Providing Direction: A Path to Proficiency Action Plan

path2As I shared in a recent post, one of my goals for this year is to use proficiency-based rubrics to assess my students’ performance.  I feel that this type of rubric will provide my students with more targeted feedback on where they are on their path to proficiency and what they need to do to make progress on this path.  As I assessed by first stack of papers using these rubrics, I realized that I needed to be able to provide my students with very specific instructions on exactly how they could demonstrate increasing levels of proficiency on their writing. However, first I needed to deepen my own understanding of the terms used in the proficiency descriptors. Although I am embarrassed to admit it, I didn’t know the exact definition of a “connected sentence,” “complex sentence,” and “cohesive device.” Fortunately, ACTFL’s glossary provided most of the information I needed and Google did the rest.  As I continued to study the descriptors used for each proficiency level, I realized that I also needed to reflect on grammatical structures in a more intentional way for the following reasons:

  1. The proficiency descriptors, as well as the rubrics I’ve chosen, repeatedly use the term “practiced structures.”  As a result, I needed to decide exactly which structures I would “practice” (by providing lots of input, pop-up grammar lessons, and communicative contexts) at each level.
  2. Although the descriptors do not mention specific grammatical structures, certain structures are inherent in the process of progressing through the levels.  The difference between “making a reference” to the past and “narrating” in the past seems to require the ability to use the imparfait, passé composé and plus-que-parfait as well as past infinitives for additional cohesiveness. Therefore, I need to expose my students to these structures in a meaningful way.
  3. I needed to provide my students with language they needed to work on these structures independently.  As much as I have eschewed grammatical terminology for the past couple of years, my students need to have a basic vocabulary of grammatical terms if they are to individualize their learning as it relates to proficiency.  

As a result of this research and reflection, I designed this Path to Proficiency Action Plan document for my students.  As the directions indicate, I will give this document to my students throughout the year to help them set goals for their own progress toward proficiency.  Based on the feedback I give the students when assessing their writing, they will create an action plan for progressing to the next level.  Depending on their own individual performance, they may focus on increasing the detail of their responses, creating more sophisticated sentence types, increasing their organization or become more accurate on the use of various structures.  In addition, I have provided links to exercises on lepointdufle for each grammatical structure.  While I do not typically use this type of discrete grammar practice in my teaching, I think that it is possible that these exercises might benefit some students.  As time permits, I would like to provide my students with a more specific list of activities, as I think some of these exercises are more helpful than others.   It is my hope that the goal-setting my students will do via this document will help them increase their proficiency in writing, as well as take more ownership of their own learning.  In future posts, I hope to share similar action plans for other language skills.

As always, your feedback is appreciated!

Starting off on the right foot: Using the language and getting to know each other

footAs many of you know, I relocated over the summer and will be teaching in a new school this year. After spending the last 15 years in a building where August meant mostly reconnecting with my former students (only the Freshmen were new to me each year), in a couple of weeks I will welcome about 150 brand-new faces to my classroom. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t scared to death! As a relatively introverted, somewhat anxious person, the challenge of learning a whole new school culture, finding my way around a humongous new school, and connecting with all of those new students is nearly overwhelming.  

While I have pledged to be patient with myself when it comes to finding my way around my school and its policies, getting to know my students simply can’t wait.  Therefore, I’ll spend the first few days of school on learning activities that will help me learn more about my students, as well as introduce them to the types of communicative activities I’ll be assigning to help them increase their proficiency.  Here’s what I have in mind for each of the classes I’ll be teaching:

French 2 In this class the students will be introducing themselves to the class by presenting a self-portrait.

Day 1 I’ll show the students these self-portraits from TV5Monde. As I project each one, I’ll facilitate class discussion by asking the students questions about what they see, as well as personalized questions using the same vocabulary.  I’ve prepared this handout as a reference as I’m not sure whether they will have been introduced to the vocabulary required for these tasks. Next, the students will listen to these descriptions (Darius, Cheryl, Deivan Anastasia and complete this comprehension guide. (I’ve chosen to provide the students with direct links to the mp3 files rather than the TV5Monde website so that they do not have access to the transcripts.) For homework the students will prepare (and submit electronically) a self-portrait (drawing, painting, phone selfie).

Day 2 First the students to write out a script for presenting their self-portraits. As they are writing I will circulate and provide feedback.  Next, the students will present their self-portrait to classmates using inside/outside circles. Finally the students will compare self-portraits with a partner and complete a Venn diagram with details they discuss.  

French 3 In this class the students will be introducing themselves to the class by presenting 10 things about themselves.  

Day 1 The students will work in small groups to read this blog and complete this comprehension guide.  Then they will answer the same questions in the space provided.  Finally, they will circulate among their classmates, asking questions in order to find a classmate who has the same answer for each question.  

