At the novice level, students are speaking and writing with single words and lists initially, then move on to chunked phrases. Here are some examples:
- apple, banana, orange
- soccer, football
- movies, restaurant
- My favorite color is green
- I like apples, bananas and oranges
- My name is Josué
- I play soccer and football
- On the weekend I like to go to the movies and to a restaurant
As students move up to the intermediate proficiency level they begin to create discrete sentences on their own that move beyond chunked phrases. This tends to be the most challenging for students as they begin to create with language and are not relying on memorized phrases to chunk together. Rather than changing the detail after a memorized phrase such as “my favorite ______ is _______” and “I like __________” they are moving on to changing subjects, using various propositions and varying their verb forms and tenses. Teachers can help scaffold this process for students by assisting them in creating sentences. Students are often challenged by how to add details to a sentence to make it their own, particularly when writing.
I have found that using question words with students is a simple and effective way to have students add details to their sentences that move from memorized, chunked phrases to discrete sentences that are created by the student. The more they do this the more they will grow in confidence and begin to do it on their own when writing.
A simple reminder of question words as students write about a topic will guide them toward writing discrete sentences that they create on their own and and will move solidly on to the intermediate low proficiency level. For example, if a student writes ” I like to swim.” suggest a few question words to help make the sentence a bit longer and more detailed. With whom? When? Where?
This will move the sentence from “I like to swim” to “I like to swim with my friend Julie on Saturday at the community pool.” The more students get accustomed to adding details this way the more they will do it on their own when speaking and writing.
Here are a few posts I’ve written that have some suggestions and resources for guiding students through this process of moving their speaking and writing from novice to intermediate. Click on the images to see the posts.
Posted in Activities and Games, Speaking, Teaching Methodology and Research, Writing
Tagged ACTFL, french, proficiency, spanish, Speaking, teacher, teaching, Writing
It’s the question on everyone’s mind. What is the role of accuracy in foreign language as students grow in proficiency? Do we tend to accuracy? Do we just focus on proficiency and assume that the language will become more accurate with time and practice?
The ACTFL performance descriptors are an effective tool to determine precisely what students can do at each proficiency level (and sub level). The descriptors go on to state what the language output of students looks like at each level. Take a look:
While these are very useful, we are often met with the issue of inaccuracy in language. To be clear, proficiency is about communicating a message and is not so focused on polished and accurate language forms. Essentially the language structures need to be accurate enough for the message to be understood. It is generally understood in second language acquisition research that continued exposure (input) to language structures in context will lead to internalization and acquisition of the native-like language structures.
The issue here is that it is often challenging to focus specifically on a particular language element or structure when providing students with contextualized input. Is there are a way to provide this focused input to students? Is there a way for students to be actively engaged in the content, which will peak their interest?
I have been faced with this challenge of students moving up to the intermediate proficiency level and speaking and writing in complete, discrete sentences, but the verb forms are often not correct. Students communicate their message, but I want to provide contextualized input of a particular structure so that students move toward more accurate language as well. I’m assuming you have been here?
In an effort to make input compelling and interesting to students I try to have them create the content as much as possible. The more they choose the topic the more they will be interested and will pay attention to the themes and language structure being highlighted. Combining student-generated content and a focus on a particular language structure I developed these activities.
Students begin by writing the correct form of the verb when given the subject and the infinitive. To reiterate the correct form students them locate the subject, infinitive and verb form in the grid. It works like a word search. Until this point, it’s a very mechanical exercise that is devoid of context. So, the next step is to write a sentence with each subject and verb form. This is where the student-generated content comes in. Some students choose to write personal sentences, other prefer to write about topics that interest them and some prefer to be humorous. Regardless of the sentences, in the end the correct verb forms in a contextualized sentence provide very focused input for students.
I have seen a marked increase in accurate verb forms when students use this type of writing activity. The word-search element provides an interesting way to focus on the correct verb form and the sentences that are student-generated highlight correct usage in context. You can take a it a step further and use the student sentences to create a task such as collating sentences into different categories and graphing results. The important thing to keep in mind is that all the while students are seeing and using the sentences that contain the accurate verb forms in context. Increased exposure to these language forms is what is needed to move toward acquisition.
If you would like to help your students polish their language structures, take a look at these activities. There are many topics in both French and Spanish. Click on the links below to access these resources and watch the accuracy of your students’ language rise with their proficiency.
Posted in Activities and Games, Grammar and Structures, Teaching Methodology and Research, Writing
Tagged ACTFL, foreign language, french, language, proficiency, spanish, teacher, teaching
The ACTFL Proficiency Levels and Performance Descriptors provide a very useful tool for seeing exactly what learners are able to communicate and produce at the various proficiency levels. I put together a graphic to visualize the output a bit more concretely.
The question always comes up about how students can move up in their proficiency level. The ACTFL Text Types show the specific types of language that novice, intermediate and advanced learners produce.
Referencing the types of language that learners produce along with the descriptors of what learners are able to communicate we can provide a few suggestion for moving up sub-levels (low-mid-high) and levels (novice, intermediate, advanced).
To move up sub-levels in the novice proficiency range:
To move up sub-levels in the intermediate proficiency range:
To move up sub-levels in the advanced proficiency range:
The ACTFL Proficiency Levels and Performance Descriptors provide a useful way of creating prompts and assessing student communication in the classroom.
Teachers are becoming more familiar with these proficiency levels and the text types associated with them.
The Performance Descriptors break proficiency down into several categories: Language Control, Vocabulary and Strategies. Depending on the task a cultural assessment may also be a part of this. Quite often the challenge is finding a way to concretely assess students in these categories.
When creating an assessment, the teacher should begin by going over exactly what language looks like at each proficiency level. By knowing the current proficiency level of students the teacher can create prompts that require speaking, listening, writing and reading that is possible for students to accomplish without going too far above or below their proficiency level. If you need a refresher on assessing proficiency levels and communication strategies take a look at these posts:
Begin planning each task with these questions:
- What is the current text type of students (proficiency level)?
- What are the language structures to be assessed?
- What is the vocabulary theme?
- What communication strategies are needed?
Then, based on this information, write a prompt that will allow students to speak, read, listen, write and communicate at a proficiency level that is appropriate to them. It’s important to follow this order so that the prompt is appropriate to the proficiency level.
You can download detailed rubrics that assess interpersonal, interpretive and presentational communication HERE. They include text type, language control, vocabulary and communication strategies and can be used on any topic or proficiency level.