Nathan for You!


One of the goals of an OWL classroom is to empower students to take control of their language learning experience.  With this end in mind, my students and I spent several classes discussing and exploring ACTFL proficiency levels.  First, we examined the levels and  how they are measured.  Then we discuss their individual oral and written proficiency levels and made a road map of how to arrive at the next level.

Below, I share with you my lesson plan for the class discussion of the ACTFL levels. However, before you read the lesson please take a moment to watch this clip from Nathan for You as it is the basis for the whole discussion.  This Comedy Central video, in which seven year Amir is interviewed for a position at a law firm became the hit of English week. It was funny and students empathized with Amir, but most importantly it was a fantastic introduction to the concept of language levels. Additionally, many students who did not identify as Spanish speakers do now thanks to Amir. It was obvious to them that he spoke English, but they saw that it was limited to certain contexts, vocabulary and structures. Drawing the connections between Amir and themselves, they grasped that just like him, their language has limits but without a doubt, they speak Spanish.

OK enough with the explanation, onto the lesson!

Time: Two forty minute class periods.

Levels: Spanish One and Two

Students will be able to:                                                                                                                           Describe the difference between novice and intermediate speakers using ACTFL level descriptors.       Assess language levels using ACTFL level descriptors.

1.  Watch the video clip and laugh.

2.  Watch the clip again, but have students answer the following questions in their notebook:

a) What is Amir able to communicate in the video?

b) What difficulties does Amir have?

c) Does Amir speak English?

3.  Record questions a) and b) on the board.   Here is a sample:

IMG_20140922_094221341       IMG_20140922_094241669

4.  Pass out the Proficiency level descriptors and have students read silently. Here are two that I use.  One is from Jefferson County Public Schools and the other is from teacher extraordinaire, Wyatt Crane.

PBA_Rubric_color (2) (1)ACTFL Level Descriptors


5.  Discuss with students the meaning of context, form, function, comprehensibility and comprehension.

6.  Pair students up and ask them to discuss the differences between a novice and intermediate speaker.

7.  Watch sample videos of novice and intermediate speakers.  Using the descriptors, ask students why the novice is a novice and what makes the intermediate an intermediate?

8.   In a T chart have students and summarize novice and intermediate capabilities.

9.  Watch Amir one last time have student assess Amir’s proficiency level.  Make sure students justify their response either orally or in writing.

10.  End class by asking students if Amir speaks English.  Then flip it on them and ask them if they speak Spanish!

This lesson is a bit late for English week, but perhaps it will prove helpful for next year, as a sub plan or as a refresher.  At the very least, appreciate the video!



Choose Your Own Homework!!



In my first year of OWL teaching, I was terrible at assigning homework.  I would be so focused on repeating vocabulary and ending class on a positive note, that I would forget to explain the assignment. Likewise, if I did manage to assign homework, the following class would either take a direction that rendered our homework irrelevant or I would simply forget to check and incorporate the work.  To tackle this problem, I decided to stop assigning and checking homework and jumped on the choose your own homework bandwagon.

Creating a Choose Your Own homework document has been a lifesaver.  It has given me more time in class, taken away the stress of creating a homework assignment and most importantly, it forces students to take charge of their educational experience.

Below, I am attaching what I use for my Spanish Two Classes.  It is based on Sara-Elizabeth Cottrell’s of Musicuentos Choose Your Own Homework document. Here you can find her version as well as other samples from fantastic educators.  In the Musicuentos’s version you will notice that homework options are assigned a point value ranging from one to five.  As the point value increases, the tasks become more difficult and interactive. The different point values also require different language functions. For instance, one pointers ask students to list words and use a lot of vocabulary from the class.  A two pointer might ask them to write phrases or sentences with the vocabulary. A three pointer might require some internet investigation as well as a description while a four pointer might require narration.  Five pointers frequently require interactivity with the community beyond the classroom.

For grading, I choose a number of points to be completed each week and then multiplied this by the number of weeks in the quarter in order to determine how many points are necessary to receive an A.  I also had students record their homework in a blog.  I chose blogger by Google as students can easily email videos and posts to their blog. This accountability system worked well for me, but use what works for you!

Enjoy and OWL on!

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