Tag Archives: ACTFL Core Practices

41: Practice or Communication?


In this episode I talk about the ideas of practice and communication in the language classroom.  Sometimes what we think is authentic communication in the language is actually just practicing structures and vocabulary.  Is there a place for practice or should it always be focused on communication?  I take on these concepts with suggestions for what this can look like in you classroom.

I speak specifically about:

  • Sandra Savignon’s definition of communication: “The expression, interpretation and very often negotiation of meaning in a given context. Communication has purpose.”
  • Proficiency: what a student can do with language in real-world situations .
  • Distinguishing Practice and Communication and what these look like in our classrooms.
  • Practice, Activity and Task
  • Practice Language and Communication Language

Common Ground: Second Language Acquisition Theory Goes to the Classroom
by Florencia G. Henshaw and Maris D. Hawkins

 

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40: Microinstruction in the Language Classroom with Lindsay Mitchell


In this episode we talk about the concept of Microinstruction. This approach is being applied in general education contexts, but we we speak about how it can be used specifically in the language classroom.  I’m joined by Lindsay Mitchell, a Spanish teacher in New Hampshire, who talks about her own personal experience and success with Microinstruction.

Lindsay speaks about:

  • the skill set from her previous profession that she brought to her teaching
  • obstacles and challenges that she saw in her classroom that led her to look for other approaches
  • the concept of microinstruction and its benefits
  • what a lesson looks like using the microinstruction approach
  • the levels and content best suited to microinstruction

Connect with Lindsay Mitchell:

French and Spanish Teaching Position at the Brookwood School in Manchester, MA.

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39: Target Language Games with Kevin Quigley


If you listed to episode 19 with Trudy Anderson you heard her talk about using Jessica Haxhi’s acronym M.A.G.I.C. in the language classroom.  This stands for Movement, Authentic Resources, Games, Interaction and Communication. The focus on this episode is games.  I speak with Kevin Quigley, a French and Spanish teacher in Vermont, and he shares several low-prep target languages games that you can use in your classroom tomorrow (or even today).

Kevin speaks about:

  • why games, and student engagement in general, are beneficial
  • misconceptions about games
  • several effective games and activities that you use in the classroom right away
  • how often we should use a particular game 
  • the important of mixing up games

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Grading for Proficiency and Competency

There is momentum in the move toward competency-based or proficiency-based grading and assessment.  The foundation of these assessments is to provide feedback about what students are able to do with the target language.  There will certainly be formative assessments of vocabulary of or perhaps some language structures, but ultimately we want students to be able to communicate with the vocabulary and structures.

If we are assessing the language that students can interpret and produce then the majority of students’ grades should rightfully reflect that.  With the understanding that there are other factors that come into play, here is the grading percentage breakdown that I use.

Let’s break down one of the categories to see what a competency/proficiency-based grade looks like.  For this example I will use my Presentational Writing assessment process.

I begin with the ACTFL Performance Descriptors for Presentational Writing:

The main takeaway for me is the Text Type, as this the language that students are producing and there are clear indicators of what student output should be at each proficiency level.

I began with the idea of a single-point rubric from Jennifer Golzales at the Cult of Pedagogy and combined it with John Hattie’s notion of Medals and Missions. 

I modified the idea of the single-point rubric and developed a 4-point rubric with a “3” being the goal/objective, which is a B+.  This allows for feedback below or approaching the objective and output that goes above.  Here are examples of Novice High, Intermediate Low and Intermediate Low/Mid rubrics.  You will notice the text-types and language control are aligned with the ACTFL Performance Descriptors.

I then took that 4-point scale and aligned it with letter grades, which is how grades are reported in my school.  When it comes time to average out the grades, I take the average grade of each mode (on the 4-point scale) and average them together with the formative grade using this scale.

Here is an example of how a term or semester grade would be determined using this process of assessment for competency and proficiency in the target language.

As we move in the direction of assessing what students can do with the target language, and not just what they know about it, we will need to find ways to bridge traditional grading with competency assessment.  The above process is working well for me and my students, but I will continue to modify and reassess how I’m doing it, and look forward to feedback from others as I continue to work out the details and efficacy.

37: Competency-Based Grading with Ursula Askins-Huber


In this episode we talk about grading.  More specifically, how we can grade based on what students are able to do in and with the target language.  This requires a bit of a shift in thinking and approach, especially when coming from more traditional grading.  I’m joined by Ursula Askins-Huber, a Spanish teacher in New Hampshire, who has been teaching for over 30 years.  She helps us to see ways to adopt competency-based grading in manageable ways.

Ursula speaks specifically about:

  • what grades have traditionally represented.
  • what competency (or proficiency) is how this has been missing in legacy grading practices.
  • what a grade based on competency tell us.
  • What competency-based grading looks like in the classroom.
  • how accounting for HW completion, behavior, participation, being prepared for class, etc. work into a grade that is based on competency.

