This curriculum class focuses in on the most useful curriculum tool from ACFTL – the Can Do Statements! A piece of the proficiency guidelines from the Performance Indicators, these bad boys will help your students measure their progress every day in class and work great as mini-assessments and curriculum guidelines. Tune in to see how!
Can Do Statements for World Language Teachers
We’re going to be looking at the most useful tool for world language teachers aiming for proficiency oriented instruction: ACTFL Can Do statements. I’m going to give you some ideas on how you can use can-do statements or “i-can statements” as they’re also known, to start making changes to your curriculum. Best of all, these are ideas that you can use tomorrow to tangibly improve your lesson plans for French or Spanish class. Exciting, right? Let’s dive right in.
ACTFL Tools and Can Do Statements
All of the following information about Can-Do statements is sourced from the NCSSFL-ACTFL guideline page. Find the PDF form of the Can Do statements for novice, intermediate, and advanced as well as intercultural communication here.
The purpose of this post is to move from standards into helpful, meaningful classroom practice. I hope to help you take the information from off of the PDF about Can Do Statements (a curriculum and/or lesson plan requirement for modern world language teachers in many states) and turn them into daily and useful pieces of your assessment, lesson planning, and activity design routine for proficiency oriented instruction and target language use.
This is a transcript from the following class – feel free to either watch or follow along.
ACTFL – The American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages
With ACTFL tools- from the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages – we have many tools like proficiency benchmarks and performance indicators. There are separate classes for those ACTFL tools as well.
So today, we’re going to talk about one of my favorite ways that we can really turn curriculum strategy for world language from talk into action – which is ‘Can Do’ statements. ‘Can Do’ statements are hands down, my favorite ACTFL tool. Even though they’re part of the overall curriculum, they’re not supposed to be part of the shaping of your overall curriculum. And we’ll talk about that in a second.
ACTFL and Teachers
This is where I love to start because they’re the easiest tool to really jump into, especially if you’re new to ACTFL. If you’re new to ACTFL, welcome to the party. And if you’re not new to ACTFL, you’re gonna re-fall in love with it. When we talk about ‘Can Do’ statements here because I think that ‘Can Do’ statements are the most helpful thing that ACTFL has released. They’re my favorite tool. I used them all the time in the classroom, and they shaped a lot of what I did. So this is something that I think is really gonna help you out. Check out the proficiency guidelines here.
Devon – La Libre Language Learning
Hi, I’m Devon. I was a French and Spanish teacher in the public high school area of South Carolina. Now I’m in a new role. I create curriculum full time, and I also do consultations and a PD membership for CI teachers to help other people with their curriculums. But my absolute favorite thing to do is to help teachers work on curriculums themselves. For help mapping out your Spanish 1 curriculum, check out this post. For help mapping out your French 1 curriculum, this post is for you.
Free Tools for Proficiency Oriented Instruction
I know you’re here because you’re looking to use more ACTFL tools to move students along the proficiency continuum, through comprehensible input strategies and more target language. There’s so much to learn as you switch from traditional to proficiency – here are some tools to help!
- A free proficiency gut-check checklist based on the Performance Indicators for Novice – use this quick cheat sheet checklist to scan through lessons, ideas, or curriculum to see if what you’re doing is aligned to ACFTL tools in a quick and teacher-friendly printable tool.
- Get the free ebook roadmap to proficiency – World Language Teacher Toolkit this tool is 20+ pages of the best resources, tips, and advice on what to do and in what order to grow further into proficiency through CI.
- Sign up for the next FREE conference Practical & Comprehensible! Every year, I gather together the best and brightest in the field of world language to share with you how to switch to proficiency through comprehensible input. All with ideas you can use tomorrow. It’s a FREE virtual conference – join the waitlist and find out more about the speakers here.
World Language Teachers Are Accidental Curriculum Experts
This has probably happened to you at some point. If you’re a world language teacher, there’s the supplies that we are “given”, but usually the answer is not given.
