Return on Investment (ROI) in World Languages

How much teacher preparation, materials needed, and class time go into an activity and how much student learning comes out it? If we measure student learning by ACTFL’s Can -Do statements, then we have an objective measure of student learning.

If a teacher prepares a vocabulary bingo game to help students learn common actions by preparing  bingo cards for two hours and the students spend ten minutes in class, what ACTFL proficiency has been achieved for that investment? The answer is none. Vocabulary by itself is not communication. If on the other hand, a teacher prepares om thirty minutes two sets of ten written questions about the common actions of family members and this activity takes ten class minutes, then the return is a student demonstration of Novice Mid,  “I can communicate basic information about myself and the people I know.” There is a high return on the investment.

Backward planning improves ROI. How do what we do and what our students do lead directly toward the students achieving a specific oral proficiency? If we spend days on students learning and practicing vocabulary, we have a low ROI. If we quickly move our students from learning vocabulary to using the vocabulary in meaningful sentences then we obtain a high ROI.

What is your ROI in World Languages?

Some materials that can help you students communicate about topics are at http://bitly/ml, click on a top topic and then look at the list below.

Communicative Consistency in Quizzes and Tests

Backward Design stresses that modern language teachers establish the ending goal and then work backward so that all instructional elements support the ending goal. Sometimes, modern language  teachers who teach in communicative manner may not test in a communicative manner; they may need to re-examine their quizzes or tests.

During the past year, I have tried to make my teaching more aligned with NCSSFL-ACTFL Can-Do proficiences. As I have examined my quizzes and tests, I discovered that these evaluations have been very traditional and have not measured proficiency. They tested discrete grammar or discrete vocabulary.  Students can know the discrete grammar or vocabulary and not be able to communicate.

I have transformed my quizzes and tests from the old discrete testing to a more proficiency based testing  by using three categories of testing: multiple choice responses; fill in the blank in a conversation; or an oral conversation. A multiple choice response quiz starts with a common statement or question  in the target language and the students select the appropriate target language response from the choices. A sample question may be  “What is your name?  A-Well   B-Pleased to Meet You   C- 15 years old   D-Ana”  Each statement is based on a specific Can-Do statement.

The fill in the bank conversation resembles a real conversation. In this written target language conversation, certain words have been omitted.The students have to write out the missing  target language word/words as in this example “Paco:  _______ is your class?        Nilda:  It is at nine o’clock.” The conversation often includes ten blanks for the students to complete. The conversation includes several Can-Do proficiencies.

The third choice is for students, in pairs, to have a target language conversation based on specific Can-Do  proficiencies.For example, as students practice greeting a person, introducing themselves, introducing someone else, and saying goodbye, I walk around the room to assess their conversation. It may take me several classes to listen to each pair.

Students perceive each of these assessments as part of the normal class. These quizzes are another form of the communication that takes place in the class.

How well do your quizzes show your students’ communicative proficiency?

At,  I have 30+ ready-to-use activities (about 24 for Spanish and 6 for all Modern Language) to develop student’s spontaneous speaking starting with highly structured or scaffolded speaking. Students work in pairs to communicate.

My ebook, Modern Language Proficiency: Can-Do Strategies is available at  It contain many activities to help students advance through the Can-Do statements with half the activities focusing on interpersonal communication/ speaking.

At, there are four modern language culture inquiry activities and one Spanish culture inquiry activity.  My ebook, 90 Mobile Learning Modern Language Activities ebook contains many communicative and cultural activities,

My Improving Foreign Language Speaking Through Formative Assessment and a general Formative Assessment book are available at