Books that Ursula References:

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36: Go-To Activities For Your Teacher Toolbox (Vol 2)


This episode is volume 2 in the Teacher Toolbox series.  In these “Go-To Activities for Your Teacher Toolbox” episodes you will hear suggestions for go-to activities and games that can be easily modified for any language or proficiency level.

Activities:

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35: Technology to Support Language Students with Joe Dale (Part 2)


This is the second part of an extended episode on using technology in language learning.  Joe Dale continues the discussion about technology tools and resources to support students in the language classroom. Joe Dale is a language consultant from the UK who works with a range of organizations such as Network for Languages, the BBC, Skype, Microsoft and The Guardian. He is a regular conference speaker and recognized expert on technology and language learning. He has spoken at conferences and run training courses in Europe, North America, South America, the Middle East, Asia and Australasia.

Joe Speaks about…

  • how technology helps with intercultural competence along with resources that help to support language learning and engagement at all levels
  • how teachers who may not be so comfortable with technology can take the leap and use technology in their teaching

Connect with Joe Dale:

Resources that Joe mentions:

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34: Technology to Support Language Students with Joe Dale (Part 1)


This is the first of a two-part episode on using technology in language learning.  Joe Dale joins me to talk about technology tools and resources to support students in the language classroom. Joe Dale is a language consultant from the UK who works with a range of organizations such as Network for Languages, the BBC, Skype, Microsoft and The Guardian. He is a regular conference speaker and recognized expert on technology and language learning. He has spoken at conferences and run training courses in Europe, North America, South America, the Middle East, Asia and Australasia.

Joe Speaks about…

  • how technology enhances opportunities to engage language learning
  • ways to use technology to practice interpersonal, reading and writing skills

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Resources that Joe mentions:

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Level Up Students’ Writing (& Speaking)

The 3 communication modes are becoming more commonplace in our language classrooms.

  • Presentational communication is one-way speaking or writing that does not allow for real time clarification of meaning.
  • Interpretive communication is one-way listening or reading that also does not allow for real time clarification of meaning.
  • Interpersonal communication is two-way speaking that allows for clarification of the message in real time.

Let’s look specifically at Presentational Writing.  There are some characteristics that differ from the other modes.  In particular, there are opportunities to focus more on accuracy since the communication is not done in real time. More specifically, Presentational Writing is …

  • practiced, rehearsed, polished and edited
  • organized
  • improved with dictionary and spell-check tools

The ACTFL Performance Descriptors for Presentational Writing are specific regarding the language produced at each proficiency level.

Level Up Students' Writing (& Speaking); French, Spanish

You can see the full Performance Descriptors Here.

The challenge for me has often been the jump from Novice High to Intermediate Low/Mid.  Students are typically able to begin forming their own sentences with memorized phrases and then creating on their own.  The struggle comes in constructing sentences that move beyond single clauses, and certainly connecting multiple sentences.

To support students in this process, I put together a reference grid.

Level Up Students' Writing (& Speaking); French, Spanish

The first column is the base words that students can use to add details to their single clause sentences.  The second column, with the gradually rising arrow, contains conjunctions and connecting words that students can use to create sentences with two clauses.  The third column, with the arrow going straight up, has additional conjunctions and connecting words that students can use to connect sentences and ideas.  There are also words under the grid that students can use to write about events chronologically.  All of these words scaffold the process of leveling up language from Novice to Intermediate.

I put together a template of this for teachers to use with their students.

Level Up Students' Writing (& Speaking); French, SpanishLevel Up Students' Writing (& Speaking); French, Spanish

It is a Word Doc on Google Drive.  Download it as a Word Doc or make a copy right in your Google Drive and edit from there.  Just add in the words in the target language that you teach.

You will soon see your students leveling up their writing, and they will transfer this skill to their speaking.

Take look at this blog post as well.  It focuses on an activity that I do with students that helps them to see concretely what their language looks like at different proficiency levels.

26: Languages: Vehicles for College and Career Readiness with Ryan Smith


In this episode we are take on the question that we often get from students…”Why are we learning this?”  Ryan Smith joins me to talk about how language teachers can infuse the idea of language learning as an essential skill when preparing students to be ready for college and careers.  Ryan points how many useful communication skills that are developed and honed in the language classroom in addition to language learning and cultural competence.

Ryan speaks specifically about:

  • why language learning is an essential aspect of being college and career ready
  • convincing reasons to learn a new language
  • skills that will make students college and career ready, particularly  21st Century Skills
  • some “carrots” to help motivate students to learn a language and hone their skills
  • how we can incorporate college and career readiness into our classrooms
  • Seals and Credentials, especially the Seal of Biliteracy 

Connect with Ryan Smith on Twitter (@renosenor).

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