Category Archives: Assessment

Authentic Texts Part Deux: the Hows


Many teachers struggle with ways to expose novice learners to authentic texts.  If you scaffold appropriately, novice learners can handle a variety of materials.  It’s certainly easier to use anything that has audio or visual in addition to written text.  Here are simple steps to scaffolding an authentic text:

In the context of a larger unit on travel, I had my students interpreting the safety procedures on a plane through videos, online brochures and websites.  They watched several videos.  Here is one example.  It is a good choice for novice learners because of its familiarity and cognates.

1. Preview the text: Before students learn any new vocabulary, allow them to watch the video a few times, trying to see if they can identify any words or phrases.  Tell them to watch it in a relaxed manner.  I usually use a calm voice, and say, “Just listen.  You don’t need to understand every word.  Focus on what you can understand, not the words that you can’t understand.  Just listen.”  During the second viewing, as a formative assessment, they can write down the words they hear that they are familiar with, and new words they can infer based on the context.  At the end of each viewing, I ask them to hold up a hand low in front of them using their fingers as a way to represent their comprehension, 5 being the highest.  They mark this down on the same paper.  I can collect the papers and see what does not need to be retaught or we can make a class list off all the words we already know as an anchor activity. Read the rest of this entry

Voice Thread as an Assessment in the World Language Classroom


Voicethread is a fabulous tool for a world language teacher for several reasons.
1. It is a performance assessment.
2. It can be differentiated to varying levels and needs.
3. The student is the creator and the audience.
4. It can be viewed publicly.

In my French I class, we completed a unit on the children’s story, Il y a un Alligator Sous Mon Lit (There is an Alligator Under My Bed). The students learned the rooms and furniture of the house, prepositions, fears, and how to compose a message before reading the story. Then they listened, read, watched, and acted out the story through various activities. There were many formative assessments along the way to test acquisition of vocabulary, and the summative assessment was to create a unique story based on the format of Il y a un Alligator Sous Mon Lit.

This assessment showed me what the students are able to do with the language. Rather than testing the students for discrete information, in a test or quiz that shows what they don’t know, they took what they learned and produced the best product they could at their proficiency level.

This class is extremely varied in needs and proficiency level and, I was able to modify the requirements to fit each student. Some students had more requirements than others. I provided templates for certain students, while more advanced students were given less direction. I compacted the past tense for one extremely advanced student and she wrote he story using the preterite and imperfect complete with irregular verbs!! Voicethread allows individual needs to be met on both ends of the spectrum!

After the student creates the Voicethread,they were required to view and comment on all of the other students’ Voicethreads. Because they know their project is public and viewed by their peers, the quality is better.

Using this tool in the classroom enables students to become better equipped to use Web 2.0 in a productive and responsible manner.

Below I have included a few examples of varying proficiency levels:

Assess what’s important!


You can easily tell what is important in my classroom: communication!  It is embedded in every class period.  The majority of the time is spent on communicating and being understood, using all three modes of communication, orally and in writing. Students are assessed on their ability to create with the language and comprehensibility.  Yes, I teach grammar, (and yes I often invisibly cringe when I hear certain things),  but my students know that I am looking for how well they can get their point across.  During class time, I use a rubric to assess their participation in speaking and writing activities.  And for their summative assessments, they must write, read, speak, and listen.  The very first assessment of the year, they asked me amazed, “You want us to speak???!!!”  Imagine that?!  “Can we write it down first?”  “Yes,” I say.  “And when you go to France, bring around your notepad and pen, so you can write everything down before you say it.” What justice are we doing them if they cannot communicate?  I tell my students that unless they plan to get a job at the verb conjugation plant, that they will have to be speaking, reading, and writing.  Filling in the blanks does not constitute communicating. I continue to make my expectations clear, and not budge on their assessments.  Pretty quickly they rise to the challenge.  They are no longer surprised when they are assessed on their oral and written proficiency.  And the best part of all, they are able to speak and write!  They know it’s important because that is what they are tested on.

“Why does (s)he get an easy quiz??!”: Fulfilling all needs in a classroom of mixed abilities




It doesn’t matter what road the students take, as long as we are maximizing their growth!








I have a group of French I students that is truly mixed ability: IEPs, heritage learners, students who have taken other languages, students who are repeating, all grade levels.  There are eight students and I often give three different assignments for all activities because it is what is required of me.  A few teachers have asked me how I get away with doing that, meaning, don’t certain students ask why other students are getting easier assignments?  The way I can “get away with it” is through that intangible product of a positive classroom climate.  This class has known and accepted from the beginning of the year that there are many different entry points when learning a language, and everyone will always be at a different proficiency level.  I explained to them that it is up to me to make sure that they are each challenged.  By instilling this in the beginning, continuing to reinforce it, and not let any student take the easy way out, it has come to be a classroom norm.

