Why Not Accept ACTFL Can-DO Proficiencies as Your Department Proficiency?

As I talk to many world languages teachers and department chairs, I am amazed at how few have actually accepted the ACTFL Can-Do as the school district world language proficiencies. I think that there are numerous reasons. They …

– Do not know about the ACTFL Can-Do proficiencies. I have trouble with this reason since professional publications and conferences constantly refer to the Can- Do proficiencies. ACTFL has them listed on their web page.

– Do not understand the Can-Do proficiencies. The Can-Do proficiencies are written for students to understand. Unlike some some of the previous ACTFL standards, these standards are very easy to understand.

– Feel that the present district department proficiency standards are superior to the ACTFL standards. Often the same people that feel that their standards are superior cannot specify what their standards are. They refer to the existing syllabus, curriculum, or even textbook as their standards. They often cannot specify what students will be able to do in the language at the end of the first year except for grammar tenses.

– Do not want to be help accountable for meeting the ACTFL standards.When a district adopts the ACTFL Can-Do proficiencies, they become part of a national and international world language curriculum. Their results can be compared year after year and be compared to other districts.

– Do not want to change the syllabus, textbook, classroom instruction and tests to meet the ACTFL Can-Do proficiencies. Yes, if a district accepts the ACTFL Can-Do proficiencies, then it has to figure out how to help their students to achieve the various levels.

– Do not really believe that world language is about being proficient in speaking, reading, writing, etc. They believe that the biggest factor in defining how good the students are in the language is the how well and how many verb tenses the students know. In their minds, conjugation is king.
Why has your world language department not accepted the ACTFL Can-Do proficiencies?
A few online activities that your students can use to begin to meet the ACTFL standards.
Spanish Speaking Food Cooperative Learning Can-Do Whole Class    Answer questions about food – Can Do
Spanish Speaking What I Do (Can-Do Statements)    Answer Can-Do based questions

Spanish Speaking: City Mat Can-Do Novice Mid and High   Talk about city using categorized word lists Can-DO

Formulaic Language for Better Communication

 My Syracuse University’s LLL and LECNY presentation

Why use?

Formulaic language – prefabricated language chunks memorized and retrieved as a whole -Wray, 2008

Background:
– Used often by native speakers
– Mentally processed faster
– Many components
– Closed and open
– Part of ACTFL 2012 guidelines

Note: Learned as a whole, no grammatical knowledge

Guidelines:
– Focus on communication
– Use high frequency real life use questions and answers (Check WL TV shows/ movies)
– Give a purpose to each class (asking and answering the question)
– Do variations on a question word
– Use for common topics
– Make sure students can answer the question
– Practice many, many. many times each class so students can ask and answer
– Create cumulative conversation

Practicality: Use ACTFL Interpersonal Can- Do Statements as guidelines for creating questions.

Communication value: If students learn  1 question and answer(s) per day x 150 days = 150 different questions and answers. WOW!

How do your students use formulaic language in your classroom?

40+Spanish & WL spontaneous speaking activities and some cultural activities http://bit.ly/wlspt

 

A collection of 13 beginning student activities Spanish speaking activities about school and classes http://bit.ly/ssclassessp

 

 

Asking and Answering Questions about a Picture Oral Testing

Steven Smith describes the talking about Photo card questions oral testing which is one of the three parts of the oral testing for the GCSE (General Certification of Secondary Education) in the UK. He describes the activity in which a student sees a picture, the student asks three questions about it and the teacher asks the student two surprise questions about it.. The pictures are based on common topics/themes. The same picture can be used at all levels of the language but the language sophistication increases. This type of testing eliminates pre-learned conversations/ presentations.

I have used a variation on these for many years, both when I taught public school and now that I teach college beginning Spanish. I have my students, in pairs, look a topical or thematic picture that they have never seen before. Without any preparation, they alternate asking and answering questions. For example, Student A asks a question, Student B answers it and asks Student A a different question, then Student A answers it and asks a different question. They talk for three minutes. I grade them on a combination on the total number of questions/answers times the number of different questions as long as their answers/questions are comprehensible and appropriate (answers the question). For example, if Student A asks four different questions and answers four questions, the score is (4 questions + 4 answers) x (4 different questions) = 8 x 4 = 32. If Student A asked variations on the same question such as How is the father? How is the mother? How is the son? and How is the daughter?, the score is (4 questions + 4 answers) x (1 question) = 8 x 1  = 8. Students learn that to do well in the question asking picture activity, they need to ask a wide variety of different questions just as they do in a real life conversation.

http://bit.ly/mlcomcult  contains many communication activities for beginning to advanced students; they have high structure to help students. These activities are for all world languages and specifically for Spanish.   90 Mobile Learning Modern Language Activities contains many speaking activities for beginning students.