Day 2 The students will listen to this video and fill in this comprehension guide. I’ll then play the video and facilitate a class discussion by discussing what Benji says and asking personalized questions based on his information. Lastly, the students will write a script for their own “10 Things” presentation which will be submitted for feedback before being recorded.  

French 4/5 In this class the students will be introducing themselves by preparing a presentation on 12 things they have done.  

Day 1 The students will listen to this video and fill in this comprehension guide. I’ll then play the video and discuss it so that students have feedback on their comprehension.

Day 2 The students will read this blog and fill in this comprehension guide, which they will then discuss in small groups.

Day 3 The students will write a script for their own presentation of 12 things they have done.  They will then trade papers with a classmate who will fill out this feedback form. The students will then revise their scripts, which will be graded according to this rubric. For homework the students will record a video of their own presentation and submit it via Schoology. For the next day’s homework, the students will listen to three of their classmates’ videos and respond to each one with a comment and follow up question.

It is my hope that these activities will help me get to know my new students as create a focus for using the language from Day 1.  If you have other suggestions about how you achieve these goals with your students, please share!

Taking the plunge into proficiency-based grading

grade-28199_960_720A couple of years ago when I decided to drastically change what I taught (cultural content instead of vocabulary and structures) and how I taught it (by using authentic resources instead of textbook exercises), I took a close look at my assessment practices.  While I embraced the concept of IPA’s, I struggled a bit on how to assign a grade to these assessments.  In the beginning I used my own holistic rubrics and later adopted the Ohio Department of Education’s Performance Scoring Guides for World Languages. Being a rule follower, I chose the Performance rubrics because that’s what ODE’s website said that teachers should use for IPA’s.  Although I knew that some teachers were linking students’ grades to their proficiency level this practice didn’t fit with my understanding of proficiency, which I’ve been taught can only be measured by an OPI.  Because I understood that my classroom assessments were clearly performances (measurements of what my students had learned as a result of my instruction), I used the Performance rubrics.  While these are great rubrics, as I continue to adapt my instruction, I find that I will need to make some changes to my assessment practices in order to meet my goals for this year.  Specifically, I want my students to be more involved in their own learning. Rather than passively waiting for me to assign a numerical score to all of their performances, I want my students to understand their proficiency level, set their own proficiency goals, understand how to meet those goals, and self-assess their progress in reaching these goals. Because the descriptors in ODE’s Performance Rubrics do not reflect different proficiency levels (There is only one scoring guide for each skill/mode.), my students were not able to determine their current level of proficiency based on my completing this rubric.  Furthermore, they were not able to determine exactly what they needed to do to improve their proficiency (or grade). In the absence of clear descriptors for each level of proficiency, the students were faced with trying to hit a moving target.  As my performance assessments required increasingly greater levels of proficiency, a similar score on a string of assessments did not allow the students to see the progress that they were making.

In order to remedy this situation, I’ve decided to use ODE’s Proficiency Scoring Guides this year. Based on my current understanding of the common language of world language educators, I will be able to describe my students’ performances as exhibiting characteristics of a proficiency level, without implying that I am able to assign a specific proficiency level to an individual student.  But most importantly, because these rubrics contain separate descriptors for each proficiency level, they will enable my students to define their performances as exemplifying a targeted proficiency level.  Not only will my feedback allow them to identify their current level of performance, they will know exactly what they need to do to achieve the next level.  I especially love that these rubrics include three levels for each proficiency level (NH1, NH2, NH3, for example).  As a result, I hope to be able to measure each increment of progress in my students’ path to proficiency.

For many of us, of course, it is not enough to only identify a student’s proficiency level, we must also assign a numerical (or letter) grade for each performance.  After reading many outstanding teachers’ methodology for doing so, I’ve determined the following guidelines for implementing my proficiency-based grading system.

