Modern Language Student Placement: Best Results with Can-Do Statements

Often modern language teachers have entering students from other locations and the teachers are not sure of the students’ placement.  For example, at a college level, entering modern language students might be screened by the number of years of language prevously taken. This diagnostic screen may not reveal the students’ appropriate placement since not all schools teach the same thing at the same levels.  Another popular screening technique is to ask students questions. Many students panic when they hear the language being spoken after no hearing it all summer and often they  cannot answer questions. These oral questions may not provide a correct placement.

The most reliable diagnostic screening is for modern language students to complete the NCSSFL-ACTFL Interpersonal Communication (Speaking) Can-Do Statements. They put a slash for each proficiency that they can do. If they find whole sections that they cannot do, they put a large dash (–) in front of the section.  Within five to ten minutes, the students have self-evaluate their language proficiency. If students know that in a beginning college course they will cover 80% of the Novice level and the students already know 50% of the Novice level, they realize that they do not belong in a beginning course. They voluntarily transfer to a higher level.  Other students become aware that they do not have the Can-Do statements as active proficiencies.

How do you properly place entering modern language students?

My ebook ,Modern Language Proficiency: Can-Do Strategies is available at

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 cultural activities,

Also, at the same site,  I have 30+ activities (about 24 for Spanish and 6 for all Modern Language) to develop student speaking through highly structured or scaffolded, speaking. Students work in pairs.

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