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:

symptomes-grippe

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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

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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

Students participating in target language discussions about authentic text

As students move across the proficiency continuum, a great goal to work toward is to have students conduct discussions in the target language about the authentic texts they have interpreted.

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As is described in the NCSSFL-ACTFL Can-Do Statements, students work toward being able to participate in discussions once they reach the intermediate high proficiency level and beyond.  It is important that we begin to build students’ skills early on in their language learning experience, beginning with highly scaffolded, simple discussions to more in-depth, spontaneous ones.

In the interpretive mode, beginning at the intermediate high proficiency level, it is expected that language learners can “understand the main message and some supporting details across major time frames in conversations and discussions.”

In the interpersonal mode, beginning at the advanced level, speakers “can maintain spontaneous spoken, written, or signed conversations and discussions across various time frames on familiar, as well as unfamiliar, concrete topics, using series of connected sentences and probing questions.”

So, how do we put novice language learners on the pathway toward being able to participate confidently in discussions in the target language?

Building students’ discussion skills

From the novice level, students can participate in discussions in the target language about authentic texts they have interpreted if those experiences are:

  • well-modeled by the teacher
  • highly scaffolded

Types of discussions students might have include:

  • making decisions
  • solving problems
  • expressing opinions
  • creating a product

Scaffolds for discussion skills might include:

  • graphic organizers on which students have taken notes about the authentic text, ideally set up to assist them in the discussion.  For example, if the intent of the discussion is for students to compare and contrast two ideas, a Venn diagram might be the most appropriate graphic organizer to use.  Here’s an example of an organizer in Italian:

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  • expressions lists that support students’ conversations.  For example, if the purpose of the discussion is to express an opinion about the authentic text, sentence frames/starters would be provided.  An example in French is below:

and one for Spanish:

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http://marruecospanish.blogspot.com/2016/10/como-expresar-una-opinion-o-valorar-un.html

  • protocols for discussions: taking turns, using gambits or conversational fillers, building off of what group members have said, assigning group roles, etc.
  • a routine or strategy that serves as a framework for the discussion.  Click on the image below to explore a variety of discussion strategies.

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Example classroom scenario:

In an intermediate level Spanish class, the teacher shows this quote by Pablo Neruda during a unit on Personal and Public Identities.  The teacher asks students to write a summary statement in the target language about the quote.

pablo-neruda-muere-lentamente-quien-no-viaja-quien-no-lee-quien-no-escucha-mc3basica-quien-no-halla-encanto-en-sc3ad-mismo

https://nadienosentiende.com/2016/09/09/lobos/pablo-neruda-muere-lentamente-quien-no-viaja-quien-no-lee-quien-no-escucha-musica-quien-no-halla-encanto-en-si-mismo/

Then, the teacher gives each small group one part of the quote:

  • Quien no viaja [someone who doesn’t travel]
  • Quien no lee [someone who doesn’t read]
  • Quien no escucha música [someone who doesn’t listen to music]

Students work in groups to discuss the benefits of traveling, reading, and listening to music and each student records their group’s ideas on a graphic organizer.  When ready, students move to mixed groups to share their group’s ideas. They conduct a conversation with their classmates using the “Bounce” strategy in the target language.   Additional ideas generated by the group are added to the graphic organizers.

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As an extension, student groups are given the choice of:

  • Creating an infographic on the benefits of traveling, reading, listening to music, etc. using tech tools such as Piktochart
  • Creating their own version of the Neruda quote
  • Researching Pablo Neruda
  • Polling their classmates about the benefits

 

Using authentic text as a springboard to interpersonal tasks

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What we know about brain-friendly teaching, is that the brain likes experiences that connect to one another.  As we plan lessons for our language learners, we should keep this idea in mind.  How do the tasks or activities I’ve planned for students to practice the new content connect to one another?

As we consider the use of authentic resources in our classrooms, how can those interpretive tasks naturally connect to productive language experiences in the interpersonal mode?  The authentic text, whether it be a video, an infographic, or a poem, gives students a context for their interpersonal interactions, in lieu of inventing isolated, unrelated scenarios.

The interpersonal mode of communication

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In the interpersonal mode, students spontaneously share information and ideas with others.  Learners interact and negotiate meaning with clarity and cultural sensitivity.  Students are expected to begin, carry on, and end a conversation without a written script, relying on the knowledge of the language they have acquired and using skills to communicate even when they do not understand.

Scaffolds and supports for interpersonal tasks

To support students, especially struggling and reluctant learners, providing scaffolds and supports for them to persevere through an interpersonal task may be the key to building their confidence in their own communication skills.  Some examples of scaffolds and supports might be

  • modeling the interpersonal task before students try it themselves
  • providing suggested sentence starters and frames
  • pairing struggling students with students who are more confident in productive activities
  • circulating in the room and giving positive feedback to students, especially those who typically struggle, for their efforts

Examples of interpersonal activities

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There are many activities or strategies that teachers plan to give students interpersonal communication practice and experiences.  Strategies provide a structure or framework for interpersonal interactions.  Here are a few examples:

Information Gap Activities

Inside-Outside Circles

Password

Discussion Continuum

Think-Pair-Share-Square

Three Step Interview

People Bingo/Find Someone Who

Accountable Talk

Speed Dating

Fan-N-Pick

Sample Classroom Application:

For a novice level Spanish class, the teacher selects the infographic, “Qué significa cada emoticon” (What each emoticon means) to enrich the students’ language for describing how people are feeling.  Each student is given a copy of the infographic or access to it online.

 

The teacher leads the class through highlighting the adjectives in the infographic.  He encourages students to guess the meaning of words with which they are unfamiliar using target language examples, circumlocution, and visuals, etc. to reinforce their meaning.  The teacher makes connections between the highlighted descriptors and the work they have recently been doing with gender and number of adjectives.  He asks the students to draw conclusions about how the highlighted adjectives in the infographic change to describe various people.  The teacher does a guided charting activity with the students.

The teacher displays a list of simple situations in the target language on the document camera, using known vocabulary and lots of cognates. (You just won the lottery!, Your team lost the soccer match. You got a perfect score on your math test.).  Each student selects one situation and creates a web of feelings about that topic, using vocabulary from the infographic.

In small groups, students interview each other about how they would feel in each of the situations using the infographic and the web they created.  Group members may use an expressions list provided by the teacher as support for this interpersonal activity.

  • I would feel _____.
  • I agree.  I disagree.
  • Me too./Not me.
  • I don’t know.
  • How does that make you feel?
  • What do you think?
  • I think that…
  • I hate when that happens!
  • No way!
  • Of course!

 

Tiering authentic text to meet the needs of all learners

As was discussed in my last post, “Tiering tasks for authentic text to meet the needs of all learners,” one way of differentiating tasks to meet the needs of all learners when interpreting authentic text, is to tier the task.  Another approach would be to tier the text.

Here are some simple steps to tiering authentic text:

  1. Look for multiple pieces of text at varying levels of difficulty or complexity on the same topic.

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Here are three examples on the topic of Bullying in French.  Determine which text will be for the lowest, mid, and highest tiers.

tiertext1   tiertext2

tiertext3

 

2. Decide whether you will tier the tasks as demonstrated in the previous blog post or design a generic task that will work for all three tiers like the one below:

tiertext4

 

Example scenario for tiering authentic text:

Students have a graphic organizer and one of three infographics of varying challenge levels on the topic of the physical activity level of children in Canada during a unit on healthy lifestyles in an intermediate level French class.  Students are assigned an infographic based on their readiness level or may select an infographic.  Students record information gleaned from the text on their graphic organizers.

 

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Afterward, students are placed in mixed readiness groups of 3 or 4.  In their small groups, students conduct an interpersonal conversation with their peers about what they learned from the text using their graphic organizers.  Ideas acquired from group members are added to individual students’ notes on the graphic organizers.

The teacher may provide helpful phrases and/or sentence stems in the target language to students as a resource for their conversations.

  • According to the infographic…
  • It is interesting that…
  • I am surprised that…
  • Typically…
  • Generally…
  • In my opinion,…
  • Both
  • On the contrary
  • On the one hand/on the other hand

As a follow-up, student create a presentational writing product comparing their family’s level of physical activity with information from the infographics.  The students are given a blank Venn diagram graphic organizer to plan their writing.

If you’d like to explore more examples of tiered text, visit: https://www.grahnforlang.com/tiering-tasks-and-text.html

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For more detailed information about tiering, download the Tiering Guide below:

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Tiering tasks for authentic text to meet the needs of all learners

Aligned with the ACTFL Core Practices for World Language Learning, language educators are encouraged to “guide learners through interpreting authentic resources.” Authentic resources are created by and for the target language users, either for information or entertainment.

We have heard the phrase “Adapt the task, not the text.”  The idea behind that quote is that once we alter an authentic resource in any way, it is no longer authentic.  So, teachers are challenged to offer language learners opportunities to interpret authentic resources at the correct challenge level.  One way to accomplish that goal is through tiering.

First, think about the wide diversity of language learners in your classroom.  In any one classroom, there are students who are at varying levels of

  •  language proficiency
  • motivation and engagement
  • and comfort with the target language classroom.

They are struggling learners, reluctant learners, disengaged learners, engaged learners, enthusiastic learners, and advanced learners and their needs are diverse and varied.  Often, we assign tasks to our learners that are too difficult for some and far less challenging for others.  This can cause frustration on the part of students and impact their level of commitment and engagement in tasks.

Next, we need to anchor ourselves in the ACTFL-NCSSFL Can-Do Statements and the ACTFL Performance Descriptors for Language Learners.  These descriptors give guidance on what teachers can expect their students to be able to do with text based on their proficiency level.

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Due to this wide diversity, teachers respond to their students’ needs on a continuum.  From low challenge and high support to high challenge and low support as illustrated by the graphic below.

 

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What are supports?

Providing support to students in the form of  models, examples, sentence frames, and task-specific target language expressions which are subsequently removed as students become more confident and independent with their learning.”

One way to meet the needs of the variety of language learners in the classroom, is through tiering.  Tiering creates opportunities for students to practice language skills toward a proficiency goal at varying levels of challenge and support based on teacher or student-identified readiness.

Some examples of supports include:

  • Multiple choice questions
  • Fewer gaps in cloze activity
  • Word banks
  • Sentence starters
  • Sample responses
  • Graphic organizers
  • Question prompts

How do I create tiered tasks?

Step 1: Select the authentic text for your students to interpret.

Step 2: Create an “on level” task.

Step 3: Create a more scaffolded task for struggling learners.

Step 4: Create a more open-ended task for advanced learners.

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How do I decide which tier each student should be given?

  • determine the students’ readiness level based on formative data (exit tickets, classwork, performances, etc.)
  • allow students to choose their level of challenge

For more detailed information about tiering, download the Tiering Guide below:

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Example of tiered tasks for authentic text:  

In an intermediate level Spanish class, students have been focused on the question, “What is family?”  The teacher selects a video called “¿Qué es una familia?” which is produced by the Subsecretaría de Niñez, Adolescencia y Familia – Jefatura de Gabinete de Ministros – Gobierno de La Provincia de Santiago del Estero, Argentina.

The teacher creates tiered tasks for the video.  She creates

  • an “on level” worksheet that provides a word bank at the bottom,
  • a version for struggling learners that provides a word bank for each question,
  • and a more open-ended version for advanced learners and heritage speakers that provides no word banks.

Students view the video and take notes on their worksheets.  After, students are placed in mixed-readiness groups and each group receives one of the questions from the worksheet written on a large piece of chart paper.  The group records their responses for the question on the chart paper.

When time is called, student groups rotate through the other questions, reading the responses written by previous groups and adding new ideas.

Once all groups have made the full rotation, the posters are displayed around the room.  Each student selects one question on which he/she would like to create an oral presentation which they will record next class.

Tier 1:

tier1

Tier 2:

tier2

Tier 3:

tier3

More examples of tiered tasks can be found at: https://www.grahnforlang.com/tiering-tasks-and-text.html

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How can I learn more about tiering?

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http://worldlanguagetiering.weebly.com/

 

 

 

 

 

How do I store the authentic resources I gather for my students?

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BWW, Before the Worldwide Web, teachers stored everything in manila folders in a bank of file cabinets in the back of their classroom.  Authentic resources were limited to physical items such as books, magazines, art prints, newspapers, posters, CDs, VHS movies, maps, schedules, and product labels and packaging.

Today, although many language teachers adorn their classrooms with some of the resources listed above that they have accumulated over the years, the internet has changed the game.  The students now have 24/7 to real life authentic video, audio, text, and images.

