Back in the day, I would require paragraphs on Spanish I tests because I thought that's what rigor meant, not because students had demonstrated readiness for that level of complexity. Conversely, I obsessively sheltered those same students from texts with *gasp* the past tense! I was convinced they couldn't ever make meaning from even a picture book with verb endings they didn't know, though research--and parenting toddlers--says that grammar is the least important factor in making meaning. Were it not for Sara-Elizabeth Cottrell of Musicuentos, I might never have even bothered questioning what appropriate expectations and assessments for novices might be.
I've come a long way.
Two ACTFL tools have been instrumental in helping me grasp the progression of proficiency levels:
- The ACTFL Assessment of Performance Toward Proficiency in Languages rubrics
- The NCCSFL-ACTFL Can-Do Statements
Now, as a department of one at an early college, I will probably never have students take the actual AAPPL exam: I deal almost exclusively with Novices, simply because that's how their schedules work with college classes. I mean, I'm trying to push my Spanish IIs to Intermediate this semester, but the bulk of my work still has to be with pushing Novices higher, and so it is what it means to be a Novice that I am most interested in breaking down.
Interpretive mode: input
With interpretive tasks, all Novices will probably require repeated exposure to the text. Novice Low may rely more on visuals while Novice Mid and High learn to connect with their prior knowledge of the topic at hand as well as cognates and parts of words (think stems, verb endings, plurals, masculine vs feminine).
Beyond levels of engagement with the context, Novice Low, Mid, and High can basically be divided up as follows:
- Low = words
- Mid = phrases and sentences
- High = main ideas in short passages
Interpersonal and presentational: output
When it comes to interpersonal and presentational communication, Novices are evaluated pretty much exclusively on what "teachers and others who are used to language learners can understand":
- N1 - "some of what you are saying."
- N2 - "much of what you are saying."
- N3 - "most of what you are saying."
- N4 - "what you are saying most of the time."
Based on what I can gather from what the ACTFL Can-Do statements in Novice Low and Mid versus Novice High, the difference between yourself and your life breaks down like this:
- your name, age, and where you live
- your address, email, phone number
- your birthday
- what you are like/look like
- what you're doing
- where you're going or went
- your family members
- your family members' ages/relation to you/hobbies
- what you eat/learn/do
- likes and dislikes
- your classes
- your daily/weekend activities
- your house/room/school
- your town/city/state/country
- family member characteristics
- making plans
- weather maps
- purchases (e.g. meal or ticket)
- describing family, friends, school, and work
- telling what you do (school, work weekends)
- talk about favorite artists/performers
- describe landmarks/vacations
- others' likes and dislikes
- others' activities
- describing routines
- weekend and vacation plans
Paolo and Pablo let the moms talk about their schools: the boys wanted to jump right in--literally--and make up pool games to play together. So I can't say I'm 100% on-board with Novice Can-Do statements about weather maps and routines and describing landmarks: Paolo wants to email Pablo about his geode crystals he got for Christmas--where does that fit? Does he need to practice telling how old his sister is and be Novice High before he does it?
I can, however, say that taking the Can-Do Statements and AAPPL rubrics give me a clearer picture about what he can do, even if it's just a few words Mom helps him string together until he gets the hang of phrases (besides no hay and Tú: zombi.)