  1. Students who reach  ACTFL Proficiency Target will earn an 85% (B).  Because it seems unfair and unrealistic for the students to reach an end of course target first semester, I have (somewhat arbitrarily) determined that the first semester goal will be two sublevels below the end of the course target.  For example, since Novice High 2 is the targeted proficiency level for the end of French 2, Novice Mid 3 is the targeted level for first semester.   This table shows what score a student will earn for each proficiency level. (The numerical scores reflect my preferred maximum score of 10 rather than 100 [a percentage].)
  2. In order to more easily implement this system, I have prepared a first semester and a second semester rubric for each course. As indicated on the rubrics, the language is taken directly from the ODE scoring guides for each skill/mode. I simply chose which 5 columns I felt would be the most likely to cover the range of levels for a particular course and typed them on a single page, with an additional column for comments. I also took the liberty of creating a separate rubric for each Presentational skill and removed the comments about pronunciation from the Writing rubric in order to streamline the feedback process. I can easily use a lower level rubric (changing the scores accordingly) for those students who are unable to meet the lowest level on the rubric for his/her course.  Note: I have not included a 2nd semester rubric for French 4, as the ODE rubrics stopt Intermediate Mid 3. I’ll use my own judgment in assigning a score for any students who exceed this level.
  3. Because ODE does not have an Interpretive rubric (They provide only a link to the ACTFL IPA Interpretive Rubric), I will use the ACTFL rubric for interpretive reading tasks at each level. Because it is the task, rather than level of performance which demonstrates a student’s proficiency in interpretive assessments, the same rubric is appropriate for all levels. I will assign the following numerical scores to each level on the rubric: Limited Comprehension (7), Minimal Comprehension (8), Strong Comprehension (9) and Accomplished Comprehension (10).  A student who does not meet the descriptors for Limited Comprehension will earn a 6.

I’m sure that I’ll make modifications to these guidelines as I implement proficiency-based grading, so if you’re assessing according to proficiency, I’d love to know how it’s working in your classes!

From Completed Template to Unit Plan: Implementing The Keys to Planning for Learning for a Novice High Unit on Leisure Activities

220px-Group_at_Piazza_del_Popolo2C_RomeAs I discussed in my previous post, I have spent some time this summer reading The Keys to Planning for Learning: Effective Curriculum, Unit, and Lesson Design by Donna Clementi and Laura Terrill. After completing a template (see this post), I turned to creating the actual lessons that will enable my students to meet the learning goals that I have established for the unit. While I have included many previously-used authentic resources and corresponding comprehension guides in this unit, I have incorporated many new ideas that I gleaned from The Keys to Planning for Learning when designing these lessons. As a result of my reading, I have included one or more daily objectives for each lesson, a hook for most of the lessons, a formative assessment for each objective, and have been more intentional in addressing the primacy-recency cycle. This aspect of planning continues to be challenging for me, as it is difficult to gauge exactly how long my students will need to complete the activities I have designed. In addition, at my new school I will have longer blocks with each class on one day per week. While I have designed each of these lessons to correspond to a traditional 50-minute class period, I will make changes as I implement this unit for my own non-traditional schedule.
Here’s a link to a Google Presentation that includes a slide for each lesson with links to all the resources required to implement the unit, which is briefly described below.