We’re working with patchwork supplies. And we also have a lot of freedom, which is a good thing to work with whatever we want to and create a curriculum. So we really are what I like to call accidental curriculum experts in the teaching field when it comes to curriculum.
Find More Curriculum PD for World Language Teachers
I mean, for real, give yourself a break. People have master’s degrees in this topic, but you’re doing it in addition to the already mountainous pile of teaching responsibilities that you have. You’re doing awesome. And to help you with that, I do live classes every Wednesday. And this series right now is all about the curriculum, because your curriculum is my jam!
I love curriculum because I think that when you dial in your curriculum, everything about teaching gets easier, because it is that overarching framework to help shape the daily decisions that you’re making. Your daily decisions are already so much. Having a good framework really shapes things up. Come and join me for more curriculum classes here. Continue the conversation in the free facebook group Practical Proficiency PD with La Libre for more free classes!
Why Is Curriculum So Important in World Language?
I think the curriculum allows you to focus on what you’re here to do, which is to teach. So you might be all over the place in terms of looking at exactly how you’re getting students from level one to level two to level three. If you can release yourself of that pressure right now, because that’s not going to serve your students as well as what we’re going to talk about today. What we’re going to talk about today is very much the micro level, because a lot of curriculum talks about how you can make things happen on a larger scale. On a macro level. If you’re looking to completely uplevel your curriculum, I have a workshop for you here. Having to do lots of revision, lots of reflection.
Speaking of curriculum, check out this free guide from South Carolina on units and lessons to create a proficiency curriculum for world language. Incredibly helpful. If you’d like more guidance with your curriculum design, check out this post here.
Today, we’re going to take a little bit of a break, and we’re going to talk about something that is quick, easy, and that you can do tomorrow if you chose to. So with that in mind, set your intentions now.
My intention for you is that you come out of this class with something that is not overwhelming about the curriculum, something that you can use tomorrow, is practical, and that helps you to feel the true accomplishments of what you’re doing in your classroom. Because many times the progress that we make with our students is not linear, right? So we’re not able to see and measure that progress right away.
But I’m going to show you a way that you can start to do that so that you and your students both feel like you’re making very tangible progress.
How Students Know They’re Successful in World Language
Ready to start? Here’s your question: imagine that I’m a student in your class. How do I know if I’m in your class? How do I know if I’m successful in class today? How do I know that I’m successful? How do I know that I’ve met your expectations that I’ve met the objectives? What are some of the ways that you’re doing that?
So if you’re trying to build a proficiency-based program, how do I know if my students are successful today? If I’m the teacher, and if I miss a student in class, how do I know if I’m successful in class? Honestly, you know what all your students are gonna say?
How students judge their progress in your class:
Can I speak Spanish? Can I read Spanish?
They’re gonna want specific examples of ‘I’m able to do this in Spanish’.
- I can say my name in Spanish
- I can respond to a question about my birthday in Spanish
- I can talk about the weather and what clothing I should wear in Spanish.
That’s how students know that they’re successful. And that’s also how you can measure that they’re successful. Guess what? All of these are can-do statements.
What is a Can-Do Statement?
What is a can do statement? A can do statement is a learner-forward statement that concretely expresses at what level they can use language. It starts with the phrase “I can” and the teacher usually customizes them based on what students are learning. For example, the ones above – “I can say my name in Spanish. I can respond to an invite in French and ask detailed questions about the date and time.” Notice that the Can-Do statement doesn’t particularly care exactly how the student accomplishes this. It doesn’t talk about what words are used, what language features or syntax, any of that. It only cares that the student shares and understands.
The can do statement helps students measure in concrete, specific terms how well they are able to share meaning down to the smallest task.
