Last week, I tested an Integrated Performance Assessment with my High School French 1 class. I am sure glad I prefaced the endeavor by telling my students I was calibrating this type of assessment and I needed them to give me feed-back on it, because I really bummed the Interpretive part of the assessment. After the success of my first IPA with my 8th grade class, I was hoping this one would be fruitful also. Well, you learn just as much if not more from your failures. So here are my findings again:

Interpretive Assessment (A survey of French youth regarding their leisure activities):

1) The “key words” section was way out of my students’ reach. No one met expectations, not even my top performing senior who is also in AP Spanish. So obviously, I had missed something. But what? I realized that unlike my 8th graders, who have had almost 2 years of French and use a variety of reading strategies, my highschoolers with only 8 months of French rely heavily on cognates and words they know to get the meaning.

Also, my directions were not always clear (e.g. some of them used many words from the text instead of just one). So the next day, I gave them the reading again and changed the key words so that 2 out of 5 used “context clues” and 3 out of 5 used “cognates”. I also clarified directions (using only one word from the text). Everyone did much better.

To be clear, the goal was not make this easy for them, the goal was to ensure they can apply strategies they are familiar with

2) The “important phrases” section was not any better. There again I had some ambiguity in my directions: First, I did not tell them that 5 out of 8 ideas were in the text (I wanted to see how they would do without this information). Next, I had some very ambiguous questions (e.g. I used the word “a lot” and a few students asked me how much is “a lot” – fair point especially when you are looking at percentages). And finally  a few of my phrases were very similar, making it harder for the students to select the one that really applies to the text.

Later I went back to the definition of a Novice reader from ACTFL (1):

” At the Novice level, readers can understand key words and cognates, as well as formulaic phrases that are highly contextualized. Novice-level readers are able to get a limited amount of information from highly predictable texts in which the topic or context is very familiar, such as a hotel bill, a credit card receipt, or a weather map. Readers at the Novice level may rely heavily on their own background knowledge and extralinguistic support (such as the imagery on the weather map or the format of a credit card bill) to derive meaning. Readers at the Novice level are best able to understand a text when they are able to anticipate the information in the text. At the Novice level, recognition of key words, cognates, and formulaic phrases makes comprehension possible.”

There. All my so-called findings were actually spelled out for me in this definition. The moral of the story is that we need to keep in mind our students’ proficiency level in designing assessments. I learned a valuable lesson!

The Interpersonal and Presentational sections went pretty well. My students were very scared of presenting in front of the class but after creating the right atmosphere for it (we all sat on the floor in a circle), most of them did a decent job. Though I think this presentation format (which worked well for my 8th graders) was definitely a stretch for them.

Here is the IPA: Fr1_C5_IPA


(1) ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines 2012: