Ready-made IPAs

Novice and Intermediate French IPAs from Lisa Shepard, Cécile Lainé and Rebecca Blouwolff
As you create your own IPAs, it is helpful to take a look at examples on the web. Let me walk you through three sources. You may want to use some of these examples as they are or you may want to learn from them to write your own. All three authors, who are teachers too, have different strengths and will benefit your practice in different ways.
Begin with Lisa Shepard’s site as she has paved the way for how to use IPA assessments with beginning students on themes such as Ce que j’aime, La Famille and Le Petit Déjeuner. Her work is ambitious but not only because she can write IPAs for beginning students. What can be learned from her goes deeper. Shepard is striving to move away from giving an over-riding theme to the IPA to creating a context for the IPA, i.e. a real-world reason for language students to engage in the task. In Shepard’s Intermediate IPA on the environment, where the reading and the video is about what French students are doing for the environment, Shepard managed to enter her language students into the context by giving them the role of an exchange student going to the school where the initial students were interviewed. As a result of reading Shepard’s examples, when I write an IPA I am more intentional about context.
Continue with Cécile Lainé’s site, looking at her IPAs on free time, immigration, food, activities, family and school. And for more by Lainé and her colleagues, refer to the Ohio Foreign Language Association Site, especially the sample found here on Neighborhood. Lainé was my original go-to person as there is a huge lesson to be learned from both how she integrates the three components of an IPA as well as how she encourages truly spontaneous speech in the Interpersonal Tasks. 12823378_10153455706573786_7128171800067206099_oWhen I write my own, I look at her language to guide me. Regarding integration, Lainé uses one task to inform the next, for example, in the Le temps libre IPA students learn about the free time activities that young French people prefer by reading the results of a survey, then use the same vocabulary to talk about their own leisure activities. It doesn’t stop there. Next the students use what they read about and what they discussed as material to do a presentation on leisure activities, comparing leisure for French and American young people. Regarding spontaneous speech, in her Interpersonal Tasks Lainé always has the students talking about themselves in relation to what they read about French young people. Even though comparing is a difficult skill, with such strong scaffolding, novice students can work towards making comparisons.
And finish up your tour of IPAs that are available on the web with Rebecca Blouwolff’s site where you will find IPAs on la ville, la maison, les vêtements, les loisirs and la nourriture. Of note here is that Rebecca Blouwolff has an effective system for teaching students how to prepare for interpersonal tasks and for giving students feedback on interpersonal tasks. I wrote about how she sets up an interpersonal task in an earlier post; the point I want to make here is how she expertly incorporates a system using the TALK rubric, originally from The Keys to Planning for Learning by Clementi and Terrill. In this handout she explains her approach to the students and gives them pointers on how to prepare for evaluations. I commend her for the scaffolding she is building for students. She is showing them how to study for and approach these speaking assessments. This explanation really gets at what a successful speaker needs to do.
It is my hope that by drawing your attention to these three sources, you will have new IPAs to use in your instruction as well as greater ease in employing context, integration and feedback. Please share IPAs as you create them as they benefit us all.
Photo by Alexandra Lecomte

Classroom Mechanics of an Interpersonal Assessment

I am slowly building towards making Interpersonal assessments work well in my classroom. The reason why I have kept at it in spite of it being a struggle is because the Interpersonal mode is central to learning to speak a language. When I attended French class with Karen Girondel at Lexington High School in Lexington, MA in the 1980s, Gigi (as we called our teacher) made it look so easy. She would get us talking about what interested us and we wouldn’t even notice we were working! Seeing that I don’t have the same natural skill as Gigi, I have had to work at it. Back in the day my students did skits at the front of the room for a grade. More recently my students have had real world spontaneous dialogues that were recorded and I would take home to laboriously evaluate.

Interpersonal assessments build on information leaned in Interpretive assessments and the information students gleam from each other during Interpersonal assessments can be used in Presentational assessments. In this way assessments are truly integrated around a theme. I give Interpersonal tasks as a chance to explore culture from the learners’ point of view. Middle School students like to talk about themselves and the world around them. Taking about their own culture, my novice students gain the tools to later talk about cultural comparisons. An Interpersonal task is the chance for the student to use the new vocabulary and structures to talk about his or her practices and products, i.e. culture. I see speaking about perspectives, which is the third component of culture, as a later skill for intermediate and advanced speakers.

group chat

Image :University of Maryland School of Psychology

On Thursday, October 29, 2015, at the annual convention for the Massachusetts Foreign Language Association I attended a session given by Dawn Carney and Rebecca Blouwolff and it was there that I got an idea to bring me a little closer to meeting my goal. Rebecca has a classroom management strategy that is genius. Break the class into thirds, have one do the Interpersonal assessment with the teacher, one do a reading and one do what she calls a fluency count. A fluency count is to have the students challenge themselves to write as many sentences as they can in 10 minutes. Rebecca’s management works better that what I have tried in the past because both of my solutions, recording pairs or taking turns two by two at the front of the room, were time consuming. The station idea is also better because a small group is a true conversation, not a back and forth dialogue. Conversations permit students to think while others are speaking. They offer a natural asking of questions and building of ideas, not a tennis match of expressing the same or opposing opinions back and forth. We will be building on what we already know, but in a more open-ended format.

To get each student to speak, Rebecca gives each one five jewels and puts the jewel container in the center of the table. As the individual speaks in a full sentences he or she ads a jewel to the pile. The teacher evaluates the contribution to the conversation real-time based on a rubric that promotes speaking in complex sentences, accuracy, listening carefully and helping move the conversation along by asking questions. There isn’t one way to do an Interpersonal assessment, but today I learned a very good way that corresponds to how I teach. I am getting there.

Infusing Culture in Assessment

My discovery of backward design came at the right time. I have been slowly making the shift from teaching students about language to teaching students to use language, what we sum up as teaching for proficiency. Backward design allowed me to make a change in what the students understood they had to do. The teacher gives students the objectives formulated as can-do statements. Then shows them how to use language in a series of three tasks that reflect the three modes of communication, Interpretive, Interpersonal and Presentational. We call this triad, developed by ACTFL, an Integrated Performance Assessment.

Integrated Performance Assessment

There were many characteristics of the IPA that worked for my teaching.  Principally, it allowed me to use culture as the overarching theme to my unit. Culture is the relationship between the products, practices and perspectives of people.  When we show students an authentic document (in an Interpretive task for an IPA) we give them a chance to observe culture and draw conclusions for themselves. I wasn’t doing them any service by making generalizations about French culture myself.  It is much better to show them the culture through readings, videos, and pictures. The teacher is in effect bringing the culture into the classroom.

On Friday I am going to present on Infusing Culture through Assessment for novice learners at my state’s annual professional development conference. Putting together my presentation gave me time to reflect on where I am in the process of writing and implementing IPAs. I haven’t mastered IPAs, so I am hoping that my audience will appreciate what I have to say about what I have learned so far through the process. The process I have been through has convinced me that IPAs drive a method of instruction that gets learners from the beginning to “use” language and teaches them to speak spontaneously. This method, to me, is worth exploring further.

Please see my presentation posted below.

Infusing Culture in Assessment Presentation

Here are my handouts for the presentation.



Mon Pull Interpretive Activity

On fait les magasins Interpretive Activity

Activities Interpersonal Prompt

Food Interpersonal Prompt

Here is a Spanish example IPA from my colleague Lauren Carroll

Spanish Example IPA

Première Classe as preparation for ACTFL’s AAPPL

As a World Language department, we have been excited about the ACTFL test called the AAPPL.  We recently changed over from traditional pen and paper tests to Integrated Performance Assessments and it seemed like a good time to gather some baseline data on our program.  And, the AAPPL assesses the different modes of communication that we focus on in our program.

So I was pleased when I came across a free support online to help my students prepare for Interpretive tasks included in the AAPPL, a program created by TV5 Monde called Première Classe.  It uses snippets of authentic video to teach new words and practice grammatical structures and pronunciation.  The activities don’t line up exactly with my 7th and 8th grade curriculum, but if you pick and choose, your students can cover many of the topics usually taught in a middle school language program.  See the list below for the themes.  One word of caution, the site was written for adults and so some of the videos aren’t appropriate for the middle school audience, which is why in addition to directing the students to themes that will be useful, I also stipulate which activities to do.  I have included the handouts that I give to students so you can see how I direct them.

Se presenter     Première Classe 1    
Donner des informations sur son état civil     Première Classe 2
Parler de ses activités     Première Classe 3
Parler de son entourage proche      Première Classe 4
Proposer une sortie     Première Classe 5
Passer Commande     Première Classe 6
Décrire un lodgement     Première Classe 7

The activities on Première class are Interpretive tasks and are good for computer lab time or homework.  Unlike when I do an Interpretive activity or assessment with the whole class, students work at their own pace and working independently with immediate feedback is a nice change.  Some students repeat the short videos many times while others work quickly through.  I ask the students to keep a list of words that they have learned as they work and that list is all the proof I need that they have completed the assignment.  It seems fair to me to evaluate their progress based on a list of new words they have encountered.