Resources for Teaching Languages to Children

Search

Interpreting ACTFL'S Standards for Novice Proficiency Level From an Elementary Spanish Teacher's Perspective

WHEN I STARTED THE ELEMENTARY SPANISH PROGRAM I CONTINUE TO TEACH IN 1998 one of the first places I consulted for building curriculum was the ACTFL Standards; these, along with the Maine Learning Results (based on the ACTFL Standards) informed me on what skills are typically presented by learners at various levels, just as they have informed all of us as we go through our journey as foreign language teachers, and have been integral in that process.  Over the years, I have wanted phrasing used to describe what NOVICE LEARNERS can do, where my Kindergarten through 4th Grade students live, to more closely match an elementary perspective, kind of a parallel set of descriptors if you will.

Novice Proficiency Level Descriptors for Elementary World Language

FOR THOSE OF US WHO TEACH ELEMENTARY, WE KNOW a novice Kindergartner is very different than a novice 9th grader (or even Middle school student)- they enter school without many developmental concepts intact, or only very vaguely understood, and their interests, motivations and what is relevant and age appropriate for them is distinct. Tasks that might be typical for a 15 year old aren't always appropriate for a 5 year old- take writing a text for example, or arranging a social engagement (Mommy usually does this :) ). Additionally, how we teach at the elementary level often reflects themes, topics and vocabulary that are of high interest to little kids, which don't always tie into a "typical novice task"... my kids happily can describe a sloth or what Jupiter looks like, but ordering at a restaurant in the target language feels a better fit for Middle or High School language class because it is a more relevant task- talking about school lunch, on the other hand, would be a perfect activity for the littles. Don't get me wrong, the skills we teach within elementary themes build up proficiency just the same as those that one sees at upper school levels, they just appear in different contexts.

IN THIS VEIN, I DECIDED TO WRITE INDICATORS FOR NOVICE LOW, MID, AND HIGH from an elementary teacher's perspective, for my own reference, based on what I have seen teaching children languages for 25+ years. This is MY interpretation, and I share them merely to spark ideas and reflections amongst other elementary teachers who may also be searching for an "elementary fit". I took into consideration early literacy skills as they are seen amongst young children, who most frequently come to school as non readers (though not all of them!) and are building these skills throughout the time they are with us, both in their homerooms and with us. I also looked at the developmental progression of children as students, as they gain understanding and awareness of the world around them, and as they grow as students. It is also common, as with older students, that an individual may be in different proficiency levels for the four modes, most especially if your program focuses on certain modes over others. I continue to reflect on these, and may add to them over time.  You may find that you would use different descriptors or phrasing, or that you would add or take away certain things- these are, as I said above, a starting point for you to think about your own students and program, a resource for provoking reflection. You can DOWNLOAD THE DOCUMENT HERE :) 

PLEASE DO NOT TAKE THIS AS A CRITICISM OF THE ACTFL STANDARDS- it isn't! The standards have greatly informed and guided me over the course of my career, and I am deeply indebted to all those who have worked on them through the years to make them a strong set of indicators for measuring student proficiency. I do hope that my interpretation is helpful, and provides some clarity for teaching the littles! Please let me know your thoughts in the comments- I would love to hear them!

https://photos.google.com/photo/AF1QipMk0RMH8MFmOB_yJMuvVMH7xBx_qfLl8oqOQXbA

6 comments

  1. I have looked for something like this! The elementary learner is very different from the adolescent learner and your descriptors show so much thought and experience! Thank you for sharing!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you so much for saying this Nora! I was nervous putting these out there as I didn't want to appear presumptuous-but I needed something for myself, too! It's been hard trying to make a one-size-fits all match with what I see in elementary.

      Delete
  2. This is truly AMAZING Pepita! Ive been on a three year journey for refining my curriculum. It was very hard to find something suitable for primary school. I drew up a document but to see how user friendly and clear this looks! Thanks so much for sharing it.

    I don’t suppose you are thinking about adapting the ACTFL standards for the intermediate level? One can always hope!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you so much for your kind words- I am thrilled they resonate with you! I would love to tackle intermediate level, but first I am focusing on the culture standards & some can -dos with a social curriculum in mind. Things are still swirling around in my mind a bit, but stay tuned! :)

      Delete
  3. No worries, I’m following you on Facebook now so I can stay tuned! Keep up the good work, I love reading your blogs as I can recognize a lot in them!

    ReplyDelete