Lesson 1: I’m starting this unit with a short oral presentation on my own preferred leisure activities. While I usually begin with an authentic resource, I thought this would be a way for my brand-new students to get to know me a little bit. I’ll ask various students whether they do any of the same activities as I do, in order to start to get to know them.Next, the students will look at an infographic showing the popularity of various French leisure activities and respond to questions that I ask. These questions will be about the information in the infographic, “Combien de Français regardent la télé?” I’ll also ask personalized questions such as, ”Tu regardes la télé?” Tous les jours? Une fois par semaine?”As a formative assessment, the students will be given a list of pictures showing various leisure activities and will put them in order according to their popularity in France. (They’ll be allowed to look at the infographic, as I’m not assessing their memory, just whether or not they are able to read the infographic–the objective for this lesson.) For the second part of the lesson (which I hope will address the primacy-recency learning cycle), the students will interview each other and fill in a Venn diagram comparing their leisure activities. In order to scaffold this task, I’ve asked the students to circle the sentences which describe their activities, rather than expecting them to create their own sentences.
Lesson 2: As a hook to this lesson, I’ll play a video in which a young girl describes what she does when she’s bored. Although this video will not be comprehensible to these students, I’ll pause it frequently to check for understanding of some key words. After discussing a new infographic as a class, the students will then complete an IPA-style comprehension guide. These students may not have much experience with this type of assessment, so I want them to have lots of practice/formative assessments before the IPA at the end of the unit. After completing the comprehension guide, the students will use evidence from this text(or others we have discussed) to support/negate statements about French cultural values. I will encourage the students to work with a partner to add an interpersonal aspect to this task, which is also a key step in helping the students be able to begin addressing one of the essential questions of the unit.
Lesson 3: After another child-produced video hook, the students will look at an additional infographic. This time, rather than participating in a class discussion, the students will complete a short writing task in which they write 2 true and 1 false sentence based on the information presented in the infographic. I’ll circulate to check for accuracy and then the students will exchange papers and write true/false on their partner’s “quiz.”
For the second primacy-recency learning cycle, the students will complete a speed-friending activity in which they interview several classmates about their leisure activities.
Lesson 4: Once again the hook to this lesson will be an authentic video. This will be followed by a movie-talk style activity based on a Trotro video. I’ll first play the video without sound, providing comprehensible input in my narration and question-asking. Then I’ll play the video with sound, again pausing to ask questions. As a formative assessment, I’ll have the students listen to a similar video and respond to embedded questions on Edpuzzle.
Lesson 5: This lesson’s hook will be a short discussion of an infographic from Switzerland in order to introduce another Francophone culture. My questions this time will include those which encourage the students to compare and contrast the leisure activities of the two cultures. The students will then write sentences based on the information found in the infographic. In the second learning cycle of the class period the students will survey their classmates and then present a graph showing how often their classmates participate in the activity which they were assigned.
Lesson 6: In this lesson, the students will present a short presentation about their preferred leisure activities, why they do them and how often to their small groups. The other members of their group will provide written feedback on the presentations. In the second learning cycle, I will introduce the students to a children’s book about seasons by providing lots of input about the pictures. The students will then read the book and complete a comprehension guide.
Lesson 7: This lesson is designed for the students to work independently to learn vocabulary associated with the weather. They will first watch an educational/non-authentic video to reinforce the video and then complete a series of interactive, online review activities. I will then assess the students by presenting a series of photographs from Francophone cities and asking true/false question for each picture.
Lesson 8: This is the first of four lessons in which the students will listen to a song, complete a cloze activity, engage in a discussion and then complete an IPA-style comprehension guide for an article about the season. While I have included the comprehension guides I had developed for these resources, I hope to make modifications to these lessons in order to add more interpersonal communication and avoid repetitive tasks.
Lesson 9: This is one of two lessons in which I will present a movie-talk style introduction to a cartoon and then have the students discuss the story in order to put screenshot pictures in order. They will then practice presenting a summary of the story before presenting it to me as a formative assessment. While the unit goal “ Learners will be able to summarize a cartoon video about a character’s leisure activities” is not clearly related to the Essential Questions of this unit, I included it because I wanted the students to begin working on the Intermediate Low Can Do statement “I can retell a children’s story.” These Trotro videos have been of high-interest to previous students and are mostly comprehensible to these Novice Mid students so I find great value in including them in the curriculum. The interpersonal ordering activity could be completed using manipulatives (by printing the pictures on cardstock and cutting out a set for each small group) or by having each group make a copy of the Google Doc and then moving the pictures around on the document.
Lesson 10: As with Lesson 8, the students will listen to a song and then read an article about a season.

Lesson 11: In this lesson the students will use some of the vocabulary they learned in the previous day’s lesson to discuss their own summer activities and then compare them to what people do in France. They will then complete an Edpuzzle comprehension activity for a Trotro video that takes place in the summer.
Lesson 12: In this lesson the students will once again listen to a song and then read an article–this time about the fall.
Lesson 13:This is the second lesson for which the goal is for the students to summarize a cartoon story. Because there is a lot of new vocabulary in this story, I am giving the students some vocabulary in advance and will used personalized questioning to preteach the vocabulary. The students will then write a short summary of what they think the story is about, using the new vocabulary. I will then present the cartoon in a movie talk style before having the students discuss the story in order to put screen shots in order.
Lesson 14: In this lesson, the students will summarize the previous day’s cartoon for a summative assessment on this learning goal (both orally and in writing). They will also complete an Edpuzzle comprehension activity for a video about the fall.
Lesson 15: In this lesson the students will again listen to a song and read an article about wintertime in Canada.
Lesson 16: In this lesson the students will complete a speed friending activity in which they interview classmates regarding their wintertime activities. The students will then complete an Edpuzzle activity for a Trotro cartoon which takes place in the winter.
Lesson 17: In this lesson the students will begin the IPA by completing the interpretive tasks. As they are working individually, I will call small groups to my desk for the interpersonal task.
Lesson 18: In this lesson the students will continue working on their IPA by completing the presentational writing task and working on their video presentation, which will be submitted electronically.

As always, I’m grateful for your feedback on these lessons!

Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/yourdon/3074859774/

10 Takeaways from “The Keys”

keysThis summer I am privileged to be participating in a discussion ofThe Keys to Planning for Learning: Effective Curriculum, Unit, and Lesson Designby Donna Clementi and Laura Terrill. While some of the discussion takes place in an on-air Google Hangout, additional conversations occur on Twitter using the #langbook hashtag. If you haven’t yet read this text, I recommend it highly and look forward to your thoughts!

After this week’s discussion of Chapter 2, I decided to challenge myself by the authors’ template according to a a French 2 unit on “Loisirs” that I’m currently working on. Although I have been developing my own thematic units for the past couple of years, I realized how much I didn’t know when reading this chapter.  While I found this work both challenging and time-consuming, I think that using this template is an excellent way for curriculum designers to ensure that their work is addressing current best practices in unit design.

