So you want to become a better language teacher, and that’s awesome! You’ve laid a good foundation in getting to know some sound research principles involving how people acquire and learn languages thanks to Steve Smith.
You’ve figured out what to expect kids to build as they continue on their journey to being proficient in another language.
Now, it’s time for Step 3.
Last things first.
First, I need to give you a crash course in backwards planning. As you begin to plan and teach effective world language lessons, you need to start at the end. You’ll ask yourself three key questions:
- What will I ask my learners to do at the end of this (chapter, unit, week, month, year)?
- How will I know they can?
- What small pieces of language do we need to build to get there?
When you start answering that third question, you start planning the end from the beginning, and your days of textbook teaching will be numbered. That’s a great day for you and your learners. The lesson plans will almost build themselves. (Almost.)
But you’re not there yet. Let’s rewind to #1: what should they be able to do at the end?
If you’re answering that question with “match correct verb conjugations” or “list the colors in alphabetical order” then we’ve got problems – please revisit steps 1 and 2 (linked at the bottom). But if that’s not the right way to answer it, then what is?
In order to answer that first question, you’ll need to have an idea of what your assessment will be, and so this is step three.
And step three is…
to get a picture of what an effective assessment looks like. Which means we need to define a key term: Integrated Performance Assessment.
Essentially, an integrated performance assessment (IPA) is a way to assess a learner’s performance in the target language, usually on a specific topic or theme, in the three modes of communication: interpretive, interpersonal, and presentational.
Teachers who use IPAs generally plan them at least twice a year, at the end of each semester, perhaps at the end of a trimester. Some (like me) plan them at the end of units, especially when your units last 4-5 weeks each. I could give you lots of descriptions and definitions and articles on IPAs but what I really want you to do first is see some.
I’m about to give you a link to a gold mine of resources and I want you to promise me you won’t explore it all. Seriously, I just want you to look at the Level 1 IPAs. So click here to see the folder of the end-of-course IPAs used by the Jefferson County (KY) Public Schools. The IPA for first semester is 1A, for second semester is 1B, and so on.
(If you didn’t click, go do it now. Do not keep reading.)
Okay, welcome back. Now that you’ve seen some IPAs, when your mind is calmed down, I invite you to explore a few more of those resources:
- Ahem. This is the full JCPS Google Drive folder. Set some goals and a timer before you click.
- Check out Maris Hawkins’s post on How to Start Using IPAs.
- Here’s my post encouraging you not to get hung up on the I in IPA.
So, by now you should understand more about how people learn and acquire language, and have decided something about what that means for your teaching. You should be familiar with the ACTFL proficiency levels and know what to expect from your learners. And from this post, you should have an idea of what it means to start at the end – to plan from the beginning what your learners will do at the end so you can plan how to get them there. When you feel pretty good about these three steps, you’ll be ready for Step Four. Only two more left!
Posts in this series: