Monthly Archives: August 2014

Three steps to creating a proficiency-based unit

1. Define your goals for the unit. I begin this step by choosing a level-appropriate NCSSFL-ACTFL Global Can-Do Benchmark ( for each mode of communication. I then modify the benchmark to correspond to the theme of the unit.  For example, for a French 2 unit on daily routine, I chose the following Novice Mid Benchmarks:

Interpretive Reading: I can sometimes understand the main idea of published materials.

Interpretive Listening: I can understand simple information when presented with pictures and graphs.

Interpersonal Communication: I can communicate some basic information about my everyday life.

Presentational Speaking: I can talk about my daily activities using words, phrases, and memorized expressions.

Presentational Writing: I can write about myself using learned phrases and memorized expressions.

I then modified the original benchmarks based on the daily routines theme, so that the students were given the following goals at the beginning of the unit:

Interpretive Reading: I can understand an article about someone’s daily activities.

Interpretive Listening: I can understand a cartoon about a character’s daily activities.

Interpersonal Communication: I can discuss my daily activities. Presentational Speaking: I can talk about my daily activities. Presentational Writing: I can write about my daily activities

2. Create the Integrated Performance Assessment (IPA) for the unit.

I include at least one task for each mode of communication on the IPA.

Interpretive Mode I begin by choosing the authentic resources that the students will read and/or listen to on the IPA.  At the Novice students need lots of pictures, cognates, and familiar vocabulary so I use mostly children’s magazines, children’s websites, infographics, and cartoons for my novice-level French 1 and 2 students.  My intermediate-level French 3-4/5 students can usually interpret a variety of authentic web-based articles and videos. After choosing the resource, I develop the comprehension guide that I will use to assess the students.  For the reading assessment, I use the template provided in the ACTFL publication, Implementing Integrated Performance Assessment (  My listening assessment is usually a series of English comprehension questions which rely heavily on previously-learned vocabulary and the visual content of the cartoon. In addition, I include questions that require the students to infer the meaning of new words.

Interpersonal Mode For this portion of the IPA, I usually call two students to my desk and listen to them as they perform the task I have developed for the IPA.  Most of my interpersonal tasks are guided conversations, but I also use role plays, debates, etc., in upper level classes. Although I give the students the prompt in advance, they do not know who their partner will be so they are not able to memorize a dialogue. I generally give each pair about 3 minutes for their conversation.

Presentational Mode In most cases, I choose a written assessment for the presentational mode, as I have already assessed my students’ speaking in the interpersonal task.  I give the students the prompt in advance and usually assign a draft on which I provide written feedback as a formative assessment.

Here’s the IPA I created for my French 2 unit on daily routines. French 2 IPA

 3. Create the learning activities that will prepare the students to be successful on the IPA. 

Many of my learning activities are similar to “mini IPA’s” in which the students interpret an authentic resource, discuss it with a partner/small group, and present the content in written or spoken form.  However, as I consider these tasks formative assessments, I provide feedback, but no grade on these tasks.  I also include vocabulary-building activities and grammar instruction on an as-needed basis. Please share your ideas about unit planning by replying to the link given above!

Five reasons to use infographics in a proficiency-based classroom

1. Infographics are authentic.  

Infographics which originate in target language articles, advertisements, etc. are an authentic source of target language. Fortunately, infographics are available to support a variety of common unit themes.  My French 2 students will begin the year by reading an infographic about the daily life of French teenagers, as an introduction to a unit on daily routines. My French 3 students will first read an infographic about current educational reforms for their unit on schools and education.

2. Infographics are full of cultural content.

As authentic resources, infographics contain current, relevant information about the cultural practices, products and perspectives of the target culture. When reading an infographic, the content of the lesson becomes the information given, rather than the vocabulary and structures used to present this information–a major goal of proficiency-based instruction.

3. Infographics are easily understood, even by novice language learners.

Infographics are full of context clues!  Images, graphs, tables, etc. provide the extra-linguistic support that these learners need.  In addition, the colors and graphics sustain the attention of novice readers without overwhelming them with lengthily text.  The cultural information included in many infographics lends itself to making the cultural comparisons that are an integral feature of the interpretive mode.

4. Infographics lend themselves to interpersonal tasks.

Many infographics represent information collected through polls, surveys and questionnaires. As a result, the teacher can quickly develop questions that the students can use to interview each other in order to gather the same types of data that are given in the infographic.

5. Infographics are readily available. 

Long before I knew how I would be using them, I began collecting infographics on Pinterest.  As I began to exploit these resources in a more purposeful way, I was able to find additional examples by searching for a specific topic, such as “Vacances Infographies”  on Google images.  Feel free to follow me on Pinterest if you’d like to see some of the infographics I’ve collected.

Here’s an example of a lesson I created, based on an infographic about vacations: vacationlesson1

I hope these ideas will get you started using infographics in your classroom!

If you have other ideas or suggestions, please leave a reply!