Language Assessments that Reflect Standards on Both Sides of the Atlantic

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Language Assessments that Reflect Standards on Both Sides of the Atlantic

Presented by: Christine Brown, Tami Canale, Hanadi Dayyeh

NESA Conference, 2011

Language Assessments that Reflect

Standards on Both Sides of the Atlantic:

Sample Performance-Based Tasks

Think of contexts that are real, meaningful, and fun for YOUR kids.

  • Facebook

  • A football game

  • Sitting behind Johnny in math class

  • Ski week

  • Taking the metro

Offer many ways of showing mastery (multiple intelligences). *See product choices chart.

  • PowerPoint

  • Create a game

  • Interview

  • Movie

  • Rap

Ideally, integrate the skills into a series of thematically related tasks (summative):

  • Interpretive

  • Interpersonal

  • Presentational


  • Is it a real life situation/problem (as opposed to conjugating verbs)?

  • Are there many possible “answers” or ways of showing mastery?

  • Does it grab their attention?

  • Is it written in kid-friendly language?

  • Is your rubric based on your standards and benchmarks? Are you grading the “right” thing? (i.e. the language vs. computer skills)

  • Is the rubric appropriate to the level? (lists vs. cohesive paragraphs)

  • Are the “non-negotiables” detailed clearly?


  • Goal

  • Role

  • Audience

  • Situation

  • Product

  • Standards

THEME: Friends/Describing, CONCEPT: Friendship

LEVEL: Beginning / Level I

Describe your best friend. Tell his/her name, how old he/she is, what he/she looks like, and what he/she likes to do. Be sure to use at least three adjectives. Remember that adjectives must agree with nouns.

THEME: Friends/Describing, CONCEPT: Friendship

LEVEL: Beginning / Level I


Describe your best friend.Tell his/her name, how old he/she is, what he/she looks like, and what he/she likes to do. Be sure to use at least three adjectives. Remember that adjectives must agree with nouns.


Both you and your friend are trying to describe the cute girl/boy that you met over the weekend. Tell each other as much as you can about the person to see if he/she might already know him/her. You both decide to speak in German so your nosy little sister won’t understand you. *Example from ACTFL Conference workshop, 2010.

THEME: Legends, CONCEPT: Heroism

LEVEL: MS Advanced or HS Level II

J.K. Rowling is looking for her next big idea (wizards and vampires are SO last year), and she has asked you to join her team of young writers. You are a hopeful author preparing to share your work with an elementary school Spanish class here at AISB. If the class likes your legend, you know you will have international success! Write the legend and use “Coco Booklet” to publish it for your audience. You will publish two copies: one for you and one to present to the class for their class library. Write an email to the 4th/5th grade Spanish teacher to ask her for permission to come and read your book to her class. Explain what it’s about and ask for a date. Design a poster to advertise your book, the book launch, and the author’s visit. Hang the poster in the elementary classroom one week before your book launch. Visit the class and read the book to them. Leave the extra copy for their library. Autographs are optional. Talk with a partner about how it went. What happened when you went to the class? Were the kids well behaved? Did they like it? Did they ask questions? How did you feel? What was your book about?

THEME: Sports/Nutrition, CONCEPT: Health/Perspectives

LEVEL: MS Int/Adv, HS Level I/II

Summative Assessment: Integrated Performance Assessment (7 days)

  • You are preparing to go abroad to study in Spain. You are concerned about what you’ll be able to eat and what type of activities you will be able to do while you are there. In researching this information, you come across a public service announcement, or PSA, about healthy living. You watch the video to find out what “healthy living” means in Spain. While abroad you meet a fellow student and exchange information about what you do to stay healthy. When you return home, you develop a Spanish-language PSA for a local Hispanic radio station or newspaper as part of a community service project.

Equipment needed: Student computers (with multi-media production tools such as Photo Story or Power Point, headphones, and microphones) and digital voice recorders. Video can be located at *From New Jersey WL Curriculum Exemplar.

THEME: Sports/Nutrition, CONCEPT: Health/Perspectives

LEVEL: MS Adv, HS Level I
Did you know that...

  • a recent study in Spain revealed that only 20% of the population participates in the daily physical activity recommended in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle?

  • in the United States approximately 1 in 3 children are obese?

  • Mexico has the second highest childhood obesity rate, with 24%?

  • Hungary comes in #8, at 18%.

  • according to the World Health Organization, "childhood obesity is one of the most serious public health challenges of the 21st century"?

  • and "overweight and obese children are likely to stay obese into adulthood and more likely to develop non-communicable diseases like diabetes and cardiovascular diseases at a younger age."

There are some very simple steps that kids and families can take to avoid obesity and to live a long, healthy life. Several organizations dedicate themselves to educating kids on how to live a healthy life! One organization is "Encestapor la Salud" which made the video that you watched earlier. Another organization in the US is Michelle Obama's "Let's Move" program The First Lady's organization is on the right track with educating young people around the world about the importance of physical activity and eating right, but the Let’s Move website could offer more information in Spanish since the Spanish speaking community makes up a large portion of United States citizens. Spanish is also the third most commonly spoken language in the world, and childhood obesity is a world-wide problem.

That's where YOU come in! Our task here is to make a video in Spanish promoting healthy behavior for kids around the world. You can use what you've been talking about in your PE class, what you've learned from coaches you may have worked with, critical thinking skills you've learned in science class, and information from the Let's Move website to help you generate ideas and make your video. In the end, we’ll vote for the best video and send it to Mrs. Obama’s organization asking her to publish it on her website and/or sponsor a video contest among schools in the US to help raise awareness.

