Tag Archives: proficiency levels

Path to Proficiency Wall for Language Classroom

I’m a big proponent of students taking an active role in their language learning journey.  This means that they need to have a solid understanding of the ACTFL Proficiency Levels or Performance Descriptors.  They can then track their progress and set concrete goals.

Path to Proficiency Wall for Language Classroom (French, Spanish)

The Proficiency Levels can be little challenging to understand, but when broken down they are quite accessible for students.  I created a Path to Proficiency Wall that lays out the text type (language input and output) at each each level and sub-level from Novice Low to Intermediate High.

Students can easily understand the level and use the Proficiency Wall as a reference along their language learning journey.  The text types for each level are displayed along with the specific language functions associated with each individual proficiency level. It has also been helpful in conversations with colleagues and it helps families to grasp the concept of proficiency and  acquisition-focused language instruction.

Path to Proficiency Wall for Language Classroom (French, Spanish)

I put this picture on social media to inspire teachers.  I received many requests for the documents so that teachers could create something similar to use with their students. I put all of the documents together in one PDF that you can download, print and post in your classroom.

Path to Proficiency Wall for Language Classroom (French, Spanish)

61: Goals and Assessment in the Language Classroom

In this episode we look at goals, and assessment of those goals, in teaching and learning language.  This is the third of 5 episodes dedicated to the book Common Ground: Second Language Acquisition Theory Goes to the Classroom by Florencia Henshaw and Maris Hawkins. Actionable insights and takeaways that you can use right away as you set goals for your students and create the assessments that support students moving toward them.  

Topics in the episode:

  • ACTFL Proficiency Levels
  • Setting Proficiency-Based Goals
  • Performance and Proficiency
  • Assessment; Integrated Performance Assessments and Rubrics
  • Intercultural Communication Goals
  • Making the discussion interactive on Twitter with Joshua (@wlcalssoom), Florencia Henshaw (@Prof_F_Henshaw) and Maris Hawkins (@Marishawkins).

Blog posts referenced in this episode:

Get your own copy of Common Ground.  Hackett Publishing is generously offering a 25% discount when you use the code WLC2022.  [Available through December 31, 2022].

**The 25% off discount code can be used for any book through the end of December, 2022.  Hackett publishes several intermediate language-learning textbooks in Spanish, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Latin, and Classical Greek. New releases include Cinema for French Conversation, Cinema for Spanish Conversation, and Les Français.


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56: Backwards Design and Planning

In this episode we look at planning in the language classroom.  Whether it is for an entire year, a particular unit or even an individual lesson, backwards design and planning is quite effective.  It also helps to ensure that we are focusing on all of the modes and that our ultimate goals are for students to do something with the target language vocabulary, structures and themes that they are learning.  It’s all about planning ahead to plan backwards.

Backwards design planning and execution happens in three phases or stages.

  1. Identify Desired Results
  2. Determine Acceptable Evidence
  3. Plan the Learning Experience and Instruction

References in this episode:

Work with Joshua either in person or remotely.

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47: Revisit Communication Modes and Proficiency Levels

In this episode of the Summer Headspace series I revisit episode 8 on communication modes and episode 12 on proficiency levels.

Listen to the episodes:

Work with Joshua either in person or remotely.

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12: ACTFL Proficiency Levels

In this episode I walk through the ACTFL Proficiency Levels and Performance Descriptors.

What are they?

The ACTFL Performance Descriptors (Can Do’s) for Language Learners…

  • Describe language performance that is the result of instruction in a classroom setting 
  • Reflect how language learners perform in various learning environments.

How are they used in teaching and learning?

  • Help teachers create performance tasks targeted to the performance range, while also challenging learners to use strategies from the next next level up (Krashen, i+1). 
  • Teachers can set realistic expectations at the summative assessment level. 
  • Describe a pathway for learners to keep track of progress, identify areas that need more attention, and have a clear understanding of how to move to the next level.

How are they designed?

The ACTFL Performance Descriptors:

  • “Describe the language performance of language learners in Standards-based, performance-oriented learning environments”
  • “Provide descriptive performance outcomes adaptable to fit differences in languages and learners” (Any language at any level)

How are they organized?

  • Three levels – Novice, Intermediate, Advanced Range (and superior, but for our purposes)
  • Three Modes of Communication – Interpersonal, Interpretive, Presentational (episode 8)

What is involved with each proficiency level?

  • Functions (global tasks the learner can perform in the language)
  • Contexts (learner can function) and Content (topics)
  • Text Type (that which the learner is able to understand and produce in order to perform the functions of the level)

Interpersonal Proficiency Levels:


  • Function: Can ask highly predictable and formulaic questions and respond to such questions by listing, naming, and identifying. (May show emerging evidence …)
  • Context: Able to function in some personally relevant contexts on topics that relate to basic biographical information.
  • Text Type: Understands and produces highly practiced words and phrases and an occasional sentence.


  • Function: Consistently able to initiate, maintain, and end a conversation to satisfy basic needs and/or to handle a simple transaction.
  • Context: Able to communicate in contexts relevant to oneself and others, and one’s immediate environment.
  • Text Type: Able to understand and produce discrete sentences, strings of sentences and some connected sentences. Able to ask questions to initiate and sustain conversations.


  • Function: Can communicate with ease and confidence by understanding and producing narrations and descriptions in all major time frames and deal efficiently with a situation with an unexpected turn of events
  • Context: Content areas include topics of personal and general interest (community, national, and international events) as well as work-related topics and areas of special competence.
  • Text Type: Able to understand and produce discourse in full oral paragraphs that are organized, cohesive, and detailed.

 How to use Proficiency Levels (Performance Descriptors) in the classroom

  • Unit Can Do (focus on function and text type); global tasks the learner can perform in the language and the language they need to do it
  • Assessments (stay with the range)
  • Activities: Too low or too high leads to lack of or limited engagement. 

Blog posts:

  • wlclassroom.com/ican —  walks through writing I can statements that are truly communicative and there is a link to the ACTFL Performance Descriptors
  • wlclassroom.com/levelupshows what language looks like at each proficiency level and what students can focus on (or do) to level up.

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