Here are my take-aways as well as the template I completed.

  1. Writing Essential Questions is difficult! As many of my colleagues mentioned, I found writing an essential question to be one of the most challenging aspects to creating this template.  Like many others, I am not very experienced in writing these types of questions.  While I’m not entirely satisfied with the one I’ve written, I was reassured by the authors’ suggestion that we see our EQ’s as “works in progress” while we are completing our templates.
  2. Backwards design is the way to go. By writing the goals and then a description of the summative assessment/IPA, the teacher has a framework for all of the work that follows.  
  3. There are a lot of great resources for selecting meaningful themes.  Since I had trouble identifying which 21st Century Global themes my topic would fall under, I used the AP theme, Contemporary Life, instead.  Clementi and Terrill recommend that teachers use AP or IB themes when they teach these programs.
  4. I need to enlarge my understanding of IPA’s. While my original understanding of an IPA was that the tasks were completed within a short time period at the end of a unit, I have learned that many of my colleagues, including the authors of this book, spread the tasks throughout a unit.  Although I will give an end of unit IPA with the tasks I’ve included under Summative Performance Assessment, many of the formative assessments that I’m including throughout the unit may be considered Summative assessments by others.
  5. Sometimes the 3 P’s aren’t so simple.  Usually I find identifying a product, practice and perspective for the cultural component of a unit to be fairly straightforward. However, I struggled to identify a product related to leisure time.  This particular topic lends itself to considering Francophone practices in terms of leisure activities and perspectives in terms of the types of leisure activities are chosen, how much time is spent on leisure, etc., but I had trouble identifying a specific product to name in the template.  I’d love to hear your suggestions!
  6. I have more learning to do before I understand the Language Comparison component of the 5 C’s.  While I plan on revisiting this section of the template, I felt that the murkiness of my understanding here would not prevent me from developing an effective thematic unit.
  7. I am woefully ignorant regarding the Common Core.   Although I’m embarrassed to admit it, I’ve never taken a close look at the Common Core State Standards.  Fortunately for me, this text includes an appendix with the English Language Arts Common Core Standards.  It was easy to select a few that would be addressed in this unit.
  8. The Toolbox belongs at the end. I have seen districts use this template, but begin the process by filling in the vocabulary and structures that are to be included in the unit. As a result, the content of these units becomes a study of the language features rather than the cultural and content that is suggested by the standards. By waiting until the communicative goals, performance-based assessments and cultural comparisons have been established, we ensure that our students view their increased understanding of  vocabulary and grammatical structures as a means to achieving culturally-relevant communication rather than an end in itself.
  9. This template is brilliant! I can’t imagine the work that went into creating a single template that incorporated the 5 C’s, the 3 P’s, 2st century Global/AP or IB themes, the Common Core standards, and IPA’s, but these authors have obviously succeeded.  I look forward to using this template in the future to create curriculum with colleagues and design additional units.  
  10. This work is challenging. Completing this template was a lot of work, but as I once heard @burgessdave say, “It’s not supposed to be easy, it’s supposed to be worth it.”  I know that my unit design will continue to improve as I become more adept at including all of the information required in this template.  As usual, I’d appreciate any feedback you have to offer and I will share the actual unit plan and materials I’ve created as soon as I add the finishing touches.

Image Credit: actfl.org

 

Resources for Planning and a Food Unit for Intermediate Low French Students

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As regular readers may have noticed, I ended up taking a hiatus from blogging this spring.  It all started when I welcomed an awesome student teacher to my classroom who was so well-skilled in proficiency-based instructional methods that I didn’t need to create any new lessons for several weeks. Then I decided to relocate closer to family, creating a whirlwind of life changes which including finding a new position, selling a house, buying a new house, moving and setting up a new household.  Needless to say, I had to put aside my blogging for a few months!  However, now that I’m settled into my new home I’m anxious to share some of the materials I’ve been working on for my new students.

Creating units for students that I’ve never met, in a school with a different curriculum and culture than the one I left has been a bit of a challenge.  Although I don’t know much about the proficiency level or personal interests of my new students, I can’t wait until August to begin preparing instructional materials for my new kiddos.

Besides, reading Chapter 1 of The Keys to Planning for Learning for #langbook has me thinking about all of the ways I can improve my planning and I’m excited to start implementing some of the ideas that are reinforced in this book.