So the last year of my the last two years really of teaching that I really started to get into ‘Can Do’ statements as a tool for proficiency is I started to do things like this is I would measure exactly like y’all are doing with Exit Tickets are a bunch of different ways that you could do this is I would use the ‘Can Do’ statements, which I’m going to show you in a minute. But let’s look at an example. First, to drive daily lesson objectives. And what my students would have to ask themselves at the end of each day is I can ask for this example, this is a novice mid interpersonal ‘Can Do’ statement.
Can Do Statement Examples in Level 1
So for novice students in my Spanish 1 class, I can ask who, what, when, and where questions about a party. That’s a crazy concrete skill. And students can look at that statement and say, Yeah, I can do that. Or I can do half of that. Or I can do three-fourths of that.
PS, that’s a really great way to do speaking quizzes. That’s how I used to create my speaking quizzes.
What is a ‘Can Do’ statement? I’ll tell you my own words that the ‘Can Do’ statement is a learner forward, very objective statement that talks about exactly what a student is able to do with the language in incredibly specific and concrete terms.
Novice Mid Interpersonal Can Do Example
Like I can ask questions about a party. Here’s another example of one that we use from last week’s class, novice mid interpersonal another one, I can request and provide information by asking and answering a few simple questions on very familiar and everyday topics.
This is a ‘Can Do’ statement based on this, which is a performance indicator, which is basically like a standard and world language also from ACTFL. This person here, if they’re able to do the ‘Can Do’ statement is just doing a more specific version of that guideline skill.
Can you ask a simple question on a very familiar everyday topic? A very familiar and everyday topic is a question about a party. So for talking about a party that a novice mid learner can ask who, what, where or when that’s the specific part about it.
Using a mixture of practice for memorizing words, phrases, and simple sentences. So how you can make this happen in your classroom is that the focus of your class this day might be something along the lines of work with question words.
How to Use ACTFL Can Do Statements in Lessons
You learn question words and you just practice all different types of activities where students are exposed to a bunch of different question words. They have to answer them so that eventually they’re ready to ask them themselves. Of course, that’s a novice mid skill, so they’re not gonna be able to do that right off the bat.
It’s gonna take you know, all those repetitions 75 to 125 per phrase. And then eventually you’ll get them to that point.
‘Can Do’ statements describe what learners can do consistently over time. So being able to answer who, what, when, and where questions about a party, if there are novice mid learners, which would be, you know, level one, maybe early level two.
Why Do Can-Do Statements Work so Well?
The reason that these types of statements work so well is because they are so learner friendly. Now, what are they not for, they are not a checklist to be demonstrated once and then done.
What they also can do is help learners set goals as they progress along the proficiency continuum. Especially in their exit tickets like y’all are using, if what’s happening in class is working for them if they can understand what’s going on in class. And if they’ve hit that benchmark for whatever they’re at. It can be used to adapt school, district and curriculums, as well as learning goals, etc, all that good stuff.
Can Do Statements Are NOT Your Curriculum
But it’s not a prescribed curriculum. And it’s a starting point for assessment, goal setting and creation of rubrics. So I will tell you that we’re going to talk about today how I use ‘Can Do’ statements for rubrics, they are not an instrument for determining a letter or number grade, that’s also a really helpful reminder.
Now when you go to this website, you will see all of the PDFs on can do statements that you need for your specific level. And all the things that you need. Novice, intermediate and advanced. And then intercultural communication, we’re going to be talking about that one today, too.
When it came to reading, writing and speaking, and all those things, I started revising all of my rubrics to make sure that they were geared for proficiency. I skipped the performance indicators and the proficiency benchmarks because honestly, I will say in terms of practicality, they’re too hard to use on a day-to-day basis.
Using Can Do Statements for Grading and Assessment
They’re really excellent to help you guide your program to make sure that you’re going in the right direction. But for day-to-day grading, (opinion alert) they’re really hard to use. Not because they’re not well made, but because they’re not really what they’re there for. They’re for overarching things. And for the macro-level, not for the micro-level. I use the ‘Can Do’ statements to replace all of the language on my rubrics, and that was such a game-changer.
