, rather it is a large responsibility. The evaluation criteria has to be given to students in order for them know what are the course requirements and the rules to follow. Following the guidelines you established in your syllabus is very important, the teacher has to be consistent and respect his/her syllabus. Students should know how are going to be graded, in case that they would have questions or doubts, the teacher`s duty is to clarify them. If students don`t agree, you have to rational with them in order to find the solution. Besides they have to know how attendance, tasks, participation etc will affect their grades. It is good for students to have multiple choices to show their learning process, a few short tests show better information than a long one. Feedback in a very important element in students’ development, corrective and formative feedback will help them to improve. Grades are very important for students and the teacher must be fair. I was not aware of how grades may affect students’ confidence and I tell them their grades in public but I noticed that some of my students felt bad when I mentioned their grade so I decided to be more careful a bout that, all students have the right of privacy. In all the assignments set your expectations. And make sure to explain clearly what you expect from the students. They have to know your grading rubric you will use and all the things you would like them to do before giving the assignment.

In the grading process get an overall sense of how students did on average. The teacher has to be consistent and fair with all graders, so that the criteria set has to be followed. Another important think to take into account when checking long writing tasks is to not to be tired or bored, maybe it sounds like ridiculous but it is true, it happens to me when it is time to check a large amount of exams it starts well, but when I have revised many of them I feel tired and bored and it makes that I do not make well my job, and it leads to commit mistakes. And when I have done all the grading go back to the first several papers to make sure you were fair.

What I usually do is to give the exams back to my students in a timely manner so that students can correct their misconceptions, or use the feedback in their further learning. Besides I give them a limited time for example a day to review their exam, to request a grade adjustment, and justify their request. Comments are important to be accompanied whit the grade, but not only guided feedback or comments about mistakes, positive feedback, no matter how bad the paper is, it could be a good way to increase motivation. What I have noticed is that my students feel more confident when I write good comments in their papers. Also students may be involved in the grading process to help you transform comments into teachable moments. And each comment can be as a guide to personalize your grading. Avoid writing bad comments which can make feel students frustration, rather you should invite students to talk to you outside the classroom to encourage them to improve their performance and provide guidance on the tasks content.

Order is the key point to maximize your time; students have to be asked to give their work in order to save you some time putting every thing in order. Every time I ask students to give me papers a revise them at home, once I have done it, for the next class I give them back to my students, and I try to not accept papers overtime, because it may leads me to spend more time trying to organize those missing papers. I do not correct every grammatical error. Rather, edit one or two sentences and highlight the type or error made and instruct the student to revise the paper. Sometimes I ask students to exchange their papers so that they correct each other`s. This is a good way to involved students in the grading process.

The school I work at, I asked to take into account other aspects such as attendance, participation and behavior. Since I grade attendance, I make sure that my class time is meaningfully used, or students will be resentful. Most of the times students misunderstand this concepts, for example when I grade participation students think that by doing the task they are getting the participation but they do not take into account how well or bad they are in it. They often relate how long and hard they worked at something that only demonstrates a modest understanding. Student effort must be recognized but should not be a consideration in assigning a grade. Statements such as – “I can see how much effort you put into this to attempt to understand it. I am happy to be able to give you a (x) on the skills you have demonstrated. Keep up the good work” (Ory, J. C., & Ryan, K. E. 1993). It might help students understand that you recognize the subject is difficult for them, but because of their effort, they are performing at a good level. So teachers have to be very careful when grading these considerations because students are specialists to complaint about the results of their performance even when they know that they do not do a good work.

According what I have learned I my class of evaluation, I think that there is no perfect test. According to Angelo, T.A any assessment will have errors in it because of insufficient sampling, ambiguity, misconceptions, fatigue, multiple interpretations, new knowledge, etc. With this in mind, remember that a test score is an approximation of actual performance or skill. Instructors must be flexible about grading (1993). Well as you know, grading is a difficult and hard task but can use some techniques which can make our job easier and I hope this paper may help my colleagues who are new in this hard field that is being an English teacher.


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Designing a test is not only choose the most difficult task for students to solve, making a test is a difficult a challenging task because the teacher has to take into account many factors in order to make the test valid and reliable.

First of all, the teacher must establish his/her instructional objectives, the knowledge measured and the learning outcomes to know what hi/she must include in the test. Then making an exhaustive research of items to be included in the test: At this stage items should be revised and edited; some authors suggest that you can make cards with every selected item and at the back of each card the information of the item should be written; for example how many times it has been applied, how was its impact and so on.

Is the item appropriate for the learning outcome being measured?

It means that if you want definition you should include a short answer format, or if you ask for identification, a multiple choice item can work, so it is very important the format item which you will include in the test.

– Does the knowledge, understanding or thinking skill called forth b y the item match the specific learning outcome and subject-matter content being measured?     

The complexity of the item included should match with the students` knowledge in order to make valid the exam. You can not include what you did not teach your students.

– Is the point of the item clear?

Not to include confusing sentences to make students feel confused.

_Is the item free of verbiage?

Not to use a lot of words when writing directions because they should be clear and concrete.

-Is the item of appropriate difficulty?

The level of complexity must be according with the students’ level.

Does the item have an answer that would be agreed upon by experts?

Sometimes in a multiple choice format there are similar answers so students can get confused with this. So that teacher must be very careful when choose this kind of format.

– Is the item free from technical errors and irrelevant clues?

Sometimes we overlook some clues that are included in the questions so students can guess the answer. And those kinds of clues can be:

     -grammatical inconsistencies.

     -verbal associations.

     -specific determiners (always or never)

     -some mechanical features.

-Is the item free from racial, ethnic and sexual bias?

Be careful of the items you include in order to not to hurt or offend students’ feelings.

the items should be arranged in sections by item type. This arrangement requires the fewest sets of directions; it is the easiest for the students because they can retain the same mental set throughout each section; and it facilitates scoring. When two or more type items are included in a test, there is also some advantage in keep the simpler item types together and placing the more complex ones in the test. The most effective method for organizing items in the typical classroom test is to form sections by item type, group items within each section by the learning outcomes measured being this the one we are going to use to arrange this test, and arrange both the sections and the items within sections and the items within sections in ascending order of difficulty (Norman E Gronlund 1985). The amount of detail depends on the students’ level, test`s comprehensiveness, the test`s items complexity, and the students’ experience with the testing procedure use. In preparing the test materials for reproduction, it is important that the items be spaced and arranged so that they can be read, answered, and scored with the least amount of difficulty.

When preparing directions all this factors have to be taken into account:

  • Purpose of the test
  • Time allowed for answering
  • Basis for answering
  • Procedure for recording the answer

And finally, when reproducing a test the font, spaces and arrangement could be a key point to make a test of high quality.

As we can see, preparing a test is not an easy task, we must take into account many factors which are necessary in order to create high quality test to measure students` knowledge. Although, it is impossible to represent this knowledge with a number, teachers try to be the most fair regarded this by designing appropriate tests containing the best items in order to reach the intended outcomes.