I decided to start with my French 3 curriculum, since I will have three different French classes this year–half of my school day.  In addition to reading The Keys to Planning for Learning, I completed the self-assessment survey provided by the TELL Project before developing this unit.  As a result of this self-assessment, I realized I needed to be more intentional in developing daily objectives for my lessons. Although I had previously created Can Do Statements for each unit, I hadn’t provided my students with a clear objective for each lesson.  I have therefore included daily performance objectives in addition to the Essential Questions and Can Do Statements for this unit.  

Because the first theme in my new French 3 curriculum, “Nourriture,” is so broad, I have broken it down into three topics–breakfast, school lunch, and Francophone specialties. This Google Slide Presentation contains the unit plan as well as links to the materials I’ve created/borrowed for each of the 19 lessons in the unit.I am hoping that this format will improve transitions, encourage the students to work more independently and allow absent students to complete work from home. It will also facilitate sharing this work as I can continue to make edits/correct errors without having to reload word documents to this blog. While I’ve previously shared some of these materials, many others are new, including several Edpuzzle video quizzes that will serve as formative assessments in the 1:1 learning environment of my new school.  

While I have not included assessments in the presentation, you can click here for the breakfast IPA and here for the school lunch IPA. As the agenda shows, the students will prepare a presentation, rather than a full IPA as a summative assessment on the Francophone specialty topic.

 

As always, I welcome feedback on these materials!

 

Image Credit: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Italian_cooking_icon.svg?uselang=fr

 

Oldies But Goodies of French Film: Jean de Florette and Manon des Sources

filmI have found that one of the best ways to keep my French 4/5 students engaged at the end of the year is by designing my units around films. The opportunity to watch movies in class is rewarding to the students, who are now able to comprehend much of what they hear in an authentic film.  Furthermore, films are rich in cultural content and many provide thought-provoking topics for discussion and written commentary.

While my film library has evolved over the years, two constants have been Jean de Florette and Manon des Sources. Although Jean is a bit less engaging to some students, they all agree that watching this one is worth it in order to relate to the intrigue of Manon.  This year’s classes, like many others, felt that these films were the best we had seen this year.

Although I have created a variety of different activities and assessments to accompany these films over the years, this is a description of what I did this year.

Day 1: We watched the first 18 minutes of the film.  It is typical for me to show about 20 minutes of film in a 48-minute class, as I pause frequent to ask questions about the characters and plot, to ask the students to make predictions, and to discuss language and cultural content.  For homework, I created a matching quiz on Canvas in which the students matched one of the new vocab words to its French definition. (Click here for  screenshots of the quizzes I made.)

Day 2: Students reviewed the vocabulary/film with a word cloud activity.  (Click here for all four word clouds.) Each student has the same word cloud but 6 different vocabulary words.  They use circumlocution to describe the words on their list to the partner who highlights them on his/her copy of the word cloud.  I usually use pair crossword puzzles for circumlocution activities, but this was less time-consuming to create, and didn’t require the students to know how to spell the words.  Note: There are words in the cloud that neither partner will highlight. After this interpersonal activity, the students took a simple true/false quiz. (Click here for the quizzes I used during this film.)  I have found that if I do not give a quiz over each day’s portion of the film, the absent students will not watch the parts that they missed.  Therefore, in order to make them accountable I plan a short assessment for each day.  Following the quiz we continued watching the film (18:00-34:00) and for homework there was another Canvas matching quiz.

Day 3: The students completed another word cloud pair activity and then took a quiz on the previous day’s film excerpt.  In order to encourage more critical thinking skills, this quiz required the students to determine whether various hypothetical events were probable.  They then had to justify their response with details from the film.  After the quiz, we watched the next section (34:00 – 52:00) of the film.  For homework they completed an additional Canvas quiz.

Day 4: After the pair word cloud, the students took a simple vocab quiz.  I used some of the same clues to “encourage” those who weren’t doing the practice quizzes on Canvas.  We then watched the film.

Day 5: Because I needed to finish the film (in preparation for a sub on the following school day), I did not prepare a pair activity or quiz, we just spent the period watching/discussing the rest of film.

Day 6: The students reviewed the film by discussing the questions for this movie in the text, Cinema for French Conversation.

Day 7-Day 9: The students completed this performance assessment for the film.

  • Interpretive Listening: Students watched two videos about Jean de Florette and answered multiple choice questions.
  • Interpretive Reading: Students read two reviews of the movie and answered true/false (+ justification) questions.
  • Interpersonal Speaking: Students discussed which character(s) were responsible for Jean’s death and why. (I divided students into groups of 3 for this assessment.)
  • Presentational Writing: Students were given a choice of 4 different writing prompts

Because I showed Manon des Sources during a week that we had a shortened schedule due to standardized testing, I eliminated the speaking activities in order to have enough time to watch at least a couple of scenes from the film each day.  While I gave short quizzes (#1, #2)  for the first two days, I eliminated these, too, by the third day, so that I could finish the film by the end of the week.  Here’s the performance assessment I gave when we were finished with the film:

  • Interpretive Listening: Students watched an “upside-down” interview of Emmanuel Beart and filled in the questions and answers in English on a graphic organizer.
  • Interpretive Reading: Students read a biography of Emmanuel Beart and answered AP-style multiple choice questions.
  • Presentational Writing: Students chose from 4 different prompts.
  • Interpersonal Speaking: Students practiced 3 different role plays, and then I randomly selected pairs and assigned one of the three role plays for the assessment.

