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!

19 thoughts on “Providing Direction: A Path to Proficiency Action Plan

  1. Kathy Zetts


    This is wonderful, even though my students aren’t there yet (we still have remember infinitives, nouns, adjectives, etc.
    Do you typically do any review for your returning students at the beginning of the year? If so, what and how much?

    Merci beaucoup!


    1. madameshepard Post author

      Hi, Kathy! I don’t review, per se, because all concepts from the previous year are recycled in the activities in the first unit of the year. I hope you’re off to an awesome start!

  2. Patricia Long

    Quelle merveille ! Votre travail, c’est impressionnant ! Puis-je emprunter cette fiche de planning d’action pour les étudiants ? J’ai aussi une petite question : les étapes n° 2 et 5 sont semblables, presque identique. C’est fait exprès ? C’est la même tâche qu’ils font 2 fois ? Est-ce que la tâche est différente la 2e fois ? Ou c’est doublé par erreur ?
    Quelle trouvaille d’être tombée sur votre blogue !

    Merci infiniment !

  3. Lana

    So well thought out, Madame! Could I ask for your permission to provide a link to this resource for my students on our class’ webpage, provided I credit you as the author of the resource? Thanks for all you do!

  4. Stephanie

    Thank you so much. I really appreciate you sharing all of your work. Do you have an example of a rubric that you use when grading writing/speaking? I am in AZ and we are just starting to grade proficiency levels. Thanks for any help you can offer.

  5. juniace

    Thank you so much for all these great ideas. Do you have a way to monitor the students progress. I would like to assign them the Action Plan as extra credit. They work on what they need and send me the proof of completed tasks.

    What do you think?


    1. madameshepard Post author

      Bonjour! So far I have not monitored the students’ work on the action plan. One of my hopes for this document was that it would provide an opportunity for students to take control of their own learning. (I realize this might be overly optimistic!) I think that you could easily have the students take a screenshot of the score on the activities that they did and send you these screenshots in an e-mail or via a Learning Management System if you have one. Let me know how it goes! Lisa

  6. Lise

    Thank you again for all that you share with your virtual colleagues. Your work has been a tremendous help in me focus on language proficiency in my classroom. My question is this: how do you help students to understand that they are growing their vocabulary though the comprehensible input we provide them as well as the practice of these new words in their speaking and writing? Many of my students are used to their french teacher providing a list of words to memorize and wrote in a reflection after our most recent IPA that I should provide that. I had a student volunteer to make a class quizlet with new words that had popped up throughout the unit, and I much prefer that idea to me giving them a list! Have you had this issue? What are your thoughts?

    1. madameshepard Post author

      Bonjour! Thanks for your great question! Having moved to a new school this year, I definitely heard the type of comments that you mention. I have a few thoughts on the matter. First, I do sometimes provide a list of vocabulary as a resource, but I don’t know what those words will be until I have created all of the activities for the unit. It is often not yet prepared by the time I share a post, so I don’t usually include it on my blog. I don’t ever assess the students on knowing the words in isolation, but I do think it’s helpful for students to have a resource they can refer to as they are working on the activities in the unit. When I do provide a list, I don’t give it to the kids until a few days into the unit, after they’ve been exposed to the words. This year, because I have lots of white board space, I have been compiling a word wall as we work through the unit. I write the words/phrases that the students request during various activities, and then leave the words up on the board until it’s time for the IPA. Sometimes students take a picture of the wall with their phones, which is fine with me. If you have a student willing to make a Quizlet, I think that’s awesome. Secondly, I think it’s normal for kids to want to stay in their comfort zone and I think it’s to be expected that some students would prefer to simply memorize words for a test (most of which will quickly be forgotten), rather than challenge themselves to use new words to express their own meaning in various contexts. I will add, though, that previous students have embraced proficiency-based methods after having a chance to become accustomed to different expectations. Please keep in touch and let me know how it goes! Lisa


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