Self-assessment exercises for English language learners

6 self-assessment tasks for English learners

6 self-assessment tasks for English learners


  • Activities
  • Tips & Strategies
  • Methodology

Teacher, do you ever look back at something you have done? Are you motivated by your own progress? The answers are obviously yes. In the same way, in teaching English or other languages, we have to build a sense of their own success in our students and motivate them to develop their own knowledge and skills.

In other words, teachers should build a growth mindset. Today, we are talking about how to give students tasks that will tell them, You can be as smart as you want to be.

Meaningful tasks give students a clear sense of progress and lead to mastery of the language. This means that students realize they can do the tasks that they could not perform before and understand concepts that they could not understand before.

The work, which gives students a sense of improving their skills and knowledge as a result of their efforts, gives teachers the opportunity to praise students for their progress. Teachers can point out that it’s students’ efforts have led to progress and improvement over time.

Individuals with a fixed mindset believe that their intelligence is simply an inborn trait - they have a certain amount, and that’s that. In contrast, individuals with a growth mindset believe that they can develop their intelligence over time.

Carol S. Dweck, The New Psychology of Success

Psychology professor Carol Dweck suggests that if students are given the opportunity to clearly see the improvement of their knowledge, it can give them a real sense of progress, and self-assessment can be an effective strategy to achieve this goal.

The development of self-assessment skills implies that we must also teach students to monitor how well they digest educational material, develop their ability to independently find mistakes, inaccuracies, as well as teach them to tie up loose ends, i.e. fix the identified problems.

Key Vocabulary Lists

Before teaching the topic, give students a list of keywords. Many colleagues do so, but ask students to learn the words in advance. It’s not recommended to do so because separate words have no context, and so you only complicate the task for your students, or make it hardly possible to perform, and completely ineffective.

Instead, you can ask students to mark words by categories: 

  • I know — words that they know for sure;
  • I might know — words they have heard or are not quite sure of;
  • I don’t know — unknown words.  

Collect the completed worksheets, and at the end of the topic, give the students new ones. Once students have tested themselves, let them compare the older list to the one just filled out. In this way, they will be able to assess their own progress.

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Masked self-assessment

In this case, we are talking about listening. Unfortunately, very often colleagues use it only for control, i.e. as testing. For some students, who already have difficulty understanding what they are listening to, such an approach creates even more stress. Moreover, in class  students often have to listen to what the teacher chooses, and it is not always interesting.

Her is what has to be done: 

  • create an opportunity for students to choose content for listening to or watching; 
  • listening should be for pleasure, entertainment or useful information;
  • develop students’ habit of listening to English content.

All of these tasks are easy to solve if you tell your students they will now watch English series as a regular extracurricular activity, and it will be used as a basis for classroom activities. Tell them if they do this regularly, they will notice a difference in listening comprehension by the end of the course / year. In the next lesson, you will ask them which series they have chosen. 

Students can also watch what they have already seen in their native language. Generally, short 25-minute episodes work best.

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In the next lesson, ask students to tell their partner / group which series they will be watching, and tell them that they should watch at least one episode a week. At this stage, it would be nice to give them the vocabulary they need to speak about their favorite series.

Conduct weekly classes where students can discuss what they are watching and their experiences. Ask a different question or task each week. For example:

  1. Do you watch your series at home or on the move?
  2. When do you watch your series and who do you watch with?
  3. Would you recommend your series?
  4. How much did you watch without subtitles?
  5. How many times do you watch your episode?
  6. Describe a memorable scene from your series.
  7. Who’s your favourite character and why?
  8. Which character is the easiest/most difficult to understand and why?
  9. Teach your partner a phrase you learnt and the context it came up in.
  10. Do you think your listening is improving and how? 

Ask the last question only when enough time has passed for students to see the difference.


Such tasks can be performed at the end of a lesson or study of a certain topic, and they are quite common in modern coursebooks. 

At the end of the lesson, ask students to write about their attitudes and opinions about techniques and tasks. Create assessment criteria based on parameters that meet the objectives of the lesson and the needs of students. For example:

Was I able to complete the task? Was I able to generate ideas? Did I use Present Perfect correctly? Did I use Past Simple where necessary? Was I able to talk about the latest news I heard?

Video/Voice Recording

This technique works great for controlling speaking skills. Students can perform tasks in pairs or groups, or independently. As in the previous task, you will need certain criteria that will serve as guidelines for students. Ask students to record each other’s audio or video using their phones.

Students then work in pairs / groups, watching or listening to the recording, and evaluating the task according to established criteria or what they have to look out for. This is a good way to focus on some specific aspects of speaking and identify what needs to be improved.

Students can be their worst and best critics. Such activities show the problems they need to fix and give them an idea of ​​what they are doing well and what they need to work on.

Speaker, listener, note-taker

We can say that this task is very similar to the previous one, but it involves a clear distribution of roles: the one who speaks, the one who listens, and the one who writes.

Divide the class into groups of 3 students. Each group should have a speaker, a listener and a note-taker. In total, there will be three rounds lasting 2 minutes, in which students must express their opinion on a particular issue. Give students a few minutes to plan their response. In each round, the roles change. Themes change in each round as well. 

Topics that always work well include a story about yourself, holidays, hometown, hobbies, pets, last weekend, work and favorite food, etc.

Tell listeners that they should listen carefully and at the end ask one question to the one who was speaking. Explain to each note-taker that he or she should give feedback on one aspect (grammatical accuracy, range of vocabulary, different collocations, pronunciation or fluency, etc.) after the speaker has finished and answered the questions from the listener. After completing three rounds, students discuss their reaction to the feedback.

Use the following tips to diversify this task:

  • let the speaker choose the aspect in which he wants to get feedback;
  • let the listener also say how much he agrees or disagrees with the feedback given by the note-taker;
  • the speaker evaluates his own answer, and the note-taker says whether he agrees or not;
  • a note-taker can only give positive feedback.

Written reflection

At the end of a lesson or activity, using a set of reflective questions, ask students to write short answers to the questions. For example: What is the most important thing I have learned today? What new things have I learned? What have I learned that I didn’t know? Is there anything I still do not understand?

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Self-assessment tasks can actually be very effective and motivating for our students, although they do take some time to prepare. But these are the things we need to do for the success of those who study English. And when we look back at what we’ve done…isn’t it motivating?

Article authors & editors
  • Yulia Chorna

    Yulia Chorna


    DELTA Module 1, CELTA certified teacher of General & Business English



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