Because imagine this conversation going down:
You’re sitting with a student, and they’re doing a speaking quiz on talking about their favorite places to go around town. And you ask them “Hey, sounds like you’re going to a cool event next week. Where is it?”
And they answer you with “7:30” then you can look at the performance indicator and the ‘Can Do’ statement and you can say, “Oh, okay, you know the time, but WHERE is it?
And then they say, oh,”La Plaza or It’s in that Plaza”. And that ‘Can Do’ statement helps you to forget about all of our hang-ups about errors.
A Note on Errors
And remember that the goal of the ‘Can Do’ statement is that they’ll be able to do that. And it doesn’t say anywhere that they’ll be able to do it perfectly. It doesn’t say anywhere that they’ll be able to do it without hesitation.
It says I can ask who, what, where when questions about a party? The only time that a student would get no points off for that is if they’ve no idea what you’re saying? Or if the answer was really jumbled. So it takes away a lot of that insistence for perfection in our grading. And it also takes away a lot of the subjectivity in grading. So that’s how ‘Can Do’ statements can really be used to sharpen up your program.
Another Can Do Statement Example – Speaking Quizzes
The other thing that I used to use ‘Can Do’ statements for was they were my tasks for weekly speaking quizzes. I figured out a way that I could grade on the spot, all of my speaking quizzes in a way that was still proficiency driven, because I am all about practical. If it’s not practical, it doesn’t happen in my classroom. At least I try not to. I still did a couple of obsessive things that I just liked because I liked who doesn’t? But for assessment, ‘Can Do’ statements really helps to cut down on your grading time.
Can Dos and Speaking Quizzes = Magic
Let’s go back to this simple example of I can ask who, what, where when questions about a party. You can use this for speaking quizzes. If the student was able to do it, they got full points for that question, maybe four, if the student was able to do it, but they needed some guidance like it took three or four tries, then they would get a three or a two out of four. And if they did not understand the question, then they wouldn’t be able to get any points for the question.
And then we’ll move on to the next one, which is why you would have two or three different questions and then a speaking quiz. But I could grade right there right on the spot, and give the students their grade.. And I would always make sure that the questions were in sets of four or five so that I could do easy math to you know, make it in like 10s or 20s.
Grading Tips for Speaking Quizzes
And then I didn’t spend any time grading, all I spent time doing was putting things into the grade book, which you know, when you have a good system doesn’t take as much time. But if you’re a high school teacher, like I was, then you probably have 120 to 160 students. So you have to find a way where you can get these done quickly. So I had so many speaking things to grade and with weekly speaking quizzes, there was a time in my career when I almost didn’t do speaking quizzes because they took so much time to grade until I figured out a system like this.
This will help you to not only be more proficient in your classroom in terms of being more proficiency focused and aligned but that it will save you time in your grading because using ‘Can Do’ statements, takes away a lot of the subjectivity in the work for you.
Post Can Do Statements as Daily or Weekly Objectives
Another way that I used to use ‘Can Do’ statements was having them posted all over my room so that students could figure out what we were doing that day. And it was always the objective, all that good stuff, is that I would use it to assess and reassess and reassess the proficiency of my teaching and my curriculum.
Measure Your Proficiency Oriented Instruction as a Department
When I was working with a department, we would use the ‘Can Do’ statements to see if the stuff in our curriculum was actually moving us towards proficiency if we were teaching in a way that would lead to the skills appropriate for that level.
Let me give you an example: We’re taking the content in this curriculum. them, whatever the unit is, whatever the students are learning about the functional chunks and all of the phrases and all the good stuff, and we’re seeing if it matches up with all of these, these are all of the actual performance indicators and all the good stuff for interpersonal communication. And here is the general overview in terms of interpersonal communication for the proficiency focused curriculum.
I can communicate in spontaneous spoken, written, or signed conversations on familiar and everyday topics, using a variety of practiced memorized words, phrases, simple sentences, and questions. And the guiding question for this for our performance indicators is how can I as the student express, react to, and support preferences and opinions in conversations?
Support Novice Learners with Better Objectives
So for our novice low people who are just brand new to the class and are just getting their feet wet with language, here are some ‘Can Do’ is to make sure that the content that we are teaching and using in class facilitates language acquisition, I can identify my favorite places or things from a list. So think about this for a second in your own curriculum, with what you’re teaching tomorrow. Are you teaching something tomorrow? Or your figurative tomorrow if you’re on break? Are you teaching something tomorrow, that is driving your students towards a proficiency goal, that’s going to get them from one step to the next?
Are Your World Language Students Stuck at the Novice Mid Level?
You can look at your activities and see if you’re doing the right activities. As for me, one of my faults in the classroom is that I love authentic texts. And so when it comes to that kind of teaching style, what you have a lot is that I would do a lot of interpretive listening activities. But then I would focus a lot on interpersonal communication in my assessments.
That can be a problem, right? I mean, your students need a lot of input. But if my students are just identifying things all day long for their activities, they might not have enough opportunities in class to exchange preferences, about their favorite places, about their likes and dislikes. So they might be stuck in novice low in this skill, they might not be moving to novice mid, because they’re not able to do that.
Not because it’s not in their brains, but because they haven’t been provided with the language, but because they’ve never been provided the opportunity in class.
Use Can Do Statements to Check in on Your Teaching Practice
Referring to can do statements helps me to look at a curriculum. It also helps me to look at my own teaching style in my individual lessons to see, Oh, snap, we’re not doing enough of this specific skill. We’re not exchanging preferences enough. Here’s another specific example of how you could do this.
Are you like me? Did you used to have a big content calendar? I used to do this on a Google Calendar. I would have just for my own quick reference every day, like a topic that I was doing every day.
So for French one unit was always a food unit. And so we would have you know, the first day would be vocabulary introduction, where we would do you know, a whole CI vocabulary in context lesson. And then the next day we would have students try to identify with vocabulary flashcards and contexts. And then they would have students exchanging preferences by picking between pictures. And then they would move on to interpreting some documents to see if they could read menus, and then they would go on to sharing food preferences from the school cafeteria, are you able to say I like this, etc.
And if you look at that, exchanging preference with my friend about likes and dislikes, if that’s what I’m trying to get them to do to be able to be novice mid, and a French one food unit, those activities honestly, there’s only one opportunity for them to work on that skill of the five that I just gave you, there’s only one opportunity, they probably need more. So by using these ‘Can Do’ statements, you can really look in an objective way and get into the details of moving your lessons from good to great.
Links to Can Do Statements
CEFR: similar to ACTFL, partner organization in Europe and used worldwide for the same purpose
Bonus Resource for Comprehensible Input Teachers
Have you ever wished the transition to proficiency were easier to do? Grab the FREE toolkit here to learn the framework for updating your practice to comprehensible input – without all the overwhelm – and prepare for the challenges ahead.
I hope this helps the ACTFL can do statements to move from ideas to actionable tools for you. If you loved this post, you may also find these other curriculum and CI teacher guides helpful:
- The Research Behind Comprehensible Input
- What is Comprehensible Input?
- Curriculum Design for World Language Teachers
Free Conference for World Language Teachers
If you’re ready to jump in and get started with proficiency and teaching with comprehensible input, I have another resource to help you on your journey below:
Sign Up for the Next Practical & Comprehensible Free Virtual Conference! Every year, I gather together the best and brightest in the field of world language to share with you how to switch to proficiency through comprehensible input. All with practical ideas that you can use tomorrow. It’s a FREE virtual conference – join the waitlist and find out more about the speakers here.
Sincerely rooting for you,