Two Different Language Learning Approaches: Self or Survival

ACTFL’s Interpersonal Level Novice Can-Do statements follow a pattern of having students talking about

self  -> family / friends  ->  community / city.
Most of the Novice level focuses on socializing.  In this approach students go from what is most known or familiar  to them (themselves) outward (to others). Most modern day textbook follow this approach. This approach assumes that students in the classroom will be talking in the target language  to other students about things in their lives.

Another approach is the travel approach where students learn a  language to survive in the target language country. This approach concentrates on daily functioning in the language country. Students learn how to order a meal, ask for a hotel room, check on the price of a product, etc. Very old textbooks and travel conversation books follow this pattern. The travel approach assumes that students in the target language country will be talking in the target language to native speakers.

Although students enjoy talking in the target language to each other and learning about each other as in the ACTFL approach, I have found that they feel the geatest sense of achievement when they can do a real-life daily survival task in the language such as “I can ask the price of something.” I try to blend the two approaches.  As soon as my students learn the numbers (1-59) in the first unit , I teach them to go from telling time to asking the price of things such as  “How much does this soccer ticket cost?” Since I use cultural products in class such as a soccer ticket, the students practice asking and answering how much real things cost. In the ACTFL approach, students cannot ask the price of something until the end of Novice Mid, very near the end of the course.

What approach do you use with your students?  What survival skills do your students have even in the beginning level?

At http://bit.ly/tpthtuttle,  I have  5 any language  picture speaking activities, 25+ ready-to-use Spanish structured speaking activities (including 5 Can-Do ones) for beginning students and numerous Spanish investigation cultural activities.

At  http://bit.ly/tsmash, I have two ebooks, Modern Language Proficiency: Can-Do Strategies and 90 Mobile Learning Modern Language Activities (mainly speaking and culture)

 

 

Speaking Final- What Criteria?

Modern language courses usually include a speaking final. That final can take many forms such as a  teacher asks a student a question, students work in pairs on a topic, etc.

Even more varied is how the speaking final is assessed such as a holistic score, an analytic rubric with numerous components, or a checklist.

The more important question is “What is the speaking being assessed against?”  Does the teacher judge the students based on the teacher’s concept of he or she individually think good speaking is?  Are there state or national standards or proficiencies that the students are being assessed against? Without a definite standard or proficiency, the speaking assessment measures very little.

One reliable technique is for the teacher to ask each question based on the NCSSFL-ACTFL Interpersonal Communication Can-Do statements. The teacher asks one or two questions for each section of the Can-Do at the Novice and the Mid level.. For example, a teacher asks for Novice Low “I can answer a few questions”- “Do you prefer water or soda? and “When is your Spanish class?”.The teacher bases . The teacher structures the questions going from the lowest level of Novice Low to the highest level of Novice Mid (assuming the class reached that level).  The teacher uses these national proficiencies to measure at what level of the proficiencies the students are.

The teacher has a reliable and valid speaking final. The students’ score on the speaking final represents the highest level of their speaking proficiency based on national proficiencies.

What does your speaking final measure?

At http://bit.ly/tpthtuttle,  I have 30+ ready-to-use Spanish speaking activities and numerous Spanish culture activities.

At  http://bit.ly/tsmash, I have two ebooks, Modern Language Proficiency: Can-Do Strategies and 90 Mobile Learning Modern Language Activities

 

Create a modern language final using Can-Do Statements

At this time of the year many college  modern language teachers are preparing their students for finals. Some finals test the textbook while others test certain language skills.

Many modern language finals reveal very little about the actual proficiency of the students. The final in one school district or college probably differs in content from the final in another school district and from state to state. Such finals may not represent language proficiency but represent translation skills, discrete vocabulary learning, discrete non-contextual grammar learning at a low level and random cultural facts. Modern language teachers benefit from a national standard to use so they can truly evaluate their students’ proficiency against other students’ proficiencies.The NCSSFL-ACTFLCan-Do statements serve such a purpose.

