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.
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.
Here are my handouts for the presentation.
Here is a Spanish example IPA from my colleague Lauren Carroll
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.