Monthly Archives: July 2016

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!

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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.

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


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!


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