How to start teaching proficiency: Interpretive

How to start teaching proficiency: Interpretive

As I find myself moving more and more into teaching solely based on proficiency with comprehensible input, I feel that many teachers are intimidated to begin the switch.  Many feel that they have to completely get rid of their textbook- then, where do you begin?!  Plus it seems that some proficiency teachers create their own units that would not align with a traditional textbook.  It becomes difficult to even edit those for your own class.  Many teachers have so many preps that it seems overwhelming.  Many teachers work with traditional grammar and vocabulary teachers and do not want to completely rock the boat especially when they are starting!  Also, if you fill your days with a lot of worksheets or conjugation- where do you go from there?  How do you prepare students for proficiency assessments?

I wanted to write a series for you, so you can start to dip your toe into the proficiency waters.  When you have started, I guarantee that you will progress further.  It will become easier to incorporate into your program then you can think about moving away from your program if you would like- or not!  Many times, I think teachers feel that it must be all or nothing. That was never my personality, and I wanted to help you along your way.

First, I found it easier to incorporate interpretive reading or listening into already existing vocabulary quizzes.  I would search for a video clip or a reading, and I would create an interpretive assessment based on it.  (Here are two examples of a reading assessment that I created.  I also have a template to use to listen to commercials for Novice High.)  Since there is already a section for key words, you can add your vocabulary there.  I have also asked students to find five or six vocabulary words that they know from the article.  (I make sure that there are at least seven or more vocabulary.)  I have also added a section such as “describe your own bedroom in Spanish and compare it to the one in the article.”  I realize that is not strictly interpretive, but I am ok with that.  You do not have to include every single item from the IPA list if you are not there yet.  Try adding a few elements from the list.

Once I had decided on what my assessment would be, it allowed me to plan a bit easier.  Many blogs list activities for interpretive reading and listening like Creative Language Class, Amy Lenord, OFLA tech binder, and Laura Sexton.  Even though my interpretive assessments use solely authentic resources, I do not only use authentic resources in class.  In addition to the blogs above that I reference, if I am preparing my students for an interpretive reading activity, I will:

  • Start with pre-reading activities.  Have students brainstorm any word that they can remember from the topic.  This also helps you to recycle old topics and helps with retrieval practice.  After this, students will be able to remember the words better.
  • As another pre-reading activity, have students discuss what they see in the pictures that will eventually be in the authentic resources.  Students will get really excited to see the connection when they see the picture the next day.
  • Before reading, give students a list of 5-6 true/false statements in the target language based on the text.  Students make predictions then read the text to see if their predictions were accurate.
  • Create a word cloud with all of the words from the reading assignment.  Have students identify words that they know, and have them look up any key (large) word that they do not know.  You can also have students use these words to produce sentences before reading to ensure that they are prepared to read the assignment.
  • Give them a practice with the same types of questions.  To spice up the practice, have students play either a Kahoot for a faster paced review (but make sure to give at least 1 minute to answer each question!) or the grid game with key word questions.  (My favorite is the grid game because I can play it with less prep!)
  • Use comprehensible readings to increase their understanding of the vocabulary and increase fluency such as these noticias.
  • Use reading guides.
  • Have time for Free Voluntary Reading with my classroom library.
  • Have students complete a webquest style activity on a website in the TL.
  • If the assignment is a PDF or Google Doc, add it to Actively Learn to embed questions within it.  This also supports struggling readers because it can pin point where the answer is in a larger document.
  • Have students add their own questions to Triventy to assess student comprehension.
  • Or put your questions in PearDeck to review an interpretive reading assignment, so students can correct their work as they go.

If I am preparing students for a listening assessment, I will:

  • Use songs!
  • Use a program such as EdPuzzle to have students answer questions about videos as they play.  This will also allow students to re-watch any section that they are having trouble understanding.
  • Once students have practiced a lot with EdPuzzle, you can create a project instead of a video.  In a project, students can either add questions or notes to explain what they understand in the video instead of you adding the question.
  • Complete these two of my favorite listening activities.
  • Use the proficiency exercises from the University of Texas to create micro-listening activities.  Since they all have a transcript, it is easy to either create a cloze activity, or make changes and have students identify the changes as they listen.  (You can see an example here of a cloze activity for my community unit.)  I have also created a Google Form where students can listen then identify the words as they go.  Micro-listening activities really help students work on the actual skill of listening.
  • Another way to work on listening is through dictations.  With dictations, the teacher reads 5-6 sentences and students write them down exactly as they hear them.  Then, I project the sentences on the projector.  This allows us to review grammar and spelling as well since I have moved away from such an explicit focus on these two items.

I also created a Pinterest board with more interpretive activities to help you.  I do not complete only these activities to the exclusion of speaking and writing that week, but I feel that once I establish my focus for the week, it becomes easier to incorporate more proficiency activities into my planning.  In the comments, add some of your favorite reading or listening proficiency activities that help prepare students!  One of my biggest worries was what I would actually do in class once I moved to more proficiency based assessments.  Take some time this week to think of a unit that you teach where you could add an interpretive quiz and find a good authentic resource to save.  Then you can start wading in the proficiency pool!


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