A Novice High IPA on “Les Loisirs”


This week my students will be completing their IPA on Les Loisirs.  I’ve been really pleased with their work throughout this unit, and I’m looking forward to seeing their results on this IPA.  While I began my journey into proficiency-based/non-textbook/non-explicit grammar lesson teaching with a significant trepidation, I am thrilled with the results of my new methodologies.  These students are now writing comprehensible connected paragraphs about how they spend their free time and using a variety of present-time verbs with some accuracy.  They are able to discuss these activities with their peers and they can understand some details given by native speakers on these topics.  While their writing and speech are not grammar-free, I did not produce perfect speakers and writers when I taught using more traditional methods either.  What I know for sure is that this year was the most satisfying of my 26-year career.  My students, many of whom have diagnosed learning and behavioral disabilities, are experiencing academic success and feeling proud of their achievements.  I couldn’t be happier for them!

So, here it is, my penultimate French I IPA:  loisirs_ipa

For the interpretive reading task, they will read an infographic about French opinions of an ideal weekend and complete interpretive tasks based on the ACTFL template.  I have designed this assessment based on the ACTFL Can-Do “I can sometimes understand short, simple descriptions with the help of pictures or graphs.” My students have been reading increasingly complex infographics all year, and I know that they will be able to accomplish this task without much difficulty.

For the interpretive listening task, they will listen to two different news reports about leisure activities that are of interest to these students. The first is about technology-related leisure activities, and the second about sports and exercise. These resources will be significantly more difficult than previous videos, many of which have been cartoons, but I chose them because of their relevance to the topics we covered in class. The fact that many of the requested details are numbers, a notoriously difficult linguistic concept, will further challenge these students. Because this task is closer to what would be expected of an Intermediate Low-Mid learner, I will score it accordingly.

For the interpersonal task, the students  will discuss their leisure activities with a partner.  While I have not always written an interpretive task that is clearly dependent on the interpretive one, it is my goal to do so as I evolve in my understanding of evaluating students’ language performance and proficiency. Therefore, I have included a requirement that they discuss how their leisure activities compare to those that are listed in the infographic. Therefore, this this task will address the Novice High Can-Do “I can exchange information using texts, graphs, or pictures.”

For the presentational writing task, the students will write an e-mail to a hypothetical exchange student about their leisure activities, therefore addressing the Novice High Can-Do “I can write information about my daily life in a letter, blog, discussion board, or email message.”  After receiving feedback on similar messages that they wrote throughout the unit, I think the students will be prepared for this task.

While my district and state have established the expectation that students will reach the Novice Mid level of proficiency by the end of French 1, it is my opinion that this Novice-High assessment is appropriate for these learners.  Because each task is based on the theme we have been studying, I have higher expectations of this performance-based assessment, than I would for an unrehearsed assessment of overall proficiency.

13 thoughts on “A Novice High IPA on “Les Loisirs”

  1. Stacy Attafi

    Thanks so much for sharing! I have used a lot of what you created for both this unit and La Famille and my kids are doing very well. Do you have a link to the IR reading text you used for this IPA?

    1. Stacy Paleen

      I don’t see the link for the reading text. Can someone help me find it?
      Love all of the stuff shared here!! Thanks for being so generous!

      1. madameshepard Post author

        Hi, Stacy. The link wasn’t active anymore so I just pasted the infographic into the document. It’s at the end, after the activities. Thanks for reading!

  2. Veronique

    Thank you for all your detailed explanation. I really enjoy reading your blog and I feel almost ready to implement the IPA methodology thanks to you.

  3. Dianne Tiner

    Thank you so much for all you have shared on this website. I am so inspired and I am going to try to convert to the IPA way this school year. It seems like you used this unit towards the end of French 1. When I read your post on themes you mentioned unit 4 is “what I do”. This unit seems to best fit that theme. Did you change the order of your units? Or are you switching to that theme order for the next school year? Thank you so much!

    1. madameshepard Post author

      Hi, Dianne! Thanks so much for reading! You are exactly right. I did use this unit at the end of French 1 this past school year, but am planning to include it earlier for the upcoming year. I had planned on including it earlier this year, too, but I made some changes in order to accommodate an intern I had at the time. I think it’s important to include earlier, as this unit will introduces the students to a variety of verbs that they can then use to express themselves in later units. Since I’m including this unit earlier this year, I may have to modify the IPA, as the students will most likely be less proficient. I’ll reevaluate when I get there. Thanks for the great question!

      1. Kerri

        I agree. I am revamping the curriculum for my 1B level and was trying to decide where I would put this unit. I agree that earlier in the school year is a better move. Students will be exposed to interrogative words and will be able to take it that much further. Thank you again for your sharing your amazing work with us. I discovered your blog last year and bit by bit I have been transforming my style. I loved watching the increased confidence as student interacted much more and the awesome sentences here and there that I would receive in a writing sample. Merci mille fois!