So that’s the easy part really!  The hard part is developing activities that can assess all learners.  This is where rubrics enter, rubrics that are based on proficiency, requirements, and effort (another discussion all together…).

Here’s an example:

We finished a story-based unit on a fable.  The summative assessment was to choose a moral or lesson and create your own fable using an online comic website,  All students were able to do this, just at varying levels of proficiency.  Some students had less requirements, and some students had more.  It wasn’t something that I advertised, but it wasn’t something that I would hide either, as already mentioned.  The rubric was the same for every student.  A student who was more proficient in the language would, in most cases, get a better grade, but a less proficient student was still able to be successful.

In this type of learning environment, there are no “wrong” answers.  It’s about what each student is able to do with the language skills he or she has


Mid Year Portfolio Assessment


Before teaching French, I taught science, so the idea of a writing portfolio was something that I never tried before until this year.  The portfolio is simply a manila folder with a cover sheet, filled out by the students, that lists the date of the assignment and notes about what they could do to improve upon their writing.  Each writing performance is scored using a rubric, in most cases the same or a similar rubric.  Whenever the students receive work back, they put it in their folder.  They look at any notes, not corrections, I make on their paper, and then write notes to themselves on the cover page.  Halfway through the year, they take everything out, examine it chronologically and fill out a form that speaks about their success and improvements still needed to be made.

I was proud as their teacher to be able to see the evolution of their work throughout the year.  Never until this year, have I seen such growth in my students in such a short time.

What worked:

For many writing assessments, the class completed collaborative brainstorming.  This took many forms: a scaffolded list of ideas that they shared with the class, stations they used to break the task down into smaller pieces, blog posts that afforded them the opportunity to free-write, i.e.,writing just to write.

Peer proof-reading was a part of many longer, non-timed writing assessments.  The students passed their papers in a group of 4.  1st pass: read for organization, details, effort, 2nd pass: check grammar, 3rd pass: check spelling, accents, 4th pass: check that all requirements are fulfilled

Having a writing portfolio makes students focus on the writing process.  Opening that folder each time gives them the desire to see improvement in their writing and provides them with focus.

Using authentic texts in the classroom shows students what the living language looks like.  They acquire such an abundant amount of vocabulary and awareness of the language that is not actually taught directly.

Grammar is taught specifically with a purpose, not just as the next discrete concept to learn.  Writing is done as a performance assessment and the grammar is necessary for its completion.  Using performance assessments make the writing meaningful for the students.

As a teacher, I am more cognizant of what they are actually able to do with the language.

Places to improve:

I could have the students write what they are proud of for each entry and 1 improvement they have made, so they can reflect on their writing each time, rather than simply citing my suggestions.

I would like to have a true beginning of the year entry to serve as a point of comparison, without using any of the techniques I employ throughout the year.

What techniques do you use to help your students improve their writing, L1 or L2?

Thanks for reading!

Café d’Amour


The past month, I have worked with my French I students on a café unit. We made comparisons between French and American café and restaurant customs, looked at pictures online, previewed and then interpreted menus, and completed interpersonal activities to acquire vocabulary with many formative assessments along the way.

Today was the culminating activity, le Café d’Amour, as chosen by my students. They created the menu offerings and prices, and rotated through, playing the client, the server and the back of the house. This class varies immensely in their capabilities, more than any class I have taught in 7 years, and has quite a few behavioral issues. I was, needless to say, nervous how this would work being an unscripted interpersonal activity.

I was thrilled at how successful the activity was, all students using as much French as they were capable, being kind to each other, and smiling and enjoying the experience. My pleasure came from the fact that they had fun with the assessment, not simply because they were eating (something that all students enjoy..), but because they were using their French!  They all succeeded according to my interpersonal rubric, and all the while hardly conscious of the fact they were being assessed.

This task was effective because they chose the menu, and had stake in the activity. It was also successful because we spent time comparing American and French cafés. When we were setting up the parameters of the activity, I found many of them saying, “Noooo..they don’t do that in France!”  The final reason for the success of this activity was that it was appropriately scaffolded, something I will continue to reference and feel is one of the true secrets to achieving proficiency in a world language classroom!

My students were thrilled to be eating in class, and I was thrilled that they could eat, acquire and apply the language all at once!

Thanks for reading and bon appetit!!