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Braggin’ Rights – AAPPL scores and seals

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“What did you do to these kids this year??”
Kimberly was an amazing student last year. She’s one of my THREE Spanish 3 kiddos this year (woohoo! record for non-native speakers!), and, based on her AAPPL results last year, she’s going to be one of our first students to get the Seal of Biliteracy when she graduates in 2019.
This year, though, Kimberly is mixed in with one of my Spanish 2 classes (enjoying not having to take the real AAPPL again). She’s a great sport and engages well with her juniors. But neither I nor the test-takers could wait today, knowing that the reading and listening AAPPL tests are scored immediately. If you look at the scores below, you’ll see why!
Now I should clarify that I’ve included all results I have currently for this class, but these numbers represent a little less than half of my Spanish 2’s this year. This is because I did not feel right charging kids to take the test when they didn’t think they had a shot at the Seal of Biliteracy. So these are only the kids who chose to take the test and either paid themselves or got a little help. To offset the comparison, then, I only took the top 3 tiers of last year’s results.
Still pretty freaking amazing, right?
So what did I do to these kids? I’ll tell you. I would say there are probably three major contributing factors (outside of their natural brilliance–which: IN SPADES) to this behemoth bump in performance.

1. Fake AAPPL’s

Familiar format
First and foremost, I have to say my little Google Slides “AAPPL Bites” assessments for reading and listening are pretty spot-on. The kids are well-prepared for the kinds of questions and texts they can expect, and how to make the best guesses possible. Of course this could mean the bump is artificial and more a result of their test-taking abilities…buuuuut Apple/Manzana, right?

2. Novel groups

Comprehensible input for fluency
This was admittedly a little thrown together, but I do think the sheer amount of input wormed its way into their little brains. I really do think reading novels forced them to think more holistically about their interpretation–exactly as its intended to do. And while most of the kiddos who opted to take the test were not in my personal storytime group, some benefited from talking through each chapter with their group members to realize they understood way more than they thought they did.

3. Fancy tech tools

Active interpretation and processing
The holy trinity of language tools for me has to be EDPuzzle, Actively Learn, and Señor Wooly. While inserting questions directly into authentic videos and texts, EDPuzzle and Actively Learn force students to pause and consider what they do know, weekly Wooly songs help fill in the vocabulary gaps that I–for some reason or other–have yet to fill. With the first two, I mix in the multiple choice vocab questions and the fact recall short answer questions in English, plus a little life-application short answer (in Spanish by the end of the semester). And with Wooly? I pick a song and give ’em until Wednesday to finish the ten nuggets that go with it, maybe playing it in class once or twice to introduce it or just for a bit of a low-key brain break.
Of course these are just my theories. There are bunches of other things I’ve done in between these activities, though not necessarily that different from last year. That being said though, I just gotta crow for a minute if you’ll pardon me:
  • NOT A SINGLE NOVICE. I mean, yeah, sure, it was only confident kids–but I really do think some of the nervous kids who opted not to take it definitely should have had more confidence based on these results. These are NOT the scores these kids were getting on my fake AAPPL’s! I didn’t even MAKE any that went up to advanced! So by that logic, I think just about EVERYONE could have hit intermediate in these categories!
  • ADVANCED. I only had one native speaker in this whole group and, yes, she did contribute to the A rate. But that means four NON-NATIVE speakers hit advanced after TWO semesters! (Okay, one went to Peru and keeps a Spanish grammar journal for fun…but still.)
  • SURPRISE SUCCESS. I had faith that the kids who signed up could reach intermediate. What I didn’t anticipate was that even the kid who LITERALLY complained about how little Spanish she understood EVERY time I saw her in the year between Spanish 1 and 2 would get I4 on BOTH!
  • BILITERACY SEALS. We’re still waiting on speaking and writing scores, so I can’t guarantee we’ll have as many Seals of Biliteracy as these results kind of hint. Right now it looks like we’ll have 18 from this class–that’s almost HALF of the graduating class of 2020!


So what did I do to the kids this year? I stuffed them full of comprehensible input, made them pause for active interpretation, and made the test format second nature.

And, you know, maybe got half of them official biliteracy seals when they graduate!


Laura Sexton is a passion-driven, project-based language educator in Gastonia, North Carolina. She loves sharing Ideas for integrating Project-Based Learning in the world language classroom, including example projects, lessons, assessment tips, driving questions, and reflection.