New Assessment Categories

I’ve been researching this week as I am “home alone” in my new town. Today I’m watching the IndwellingLang/ Musicuentos Black Box Videocast #2 about Bill Van Patten’s article on Mental Representation and Skill.

At 4:37, there is a description of what “skill” is as it applies to language:

1. Interpretation (reading, listening)

2. Expression (writing, speaking)

3. Negotiation (conversational interaction, turn-taking)

I’ve been using the three ACTFL strands lately for my grading categories– Interpersonal, Interpretive, and Presentational–but I think I might switch to the three parts of the skill of using a language that Van Patten mentions here. The third would include what I always think should be part of a language class, despite the fact that it’s behavior. (I’m a Marzano fan.) Speaking a language correctly does require that you’re waiting for your turn as well as participating, whether that is with short answers or longer questions.

What do you think? Up until now, Presentational has taken up very little space in my overall percentage for students at the beginning level, and it has increased with the language level being taught. But that meant that speaking and writing were in two of the big categories (interpersonal and presentational).

If I use these Van Patten categories, speaking and writing would still be limited as a percentage of the grade at the lower levels. Otherwise I was having two of the big categories attend to something that I wasn’t even really marking in level 1 for the first semester.

(I hate grades.)

PS I want to participate in more discussion about the three questions Slocum Bailey raises at the end of the video.


4 responses to “New Assessment Categories

  1. Hola! I am so happy you wrote about this video. I watched the last day of school after I finished cleaning my classroom but could not leave until 3 pm.
    Why don’t you post the first question and we start the discussion here?!


    • Will do that! Next post…coming when I get home from visiting host families tonight. Thanks so much for asking. You are always dear to me.


  2. Hi Michele! I read this when you first posted it and it has been marinating all summer. I just watched the video again. In my (admittedly warped) mind, the three categories VanPatten outlines seem to parallel the ACTFL 3 modes. Don’t they? Interpretation is Interpretive mode; Expression is Presentational; Negotiation (conversational interaction, turn-taking) is Interpersonal.

    Interpersonal to me includes negotiation, interaction, turn-taking. These are actual skills and are what we (collectively, over time, a bunch of us on Ben’s blog) used as the basis for the interpersonal skill rubric.

    *I also hate grades*

    The interpersonal skill rubric can be a hot topic because it’s often misinterpreted as a “participation” “behavior” or “attitude” grade. It is not any of those. But I do believe that students need to develop the skills of listening while someone speaks (aka turn-taking). They also need to develop the skill of responding to a question / statement either by asking for clarification or with a level-appropriate word, gesture or phrase.

    I am about to start my “encore career” as a new teacher in an old-school school right down the road from me! They did pick me, and I did not hide how I do things, although I can tell they don’t really know what this means.

    Anyway, this long ramble is to state that I think I may try to “work it” within my new system that requires 20% formative and 80% summative by stating that “negotiation” is formative and the other two skills are summative. ???? I think it makes sense because the negotiating (turn taking, clarification, listening) skills are what the kids need to develop in order to be progressively competent at interpreting and eventually expressing.

    What do you think? What is your current assessment breakdown? I just want it all to be so simple I can put some numbers in boxes and be done!

    I don’t understand summative in the context of CI teaching. I think it would literally be at the end of the course, where are they on the proficiency spectrum? But how does that translate into a grade?


    • Hi Jen, I am so with you! I’m considering that idea of negotiation being a formative grade. I’m sure you know the usual idea that “formative assessment” is the individual pieces and “summative” is the big picture, and it really doesn’t work well to organize language acquisition around that model. However, for schools we have to assess! And … we have to be able to show progress over time.
      Maybe one formative activity would be if kids could use recent vocabulary (that they’ve understood in context through repetition 200-400 times) to tell a recent class story, whether orally or in writing. Then the summative would be if they could go back to that story later on and tell it from a different perspective or time, tweaking the content or adding background information to make it their own. Does that make any sense to you?

      I like the concept of using “negotiation” as formative, but I’ve always thought of negotiation of meaning as being a higher-level skill. Clarification, other than saying “I don’t understand,” means using different words to say what you think the speaker said, or saying, “Did you ask me how old I am?” To me, it also means that when a listener doesn’t respond or doesn’t understand, we are able to rephrase our message. That is also difficult.

      But if students do well on the interpersonal skills rubric or the rubric on Bryce Hedstrom’s site, they will also acquire as much language as they are able, so for me it’s honestly a fair way to grade. UGH! Grading.

      I think I’m writing in circles.

      My current assessment breakdown is three categories: interpersonal (highest weight), interpretive (next highest), and presentational (far lower than either, because it’s summative but rare in my room). Presentational is the letters students write to pen-pals. They’ve done their best, and I’ve helped them polish. It’s also the presentations the upper-level kids make to the class on specified topics. I’ve usually directed those. So really, presentational is not demonstrating what the kids are able to do on their own. Interpersonal (writing and speaking) is, so that’s why it gets the highest weight.

      If we look at the description of Intermediate-Mid proficiency, we find that students at that level can talk or write on a range of topics (unprepared), but I-M is characterized by creative use of language and strings of sentences with emerging grammar control. It’s a rare student who can really reach higher that that (for a range of topics) while still in high school, if we’re honest. Intermediate-high means that more than half the time, the speaker/writer is consistent in grammar, and is able to speak in organized, paragraph-level discourse. All over the country, we hire teachers who are at an Intermediate-High level!

      All this is to say that our students can really vary (in their first language too!) so my goal is to give them assessments where they can continue to feel strong and where they can notice their progress in the language. If they’ve been reading with the class, they’re likely to be able to read the alternative version of a story or passage. If they’ve been making sure they understand what they hear, they’re likely to understand an alternate text that I deliver orally. And so on. I love having mixed levels in classes, because they can all advance together, wherever they are in their personal journeys.


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