There’s talk on Ben’s blog about reporting assessments (otherwise known as grading). I think I’m gaining understanding, and want to put down some notes in order to be ready for next year. In our system, if we change anything online about our grades once a year-long class is started, it changes the grades for the entire year. I can’t do that. Last year, I dropped my structure and vocabulary categories for second semester, and that dropped all the grades in those categories for first semester as well. Darn Zangle!!

So. In a nutshell, here’s what I understand, and if you understand differently, please help out! The ACTFL guidelines give us three areas of competency: Interpersonal, Interpretive, and Presentational.

Presentational includes speaking and writing.

Interpretive includes listening and reading.

Interpersonal actually is how you respond to others. I think that this could include whether you’re taking note of cultural norms–both “Big C” and “Little C.” It would also include to what extent and on what topics you could communicate. But Ben’s blog has also included some really interesting stuff on being able to grade how students respond in class. Here’s an outline one could use for a rubric there, thanks to Robert Harrell:

I let the teacher know when I don’t understand something by signaling.

I use body language to show engagement in class communication.

I respond appropriately to the teacher’s statements and questions (for example, with “oooh,” or “?? ??!”)

I suggest appropriate details to add to the story or class discussion.

I use Target Language to communicate. (English comments are not Target Language)

I follow conversation conventions (that is, I listen to others, don’t blurt out or interrupt).

I’m turning these over in my head–it is clear to me that these are behaviors that influence how class will go as well as how well students can participate in communication with others in any language. I’m not sure that they’re what ACTFL meant about interpersonal communication, so I’m still thinking about them. But I do like the idea of handing out a little rubric for kids to mark where they are on it from time to time.

5 responses to “Grading

  1. You know, if you are grading on points rather than percentages, you could go ahead and input your new categories without touching your old categories–just don’t input any scores into them as you move forward and let them lie fallow.

    If you’re working with percentages, you could always rename the categories as long as the percentages are pretty close to what you want. What was “vocabulary” for 20% in the first semester could then be “Interpersonal” for the same 20%, with the previous semester scores being intact but mislabeled. Who cares about labeling a previous semester/quarter though?


  2. Hmm…right now I have reading, writing, speaking, listening, reading, and classroom. The Classroom section is weighted very low, but it’s for those days that I put in grades for homework and participation grades–more as a note to parents about those things than a real grade (it’s weighted 5% or less, because I don’t want anyone failing my class for having not turned in homework or because of how they participated, a la Wormeli and O’Connor). I could probably put the word “interpretive” in front of both reading and listening, and “presentational” in front of oral and writing. Then I could call the Classroom one “Interpersonal” and that would really for now fit what I use it for anyway, and quell my doubts about it’s being not really a demonstration of acquisition. And then…I could use that “Interpersonal” section correctly for the times that I give oral grades for conversations in class. Whoo hoo!

    Thanks! I wish I’d thought of that!


  3. I also feel that grading behavior really doesn’t belong in assessment of student’s real abilities to comprehend and produce language. Behavior should be addressed separately as such. But I do feel the need sometimes to have some sort of “lever” to motivate the kids to be more on task and use TL consistently. Your giving it only five percent in overall grade makes sense: it does have some value but it is not going to alter student’s grade dramatically. How often and how many grades go in this category over a quarter?

    I do struggle with assessing speaking. You sound like it’s a “almost no prep” thing for you:) Can you give a few examples of how you do it in class?
    Thank you! Love your blog!


  4. Hi Natalia,

    I will have about eight “homework” grades this quarter in intermediate and advanced levels if I remember to collect them each week. Like Nathan, I have started to make a weekly list to share with kids what their classmates are doing. (I think he does a graph.) It gives us a chance to chuckle over the kid who reported “thought a lot in Russian,” or “listened to songs in my head.” My kids seem to be very honest; they tell me when they haven’t done anything, and they tell me when activities are under the 30-minute request. That’s about all the homework I can in good conscience require.

    I will have anywhere from four to eight classwork-type grades–some that the kids help assess (like the interpersonal rubric above), and some for activities that I can’t consider true demonstrations of their acquisition of language but that I want to record their having completed.

    As far as speaking examples, I would direct you to the category “Speaking” on the right sidebar. I think most of our ideas about assessments are in there; this post is possibly the most exhaustive of the lot:

    I guess I am pretty free-flowing, but I do know one thing: kids don’t recognize acquisition until they get to demonstrate it. And demonstrating it means speaking or writing. So I will try to do a bunch of other activities leading up to a demonstration of speaking, in a way so that they can hear and respond to those key structures a bunch of times, so that in the end the focus structures are almost falling out of their mouths. It takes listening to what they’re saying in class and figuring out how to get them to say the next thing, letting them practice in little chunks so that they feel more and more confident, without wasting a bunch of time on the output. So we might tell a story in class, then do dictations with it, write it as a class, then have them draw it, then tell bits to their hands or their partners, then retell from perspective (change person, or change tense), then tell it in groups with new details, and then finally tell the same story or a related one in front of the class. But all that could possibly take a week or more, and during that time I might be changing the story, or even just adding structures. I have a class of 30 (nothing to the Spanish teachers with 40) and we can do a speaking assessment in 20 minutes when we’re rolling. Any time they’re doing output is a chance for processing or a brain break or an assessment. It is not acquisition time, and I’m jealous of that acquisition time.


    • Большое спасибо! I truly appreciate your detailed answer. I do use standards-based categories (a la Scott) and will not do it any other way. I have been rethinking the categories though to reflect ACTFL and new AP examination.

      Recently, I have been playing with an idea of not giving actual grades at all during the quarter, just the descriptive feedback based on standards involving students into the whole process with own reflections (which parents get to see several times a quarter). I am at the new school this year and the principal is the big supporter/promoter of this idea which eliminates “race after the points” and makes all the activities we do in class leading to language acquisition not number of points reflected in the gradebook.

      I have a lot to think through and put in place before I completely convert to this. I am currently considering doing it for the second quarter for the Interpersonal aspect that will involve some sort of rubric similar to the one you mentioned. The students will evaluate themselves every two weeks or so, I will write my evaluation, they will take it to parents and bring back. The next evaluation will be attached to the first one, etc., so the progress can be tracked. Eventually, all other categories will be done similarily.

      Thanks for reading my “thinking outloud” in front of the computer. I really should turn it off to start enjoying my weekend. I hope you do the same!


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