  4. James

    So as I begin my implementation of textbooklessness, I’m trying to wrap my head around “grammar-free”.

    Are you saying that you no longer have your students do grammar worksheets at all?

    For instance, in the vacation unit, you’ve used “y” in several places, and my kids haven’t learned how to use it yet. When we got to it, I did what I’ve always done—explained how y works like le/la/les/lui/leur when you have a prepositional phrase blah blah blah, and made a mental note to find an activity to reinforce it, and then expect the use of it in a summative. How ELSE are we going to know that they know how to use important structures like that? Proficiency is based not just on communicative functions but on structure and vocabulary as well, yes?

    1. madameshepard Post author

      Hi, James. Actually I didn’t do any published grammar worksheets last year, although I did make a few of my own handouts that were designed to practice certain skills (such as replacing direct/indirect objects with pronouns.) I use comprehension questions based on a story to practice this, so that the students had a context. As for the “y,” it’s there to make my questions grammatically correct, the kids probably either a)didn’t notice it or b) figured out what it meant. Since nobody has specifically asked me about it, I didn’t discuss it. However, if they had, I would have explained that it meant “there” and replaced …(whatever the prepositional phrase was.) Yes, structure and vocabulary are very important for communicative competence, but is the correct use of “y” necessary at the Novice High level? While the use of the structure increases the cohesiveness of writing (an important aspect of higher levels of proficiency), an inability to use it does not inhibit communication at this level. Since it doesn’t impede the students’ comprehension of my questions, I use it to familiarize the students with the structure so that when they’re ready they’ll either a)ask about it or b)at least have seen it before in context. Although this approach is working for me now, I’m looking forward to learning more and have no doubt that my ideas will evolve as I learn more. I value your feedback and am always happy to discuss with those who have differing viewpoints. That’s how I learn! Thank you so much for your willingness to engage in this dialogue, and for always being so respectful even when others have different opinions!

  5. Mme. Johnson

    Hi Mme. Shepard! I really appreciate the work that you’ve done on all of your units, implementing authentic resources, proficiency based activities and IPA’s. This is definitely where foreign language teaching needs to go. After basing so much of my curriculum design around the ACTFL Can-Do Statements, I’m wondering how and why you feel that this unit is Novice High? I think my question about the unit in general is if it really fits that designation? Or if it is truly Novice High is that a typical French 1 level?

    Also, the number of supporting detail questions (intensive listening assignments) is quite high. Do you think that is appropriate for this level or to ask for more broad, extensive listening assignments (that you have also included)?

    I’m looking forward to communicating with you! I also enjoy and appreciate learning about different viewpoints and opinions!

    -Mme. Johnson

    1. madameshepard Post author

      Hi, Mme Johnson Thanks so much for your thought-provoking questions. In terms of reading, I think this IPA meets the ACTFL Can-Do Benchmark “I can understand familiar words, phrases, and sentences within short and simple texts related to everyday life. I can sometimes understand the main idea of what
      I have read.” The topic is related to everyday life, and the words, phrases, and sentences that I’ve asked the students to read are familiar to them. Likewise, I believe the listening assessments meets the description “I can often understand words, phrases, and simple sentences related to everyday life. I can recognize pieces of information and sometimes understand the main topic of what is being said.” The words, phrases and simple sentences that I’ve asked the students to understand are familiar to them. I have included many supporting detail questions because I believe that giving the students several specific items to listen for helps to guide their listening and keep them from getting lost. It may be, however, that including so many questions provides the students with too much context. I might not be assessing whether they were able to determine the main idea from the video alone or whether they used the language in my questions to formulate the main idea. This year I’m experimenting with some more open-ended interpretive tasks to avoid this problem. As for your question regarding whether or not Novice High is a typical French 1 level, it is not. The ACTFL research I’ve read says Novice Mid is typical for French 1. I do, however, know of my districts that use Novice High as their goal for Level 1. In my case, I felt that this assessment was appropriate for this class and the results on the assessment supported that judgement. I would add, though, the important role that a rubric plays in assessment design. I would never expect the students to answer all of my questions correctly. At the time I made this IPA, I was including a rubric for each section. However, as the IPA indicates, I did not simply add up these individual numbers to formulate a grade. Instead, I looked over all of the scores and created a range for each grade. I no longer have access to the results on this IPA, but I have have determined that an actual 80-90% was an A, 70-80 was a B or something like that. I’m now using an interpretive rubric based on the one in the ACTFL IPA manual, which also is written to reflect that students do not need to be totally accurate to demonstrate strong comprehension. I would definitely suggest that any teacher who did not feel that this IPA (or any other) was appropriate for their students should modify it to meet their own needs. Thanks so much for your questions and if you have others I’d welcome the opportunity to engage in further professional dialogue!


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