This week I’m showing Bienvenue chez les Ch’tis for the first time, so stayed tuned for additional activities and assessments!

 

What is a Proficiency-Based Teacher?

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Over the past few days I’ve been honored to be part of a series of exciting Twitter conversations about what it means to be a proficiency-based language teacher. The conversation all started with this thought-provoking post.  Like many of the others who’ve contributed to this conversation, I don’t feel that my own methodologies fit neatly into either of the categories that the writer described. In fact, I disagree with her suggestion that “it helps us communicate better and more efficiently about diverse practices if we can categorize teaching styles.” It was clear from the responses  that the professionals in the language teaching community are committed to finding common ground and learning from each other.  Although I am not nearly as far along my proficiency-oriented journey as many of my distinguished colleagues, I’m thrilled to join the conversation by sharing my current understandings of what it means to be a “proficiency-based” teacher.

On the most basic level, being proficiency-based means that I make my instructional decisions based on what I believe will improve my students’ proficiency. However, this definition is not as straightforward as it seems. As the ACTFL Performance Descriptors state, “Proficiency is the ability to use language in real world situations in a spontaneous interaction and non-rehearsed context and in a manner acceptable and appropriate to native speakers of the language.”  Therefore, as a classroom teacher, it is only performance (“language ability that has been practiced and is within familiar contexts and content areas”) that I am actually able to assess. Nevertheless, I’m not quite ready to begin referring to myself as a “performance-based” teacher.  While I might not be assessing actual proficiency, my goal is to prepare my students to prepare my students to function in target language environments. As ACTFL states, “instruction needs to focus on real world-like tasks with the anticipation that learners will be prepared to do the same outside the instructional setting (as in a demonstration of proficiency).”

Although I hadn’t heard the term “task-based” used to refer to proficiency-oriented teachers, I can see why Martina chose it.  ACTFL talks a lot about tasks when describing best practices for instruction and assessment. For example, they recommend that “Educators should provide language learners with practice of a variety of tasks related to the curriculum. In this way, learners will be ready to apply these elements in the context of the new tasks they will face on the performance.” Based on my understandings of these Performance Descriptors, the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines, and the ACTFL Can-Do Statements, I have come to believe that well-designed tasks can lead to increased proficiency.  Therefore, I use the following types of tasks in my instructional practice.

Interpretive Tasks.  Much of my planning involves designing tasks in which my students will interpret a written or recorded text.  Because I am preparing my students for the “real world” these texts are nearly always authentic–created and produced for native speakers by native speakers.  While the reliance on authentic texts continues to be a point of divergence between my fabulous “Comprehensible Input” colleagues and those of us that are “Proficiency-based,” for now I’m convinced that using these resources is vital. I believe that my students must practice the skills required to interpret a text in which they don’t know all of the words.  As with other language skills, many students also need to develop a certain level of confidence to complete these tasks.  Practicing the interpretation of authentic resources in class both develops the skills of using context clues, identifying cognates, making inferences, etc. and builds the students’ confidence in their ability to do so. By choosing texts that are appropriate to the students’ proficiency level and then designing tasks that allow students to successfully demonstrate their comprehension, I ensure that my students are able to interpret increasingly complex texts on a wider variety of topics.

Interpersonal Tasks. As a proficiency-based teacher, I believe that students can increase their ability to communicate in this mode by practicing the skills required to negotiate meaning with another individual.  For the novice students, this means lots of class time is spent practicing the questions and answers that they will use during the performance assessment.  I try to create a variety of contexts in which these questions and answers are used, so that the students are never rehearsing the actual conversation that will take place during the assessment.  As the students’ proficiency increases, more open-ended tasks allow the students to practice creating with the language on a wider variety of topics.

Presentational Tasks.  After my students have been exposed to new vocabulary and structures in the authentic materials that they read and use this language to communicate with others, they complete and written and/or spoken presentational task. Depending on their proficiency level, the students may write (or say) short sentences or paragraph-length discourse.

