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

– 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

– 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



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.

Cultural Engagement Levels: Where are Your Students?

My NYSAFLT Oct. 2016 handout

ACTFL’s Cultural Standards

ISTE’s Global Collaboration Standard

Three Levels of Culture

Learning about another country /culture

Some disadvantages

Ethnography improvement

Will your students feel positively about the other culture / community?

2. Communicating with Others

Numerous tools


Will your students feel positively about the other culture / community?

3. Collaborating on something outside of school to become global citizens

Work together for something to better each community or another community

Various projects

Have your students bettered the lives of others?

Some resources:

90 Mobile Learning Modern Language Activities ebook with many cultural activitieshttp://bit.ly/90mlact

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

Promoting Conversations by Two Sentences a Day

I used to teach Spanish in a public school but, having retired, I teach it at a community college. I have three fifty minute classes a week. So far I have had nine classes.

My students have learned at least two sentences or questions each day so that they can have a conversation of at least 18 statements/questions.We started out with greetings, introductions, and added more statements or questions each day. Each day we review the whole conversation and add more to it. After we have practiced the conversation with it in a PowerPoint, I turn off the screen and have them say the conversation in pairs. After the greetings and introduction, they can ask and answer the questions in any order. It is amazing to hear them talk for over two minutes without looking at any notes or the book and ask personal questions such as How are you? What are you like (personality)? Where are you from? How old are you? Are you a romantic? What time is your English class? What is the name of your English book? How much does it cost? How is the class? How many students are in the class? Do you like the class?

I teach high frequency questions that can be easily modified. The question are slightly modified from ones that the students have identified as being important for that topic.

How much of a spontaneous conversation do your students have each day?

There are over 40 highly structured speaking activities at http://bitly/ml

Five Minute Classroom Check

What world language students do in their classroom reveals much about their teachers’ priorities. If teachers say that speaking is a priority and yet their students do not speak / converse in class, then speaking is not really a priority.

Teachers can do an every five minute check to determine what their students are doing in class. At the end of each five minutes, the teachers write down the exact type of activity that their students are doing in the classroom such as “learn vocab,” “tell time to partner,” “do gram. sheet,” “play gram. race” and “talk about classes.” Whenever the class is doing the same activity at the five minute mark, the teachers place a slash after the already written down activity.

After class, the teachers tally up what activities the students did and for how long. This provides a realistic view of what actually happens in the class. Teachers may find that their students spend more time preparing to speak such as learning vocabulary then in actually speaking. Teachers might consider ways to move their students from  “learning about” to “using” language.

World Language Engagement to Communication

World language teachers often comment on how engaged their students are. Their students are engaged in vocabulary relay races, vocabulary cooperative learning, bingo like translation games, flashcard partner quizzes, etc. to learn about a topic such as “family”. Students spend many classroom minutes on these activities in which they translate between English and the world language. These engaging activities represent discrete, pre-communication activities.

However, the real goal of world language is communication. The teachers could engage students in communication activities. If the teachers focus on the topic of “family”, they may use a traditional family tree to teach the family members in the world language and then show non-traditional families to increase the vocabulary that students need to talk about their actual families. The teachers ask, in the target language, “What is the relationship of Mary to Paul?” and the students answer “sister” based on the shown family tree. The teachers ask the class,”Who, in the class, has a sister?” or “Who, in the class, has more than one sister?” so students begin to apply the vocabulary to their own lives. After a few minutes of the teachers asking questions about the various shown relationships, they move to students doing a mini-communication activities in pairs. A student asks the partner, “Do you have a sister?” and the partner answers. If the partner, answer “Yes, I have a sister.” then the asking partner asks follow up questions such as “What is her name?”,”How old is she?” and “Do you get along well with her?” If the answering partner says, “No, I do not have a sister,” then the asking partner moves on to another family member. The asking partner asks about three family members and then they switch so that the answering partner now asks questions. In the same amount of time that students previously spent on discrete vocabulary translation learning, they are applying the vocabulary to their own personal life in meaningful communication in the world language.

Do your world language students spend more time in engagement or communication?

— 45 +Modern Language and Spanish spontaneous speaking activities for beginning students. Almost entirely in target language.  Scaffolded for success. Game like speaking- http://bit.ly.mlcomcult   click on top tabs for categories
— 90 Mobile Learning Modern Language Activities
ebook with many speaking and cultural activities  http://bit.ly/tsmash
— Modern Language in-depth cultural investigation activities (4 activities in one pack)- http://bit.ly/mlcult
–Foreign language formative assessment speaking book: http://bit.ly/impfltfa
–Modern Language Proficiency: Can-Do ebook http://bit.ly/tsmash