So, it is only logical that in the 21st century, there are technology solutions for storing our authentic resources.  Here are a few:

  1. Google Drive: Google Drive is a convenient choice because many teachers now store their lesson plans, student work, slide presentations, surveys, and other documents in Google.  You can upload images, videos, and audio files there.  The downside of using Google Drive is that there is no way to upload links to it.  So, if you want to capture a link, you would need to copy it and paste it into a Google Doc and save that doc.  Given the link, students can access files in the Drive electronically.  Here is an example of a teacher’s Google Drive folder that contains resources for a Career IPA:

googledrive

https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/0B6-B87IYUYK2bjhqWkx3VDUtTWc

2. Blendspace (tes teach):  Blendspace allows you to collect multimedia for interactive lessons on a particular topic.   It allows you to store digital content with files in the same location.  Here is an example of a teacher’s Blendspace page for an IPA on Health and Wellness in Spanish.  As with Google Drive, students can access the Blendspace page online:

blendspace

https://www.tes.com/lessons/GwWSTfzUTw_GTg/ipa-level-4-health-and-wellness?redirect-bs=1

3. Pinterest:  Pinterest is my favorite place to store links and online items.  You can organize your “boards” by theme or category.  Once you have set up boards, Pinterest will recommend “pins” to you based on the themes you have chosen.  It is also possible on Pinterest to “follow” certain “pinners” who are also teachers of the same language.  You will then be alerted when they add pins to their boards.  Here’s an example of a Pinterest board for the AP Global Theme of Global Challenges for German:

And here is the result of a search in Pinterest for the AP theme of Contemporary Life for French which yields many boards on the topic:

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All of the above mentioned online solutions to storing authentic resources are dynamic not static, and therefore allow you delete and add files/links as needed.

 

A Ticket Out the Door

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Many teachers struggle with closure.  It’s always a challenge to stop the lesson in time at the end of the period to sum up the day’s learning and reflect on whether or not we have achieved our desired outcomes.  One powerful strategy for gathering data about student learning at the end of a learning episode is the exit ticket.  An exit ticket gives the teacher formative data about where students are in their learning and should inform choices I make as a teacher about subsequent lesson plans.

Here are some great Exit Ticket templates you can use:

http://wgbyeducation.files.wordpress.com/2011/03/exitslips.pdf

And here is a Pinterest board devoted to the topic:

But, remember, an exit ticket does not have to be fancy and photocopied.  It can be a slip of paper or index card.  What matters most is:  will the questions you are asking provide you with the data you need to drive your instructional decision making?

We often ask questions on exit tickets that are too open ended or general.  Craft your questions to get at the most important learning: What will students know, understand, and be able to do?

Here is a list of Exit Ticket prompts I’ve begun to accumulate that are grouped by levels of Bloom’s taxonomy and more:

http://letthedatabeyourguide.wikispaces.com/Exit+Slip+Prompts

So, now I have the Exit Ticket data… what do I do with it?

Some examples of ways a teacher might respond to Exit Ticket data might be:

what the data says > how I might respond to it

  • all students met the objective > move on with the curriculum
  • most students have not met the objective >  plan a follow up activity using a different modality
  • some students met the objective, some partially met it, some are still struggling with it > sort the exit tickets to create flexible groups with tiered activities 

Exit tickets are just one way to collect formative data from our students and can provide direction for teachers on their lesson planning and their choices for instructional strategies.

I collected the formative data… Now what?

Teachers are constantly collecting data.

1. I teach a concept. I see puzzled faces. I respond by switching the mode of presentation (ex. from oral to visual).
2. I collect student work. I notice considerable gaps in my students’ learning. I respond by creating an activity for the next class day with flexible groups tiered by readiness.

I’m intrigued by this phenomenon. Although it was a long time ago, I’m pretty sure that “responding to formative data” wasn’t a topic of study in any of my methods classes. So, how do teachers develop this menu of options to meet the needs of their learners?

For me, mostly through intuition and trial and error.

In this age of teacher evaluation tied to student growth, we cannot allow intuition and trial and error to drive our instructional decisions. How can I develop a menu of options to guide my decisions?

James Popham in his book, Transformative Assessment in Action: An Inside Look at Applying the Process (ASCD, 2011), he suggests several categories of responses to formative data:

A. Immediate instructional adjustments based on assessed performance
B. Immediate instructional adjustments based on student-reported understanding
C. Near-future instructional adjustments
D. Last-chance instructional adjustments
E. Students’ learning tactic adjustments
F. Classroom climate shifts

In response to this perceived gap in knowledge, I’ve created a wikipage of types of formative data teachers collect and possible ways a teacher might respond to it:

http://letthedatabeyourguide.wikispaces.com/Responding+to+formative+data

I’d love to add to this list. Please write your additions as comments to this post.