Creating performance tasks and assessments using authentic text

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In a proficiency-based classroom, students are assessed using real world tasks that allow them to demonstrate their language skills through performances.  Giving students real world tasks comes as close as possible to an actual situation language learners might encounter with a native speaker in the target language.

Within the task, students interact with authentic text to practice interpretive skills and to add ideas for students to use in their final product, whether it be through speaking or writing.

Performance vs. Proficiency

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When considering creating performance assessments for students, it is important to understand the difference between performance and proficiency.  In essence, students have been “frontloaded” with the language they need for a performance assessment.  The assessment is typically given after having explored a particular topic or theme which the students have been practicing.

Proficiency is measured when a student reacts to a prompt that may not be based on a recent topic covered in class.  Students access language they need from their previous experiences and what they know about how language works to complete the task.

Performance assessments can range from focused on a single mode or involving integrated modes.  Essential elements include: learning target (can-do statements), proficiency target, proficiency-based rubric, instructions to the student, and a scenario.

Performance toward proficiency is measured by using proficiency-based rubrics.  Those rubrics may have criteria on which the student performance or product is measured such as vocabulary, language control, comprehensibility, complexity, etc.  Here is an example below:

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You can find additional examples of rubrics at this link:

Selecting the authentic text

Find an authentic text that is aligned to the unit theme, at the appropriate level for students’ age and expected proficiency level, and is interesting to students.  The text might be in the form of a quote, an infographic, or a short video or audio clip.

Offering choices in the authentic text is learner-friendly and gives students a sense of control in the task.

I invite you to visit my Pinterest boards which are organized by themes to select authentic resources for your performance assessments:

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Developing a scenario

When creating scenarios for performance tasks, consider the following:

  • real life situations that connect with the authentic text
  • opened-ended
  • interesting to students
  • appropriate to students’ age and proficiency level

Here are some examples of possible performance task authentic texts and scenarios;

Novice Mid/Novice High:

Scenario: You’re on vacation with your family in Paris. After feeling a little off yesterday, you woke up feeling horrible. You think you have a cold, because you have a headache, a sore throat and you’ve been coughing non-stop. You need medicine!  You decide to go to a nearby pharmacy. The pharmacist asks you to explain how you feel and what you need. Describe how you feel to the pharmacist.  Use your notes from the infographics.

Authentic Text: Select one of the infographics below to take notes on what the symptoms of cold and flu are:



When creating your speaking or writing product/performance, you should consider including:

  • That you are on vacation with your family
  • How you felt yesterday
  • How you feel today
  • Ask if the pharmacist has anything for the pain
  • Tell what you need (medicine, syrup/pill)
  • Ask how much the medicine is
  • Any other information that the pharmacist would find helpful.

Novice High/Intermediate Low

Scenario: You have been going through your closet and you know that you need to get rid of a few things.  The items are still in great condition, so you decide to put two outfits on eBay to sell. In order to reach more potential buyers, you have decided to create your post in Spanish.  You also want to include in your post reasons why buying second hand clothing is environmentally friendly.

Authentic text: Select one of the infographics below to take notes on why buying second hand clothing is earth-friendly.

Version 2


When creating your speaking or writing product/performance, consider including:

  • A greeting
  • Two outfits you want to sell
    • Description of the outfit
    • Brand, sizes, colors, fit of each item of clothing
    • Price you would like for the outfit
  • Method of payment you will accept
  • Reasons why buying second hand clothing is green

Feel free to include any other relevant information in Spanish.

Supporting students through performance tasks

Students may be very anxious and self-conscious about performance assessments.  Struggling learners may feel unprepared, unsure, are afraid to take risks, and do not feel skilled at the content.  One solution may be providing graphic organizers for student to use to take notes from the authentic text and to organize their thoughts and brainstorm language they want to use to express their ideas.

Here is a link to a Powerpoint with multiple generic graphic organizers to use for performance tasks.

Preparing students for performance assessments

Before having students complete performance assessments in a high stakes setting, here are some tips on preparing them for the experience:

  • Model the process using think alouds
  • Analyze models/samples
  • Plan sentence combining practice
  • Practice with authentic text
  • Practice using graphic organizers
  • Practice speaking and writing in low stakes settings using rubrics
  • Having students peer evaluate and self evaluate using rubrics

Gathering authentic resources for a thematic unit


We know that the ACTFL Core Practices encourage us to use authentic resources as much as possible in our teaching.