When teachers compare their finals to the Can-Do statements for their level, they may discover that they are testing on items that ACTFL says students should not be proficient in. For example, a beginning college class may have a  past tense, the preterite, questions on the final. Students in a beginning level may only reach Novice High and talking in various time frames does not show up until Intermediate High; therefore, students cannot be tested on the preterite. On the other hand, students may be tested at a lower level than ACTFL states. When students read in the target language, they are expected to respond in the target language. ACTFL does not include “translate into English” in any of the reading Can-Do statements.

Also, teachers may find that their final does not focus on language functions as NCSSFL-ACTFL Can-Do Statements do.  A Can-Do based final represents real-life language use, not isolated discrete statements. The final reflects the various language functions for that proficiency level. For example, at the Novice Mid level, can students describe their family and friends? At the Novice High, can students complete map directions based on an actual map?

Does your modern language final show what your students Can-Do according to NCSSFL-ACTFL Can-Do statements?  Or is it a grammar-vocabulary tests of discrete items?

At http://bit.ly/tpthtuttle,  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 for beginning students. Students work in pairs to communicate and they usually assess each other in a formative assessment manner.

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

At http://bit.ly/tpthtuttle, 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 for students to don on their smartphone or tablet, http://bit.ly/tsmash

 

 

Analyzing a modern language test

There are numerous ways to analyze a modern language test.

1. Identify what different “skills” are being tested such as  speaking, listening, reading, writing, culture, vocabulary and grammar.  How many points are allocated to each? How many points are there cumulatively in each skill area? What does that show about the test’s priorities?  If listening is a total of 20 points but grammar is 50 points, then the test is predominantly a grammar test. If grammar and vocabulary outweight the other skills than the test is definitely not communicative.

2. Identify how each part is scored.  For example, if students have to write out an answer and each answer is worth eight points, how many points are given for answering the question (content), for vocabulary, and for grammar?  If grammar is five points, content two and vocabulary one, then the test evaluates grammar, not the communication of  ideas.

3. How much of the test is contextual or situational based as opposed to discrete unrelated  items? Test items such as He  _____ (to work),  She ______(to cook) are only connected by being verb conjugations. These same items could be used in a realistic conversation in which students complete a conversation by conjugating the verbs, sometimes in statements and sometimes in questions.

4, Do students answer questions that relate to their own lives? Often students have a writing part on a test but do those questions allow them to tell about their own lives? Are stipulations put on the writing such as include three -er verbs, include a place, and include an occupation so that the writing is forced? Are students encouraged to think on their feet by answering questions for which they did not prepare or is the writing part a writing out of a memorized writing?

5. How much of the test involves the students  reading and writing items in sections that are not labeled as the reading or writing category? Listening comprehension can be based on a picture with multiple choice short answers such as “How many computers are in the room?  A-two B-twenty  ….” or listening comprehension can be tested by giving the students four full sentences from which to select.  The second  method changes the listening comprehension to include a reading component. Students can write out numbers without having to write out a full sentence, especially if points are taken off for grammar writing points. Each category should be as purely that skill as possible without depending on other skills otherwise the teachers can not identify what the results signify.  In addition, reading and writing are the least used skills in normal communication while listening and speaking can count for up to 70% of normal communication. Does the test represent that real life percentage?

6. What percentage of the test is in English? How many questions involve translation from English to the modern language? Prompts for writing, in English, such as “tell your age, where you live” cause the students to translate. Likewise, a vocabulary exercise such as ” tall =, ”  relies on translation. Is there a modern langage reading passage that students answer in  English?  The greater the test percentage is in English, the less the students use the  target language.

7. Does the test assess the the most common verbs and the most common vocabulary according to the 100 most common verbs and 100 most common words lists? Does the test focus on everyday common use of the language or on specific irregularities, exceptions, or non-critical words? Likewise, does the test evaluate the most common language functions like  “I would like…”, “I’m sorry”,  and “Really”? If students were in the targe language country, they would use many of these functions each day.

8. What does the test score tell the teachers about the students’ ability to communicate in the language? How closely does the test reflect the NCSSFL-ACTFL Can-Do Proficiency statements?  Teachers can label each test section with the specific proficiency statement.

What does your test analysis reveal?

At http://bit.ly/tpthtuttle,  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 and they usually assess each other in a formative assessment manner.

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

At http://bit.ly/tpthtuttle, 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, http://bit.ly/tsmash