Although my current practices seem to fit with the “task-based” methodology that Martina described, I found that many of the descriptors she used did not describe my teaching.  For example, she indicates that proficiency-based teachers use English to teach culture.  In my classroom, it is the authentic resources that I choose that enable my students to develop new understandings about the target culture.  She also mentions that the infinitive is the “default form” in a proficiency-based classroom.  My students see all types of verb forms in the materials they read and use the forms that they need to express their meaning on the instructional tasks.  With my early novice learners, this means that most of their responses use the first person and they add the second person as they begin to ask questions. Lastly, she describes task-based teaching as providing broad and shallow input.  While it’s not clear to me exactly what she means by this, the gains that my students have made in their language performance reassures me that the input they receive may be deep enough to lead to increased proficiency.

While I didn’t agree with many of Martina’s assumptions about what those of us who refer to ourselves as “proficiency-based” do in the classroom, I sure am glad she wrote this post. Her professionalism in responding to her readers and openness about her own growth is inspirational.  I am looking forward to continuing to learn from her and from the other great educators that have joined in the discussion about best practices in the language classroom!

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Performance assessments to accompany Le Petit Prince

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Based on recent comments to this blog, it seems that it’s the time of year that many of us are teaching Le Petit Prince. While I shared my communicative materials for teaching in this post, I did not include the performance-based assessments that I use at that time.  As some of you have mentioned, I also felt a need to assess my students while reading the novel, in order to be able to regularly record performance-based scores in my gradebook. Therefore, my colleague and I created a series of three performance-based assessments to accompany the novel. Here’s a quick description of each:

Assessment #1: In order to introduce my students to the author of the novel, I had them both read a biography about Saint Exupéry and watch a video about this life.  The students answered English comprehension questions about the video and multiple choice French questions (to replicate the AP exam) for the article.  After the first nine chapters, I added an interpersonal task (in the form of a role-play) and presentational writing task in which the students wrote an essay about one of the quotes.

Assessment #2: After chapter 16 I gave another performance-based assessment. For the listening task, the students answered AP-style multiple choice questions on three videos about the Little Prince Amusement park. For the reading task, they read an article about the publication of the novel and answered AP-style questions.  The reading and writing tasks again included role-plays and essays about quotes.

Assessment #3: At the end of the novel, I gave a final performance-based assessment.  For the reading task, the students read an article (p. 1, p. 2)  from Psychologies magazine and completed a series AP-style questions.  For the listening task, the watched the movie trailer and a news broadcast about the 70th anniversary of the novel.  For the written task they wrote about a pair of quotations, and the interpersonal task was again a role-play.

Although I know I’ll tweak these assessments before using them next year (my mixed class requires an A/B curriculum), I thought that they might provide a starting point for those of you who are designing assessments to accompany the novel.

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Developing Context: An example from an IPA about the environment for Intermediate French students

environmentAs promised a few days ago, I’m sharing the IPA for my environment unit in today’s post. One of my goals this year has been to create more integrated contexts for my IPAs. As a Novice IPA creator, many of my early attempts could best be described as performance-based assessments organized around a common theme. Thanks to targeted feedback from my peers, I have become more proficient in my writing IPA-writing skills and my recent assessments have been more tightly integrated around a specific context.

Although it might seem counterintuitive, I have found that I can more easily create a context if I have already chosen an appropriate authentic resource for the interpretive reading task. For example, the text for this IPA is an article from a French teen magazine in which students are interviewed about what they do for the environment. After choosing this text, I asked myself why my students might find themselves reading an article like this one (besides for my class!). One possibility might be that they were going to be attending this school as an exchange student and wanted to know more about it. Next, I needed a recorded text that would be relevant to this context. I got really lucky on this one! When I did a YouTube search of the name of the school, I found a video in which students and staff members discuss how they are meeting their goals of being a more environmentally-friendly building. Does it get any better than that?

After the interpretive tasks were created, I needed an interpersonal task related to this context. Under what circumstances would one of my students find herself discussing the information in this article and video with a French teenager? Hmmm, both the article and video mentioned “eco-délégués.” What if one student in each dyad was a delegate who called the American exchange student to interview him about joining this program when he arrives at the school? This context would allow each student to discuss her own personal habits as well as why certain behaviors are important—the targeted structures for this unit.

Lastly, I developed a presentational writing task that would allow these students to synthesize information they gleaned from the article, video and conversation. Since the students will discuss the role of the “eco-délégué,” I decided an authentic writing task would be to write a letter to the facilitator of this group, asking to join. This context will allow the students to write about their own behavior in regards to the environment as well as to demonstrate their interculturality about French educational programs related to this topic.

While I may continue to struggle in fully integrating the tasks on my IPAs, I’m happy with the way this one came together. If you have any hints that have helped you choose appropriate context for your IPAs, please share!