Thursday, April 24, 2014

Can-Do Statements

Today we had county-wide professional development workshops for World Language teachers.  Among the variety of things discussed, we looked at proficiency levels.  Our county is striving towards a huge shift in how we approach our classes - the goal is to no longer divide students into levels such as "German 1" and "German 2" and "German 2 Honors" but to instead divide students by their proficiency level.  While I like the idea of proficiency levels, I'm skeptical as to how effective this change will be (or how they would even begin to implement it).  But that's not really besides the point at the moment.

What they gave out to each of us was a copy of the NCSSFL-ACTFL Can-Do Statements.  Everything is divided first by the different skill (Interpersonal Communication, Presentational Speaking, Presentational Writing, etc.) and then by the proficiency level (Novice Low, Novice Mid, Novice High, etc.).  What's great for teachers is that they list the benchmarks for everything.

My favorite part, however, are the "Can-Do" Statements.  For each skill and each proficiency level, they have a list of "I can" statements in the form of a checklist.

This is a great resource for students to better understand where they are in terms of proficiency levels, and I think something that will be a lot of help next year as we transition more and more into this system.  It helps both teachers and students find out where students rate with specific benchmarks.  There's an obvious difference between the levels, and it helps students see how they can improve.

I plan on using these statements with my level one and level two students this year as they do their end of the year portfolios.  I want to make copies of the appropriate levels for each class and have them try to determine where they are (I think it'll be really interesting to see if they rate themselves higher or lower than I would rate them).  Then I'm planning on have them find samples of their work from this year that show that they are at that level.  I haven't totally worked out the kinks yet, but that's what I have in mind so far.

At the beginning of next year I think it'll be a good starting activity for each level.  Students should analyze where they think they currently are in their language capabilities, then periodically throughout the year (most likely at the end of each quarter or around midterms and before finals) students could take another look at where they fall.  I hope this will be a way to encourage students, giving them a tangible way to measure their improvement.

If you're interested in a digital copy of the booklet, click here.

We also talked about "expected" proficiency levels - that is, where students should be at the end of each level as things are currently designed.  Here's how it breaks down:
When we actually looked at the benchmarks and can-do statements, though, several of my colleagues and I found that these expectations seem to be a little low.  I, for example, see my current German 1 students ranging from Novice Low to Novice High and my current German 2 students ranging from Novice High to Intermediate Mid.  AP teachers also felt that being Advanced Low by the end of an AP course is too low to be successful on the AP exam.

It's also a frustration of mine how these systems tend to reflect Spanish and French (in our county, they run French 1-4 and then take level 5 as an AP course) and not German, Latin or the other "minority" languages (in our county, there's German 1-3 and then German 4 is the AP course).  So for German or Latin, only getting to Intermediate Low by the end of level 3 and then expecting them to be Advanced Low by the end of their AP course the next year is much more of a jump than for students taking French or Spanish.

But when all is said and done, I'm looking forward to using proficiency levels with my students.

- Frau Leonard

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