Teaching Proficiency to Students

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I taught my students proficiency levels today! I know this may seem pretty much common sense to most World Language teachers but this is the first year that I have actually explained the levels and had my students actually discuss samples.

Let me ‘splain! I left the classroom in 2013 and became an Instructional Coach at a middle school. During my time as a coach, I supported every content area but World Languages. Right before I left the classroom, North Carolina was beginning to change their standards to proficiency-based standards. As a result, I never completely made the transition to a primary proficiency-based classroom. I spent a year as a coach before I moved to Georgia. During my first couple of years, I had to reboot myself and become accustomed to a different student population, new standards, and new responsibilities. After two years  in  my new position, I feel now that I am ready to make the jump and transform my instruction even more than I have already done!

I am not saying proficiency was never a priority but it was a priority in a different way and I NEVER explained to the students how they should be setting and reaching goals towards becoming more proficient in Spanish. Because we now have an AP Spanish Language and Culture class and the enrollment in our upper level classes are increasing, I told my department that now is the time to move towards  the way language instruction should be.

SO, how did I teach this to my students?!

Let me preface by saying my plans were not perfect and the process changed throughout the day. However, I feel that I am in a good place and I am confident that my students can self-evaluate and progress towards their goals.

  1. I began with explaining what proficiency was and how we were going to track proficiency throughout the semester. After I gave them the definition, they had to add it to this sheet in their own words. I had some of the students share what they came up with.IMG_0851
  2. Next, we went through the proficiency levels but I only went up to Intermediate High. I let them know that the other levels existed but this was not our focus so I didn’t stress it too much. targets
  3. We completed this activity (this isn’t my activity) in groups so that they could see first hand the descriptions. I just changed “Kentucky State Fair” to “The Olympics” because it was more relevant for my students with the closing ceremony still fresh in their minds.IMG_0842
  4. After they discussed each level in groups, we shared out. As they shared, they had to read the descriptors and the rest of the class had to fill in their chart with the information for each proficiency level. IMG_0853They shared their examples with class and we discussed whether or not we agreed with the example.JPEG image-0DF6F76000B8-1
  5. We proceeded to review samples that I found on ACTFL’s website. After reviewing each sample, we discussed which level the sample demonstrated, why it was that level, and if they were at that level.
  6. After we went through all of the samples, students then had to self-evaluate and determine at which level they would placed themselves based on the descriptors. This was really informal. We will do more formal pre-assessments this Friday when we go to the computer lab (I have all of the can-do statements in an Excel document on which they can check off what they can do and begin building their Digital Portfolios).  They used this Path to Proficiency handout to document where they are currently and glued it into their Interactive Student Notebooks (ISNs).IMG_0845
  7. The final step was for them to create a language goal for this semester. I gave them a SMART goal worksheet to help guide them. Some of them have to rewrite their goals because they were not language or proficiency-based.JPEG image-BDD21293465E-1

The entire lesson took 35-40 minutes (time well spent) depending on the questions the students asked. Some of them had really great questions and observations! We did A LOT of discussing and I continuously did comprehension checks to make sure they understood.

The lesson was done in English because we did the same lesson and used the same resources in both our Spanish and French classes. The only difference was the actual samples that we used to demonstrate the levels.

Overall, I think the lesson went well. Even one of my students gave me the thumbs up and said I did a good job (I wish they got that excited when we are actually discussing topics in the target language).

How do you teach proficiency to your students? I am open to suggestions because I have to do this again next semester and am looking for ways to improve.

Thanks for reading!


1 thought on “Teaching Proficiency to Students”

  1. Wow!! Awesome job and thank you for sharing your resources. We are now involving our middle school students and making them aware of proficiency levels for the first time this year. Your blog entry is very helpful as my students come back next week. Thank you. – Kelly {Profe Harri}

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