ACTFL Core Practices

We also know that for each thematic unit we teach, we would ideally like to have a toolbox full of authentic resources for each that consists of a variety of texts and media that will

  • be appealing to our learners
  • expose them to a variety of text types
  • work for guided and independent activities and assessments, and other aspects of our lessons.

How do we find and curate all of the authentic resources we’d like to use in our lessons for a thematic unit?

When you are gathering authentic resources for any thematic unit, there are several things to keep in mind.  In my blog post from September 16, 2017, “How do I select authentic resources for my language classroom?” I offered a tool for guiding your selection of authentic resources (which can be downloaded by clicking on the image below):

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Let’s begin by considering the variety of authentic resources that may exist around a particular theme.

Pinterest is a good place to start.  On Pinterest, you will find many language colleagues have built boards around themes.  As I shared in my post, “How do I find authentic resources for my language classroom?” (posted on 9/8/17 ), there are “Pinners” you can follow on Pinterest whose boards are arranged around themes you teach.  Some of my recommendations include:

Novice Level Spanish: Señora Sherrow

Novice Level Spanish: Señorita N. Rodriguez

Advanced Level Spanish: Sharon Birch

French resources: Meg Chance

French resources: Julee LaPorte

AATF Pinterest boards by theme

German Teacher Favorites

I have created over 100 Pinterest boards on a variety of topics for multiple languages.  I have attempted to curate all of the authentic resources so that they are appropriate to use with students, but the rule of thumb about using any new resource with your students is:

Preview!  Preview!  Preview!

Please feel free to peruse the boards that align to your units.  Click on the image below to go to my webpage where each of the themes is clickable:

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What if you want to collect your own set of authentic resources for a particular theme?

Let’s use the example of a thematic unit about school and the subtopic is school lunches.  Some examples of authentic resources gathered on that subtopic might be:

Poster (French):      c51ce176b6521cbf82d760c99f7d3289

Meme (Spanish):  xq99fo6.jpg.pagespeed.ic.imagenes-memes-fotos-frases-graciosas-chistosas-divertidas-risa-chida-español-whatsapp-facebook

Weekly menu (Italian):     ee29e1d92b54ddc0b2203efe419f2c54

Infographic (German):           5ddb504e23a814e79cbd10e80001d3c7 .

Infographic (Portuguese) .     0cac5c1580da7715280c6f6dcc4750cd

Brochure (Spanish):           23ea3893a183947389776c89c1ced137

Video (German):   efd37e407d5b192c6cb238ed520ecbc0

Cartoon (Italian):     tumblr_mlp2scTp901rd5karo1_1280

Animated cartoon (French):   Screen Shot 2018-08-24 at 9.38.47 PM

Photo (lunches from around the world)   1a33e879824638685f102dc2b17ce99f

Commercial (French):     Screen Shot 2018-07-07 at 6.24.02 PM

For more authentic resources on the topic of school lunches for multiple languages, visit my Pinterest board:

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Once you have gathered lots of examples of authentic text for a particular theme or unit, consider how you will implement each of them.  Think of the list of questions below as categories under which you can sort the authentic resources you have gathered:

  1. Which authentic resources will you use as lesson hooks that are high interest to your students?
  2. Which authentic resources will support vocabulary input or reinforcement?
  3. Which authentic resources provide a context for teaching grammar in context?
  4. Which authentic resources will you group together of varying difficulty levels to provide challenge for all learners in the form of tiered text or tiered tasks?
  5. Which authentic resources will students use as a basis for interpersonal tasks? for presentational tasks?
  6. Which authentic resources will allow students to practice their listening and viewing skills?
  7. For which authentic resources will you create a graphic organizer to assist students in capturing what they learn from the text?
  8. Which authentic resources will be the context for performance tasks?
  9. Which authentic resources will be the basis of learning centers that allow students to work independently across the modes of communication?
  10. Which authentic resources will be the context for guided discussions?

Some of the types of activities might include:


  1. Comparing and contrasting school lunches in the US vs. a target language country.
  2. Creating a presentational speaking or writing product about an ideal school lunch menu
  3. Designing a new weekly menu for the school cafeteria
  4. Using authentic resources as a basis of a discussion or cultural comparison (scaffolded with expressions lists, etc. for struggling learners)


  1. Expressing opinions about school lunches in their own school (write a letter to the principal or district superintendent, etc.)
  2. Using authentic school menus as a context for an information gap activity

Interpretive skill building:

  1. Highlighting grammar points and language patterns in the text
  2. Demonstrating strategies for interpretation of authentic text through a guided activity and think aloud