THEME: My Friends and Me, CONCEPT: Tolerance

LEVEL: ES/MS Beginning

Poster project: Your friend is coming to visit you, but you can’t go to the airport to pick him/her up because you have a basketball game. One of your classmates has volunteered to go pick him/her up, but needs to know how to recognize him. Make a poster to describe your friend. Try to use as many describing words from this unit as you can so that he has a better chance of finding him/her. Present your poster orally to the class so that everyone knows what your friend looks like.

THEME: Who am I? CONCEPT: Identity

LEVEL: Beginning

  • Interpretive: Watch a video of 3 students introducing themselves (videotaped exchange students or native speakers). On a grid of topics that would logically be part of such an introduction, identify the topics actually mentioned and list any details understood on a topic.

  • Presentational: Write a description of yourself accompanied by photos. The description will serve as a letter of introduction to a host family where you will be staying on a school trip abroad.

  • Interpersonal: To prepare for your first night at your host family’s home, pair up and practice what you might say and what you might be asked by the host family. Introduce yourself by sharing the letter and photos you already prepared. Ask questions about each others’ likes and dislikes. *Example from ACTFL Keys to Assessing Language Performance (2010).

THEME: Travel, CONCEPT: Discovery

LEVEL: MS Advanced or HS Level II
Your mom has offered to take you and your 2 best friends on a trip to a French speaking country IF (and only if) you can convince her of how important the trip is. Create an itinerary for a trip to a French speaking country in the form of a travel brochure, listing detailed descriptions and telling what you and your friends “WILL DO” each day of the trip. Include cultural visits. Explain why these things are important to you (and to your grade in French class)!

THEME: Travel/Advice, CONCEPT: Persuasion

LEVEL: MS Adv, HS Level II
As a student in an international school, you get to travel more than the average kid. You’ve probably been stuck behind those poor people who don’t travel very often. You know the ones – you’ve seen them at the airport – the ones that don’t know that they have to take liquids out or take off their jackets when they go through security. The ones that are late to the gate, the ones who try to sleep on a 13-hour flight in a seat made for a 7 year old. Well, you’ve seen it all, and YOU can help.

The BBC has hired you as part of an international team of expert travelers to film a video to give advice to these poor souls – and to help those of us who DO know the rules to get to our destination more easily!

THEME: Travel, CONCEPT: Discovery

LEVEL: MS Adv, HS Level II

You’re planning a trip for February break, and you go to see a travel agent to see what kinds of deals he/she can give you. Use the following information as a basis for your conversation with the agent. The agent will ask you several questions about your trip, look up ticket prices for you, and make a few suggestions. At the end, you and the agent should complete the registration form together. The most important part of this activity, however, is the dialogue. TALK about your options. The agent should ask lots of questions, and the customer should give lots of explanations in the answers.

THEME: Travel, CONCEPT: Opportunity, How could travel help my career options?


  • Interpretive: Investigate places for study, travel, or work in the target country; identify how they would be helpful to four careers you are exploring.

  • Interpersonal: Evaluate with a partner the career advantages you could gain by studying, traveling, or working n the target country.

  • Presentational: Write a letter to apply for an internship, explaining how the experience will fit into your career plans, and how you have prepared for it. *Example from ACTFL Keys to Assessing Language Performance (2010).

THEME: Weekend/Sports, CONCEPT: Community

LEVEL: MS Intermediate, HS Level I
ESPN just called. They need you. Get on a plane; you’re going to New York! They need a reporter from Europe who knows the area and who knows sports to report on the upcoming European Cup. Since Hungary is the newest member of the Presidency of the Council of the European Union, they asked for a reporter from Budapest, and of course, the Prime Minister recommended that they contact a student from AISB right away! Use the video clips on the server (under “Sports Report” file) to create your first podcast.

THEME: Weekend, CONCEPT: Community/Persuasion


  • Background: Some of your classmates are planning a school dance. You are quite excited about this, as it will be your very first one. There is one small problem. Your parents aren't too sure that you should go. They are worried about your safety, about you staying up too late, about the music being too loud, etc.

  • Your Task: You have three to five minutes to persuade your parents to allow you to go to the school dance. You will be talking to either your mother or your father. You will be yourself. Your parent will be played by a teacher.

THEME: Environment, CONCEPT: Change/Progress


  • Interpersonal: As part of an MUN initiative, you will participate in a debate on the future of the planet and how progress has damaged the Earth and its environment. Present your position and anticipate the opposition.

  • Presentational: After we watched the Tv5 clip, you created a project to help a Slovakian school. Write a letter to the director of that school to propose your project. Include specifics for when, where, why, and how it will be implemented.

  • Interpretive: Your friend is coming from Hong Kong to visit you. Listen to the weather forecast for our area and tell her what she should pack.

THEME: Environment, CONCEPT: Environmental Protection/Growth and Development


  • Write an essay about environment concerns and possible solutions in the future. The student is an environment expert writing an article in a magazine for young people.

  • Oral presentation about a specific environment problem and what solutions can be provided to solve it. The student works for an environmental organization and is invited to a school to talk about a specific environment issue.

  • Listen to a news program and answer questions related to it. A discussion on the topic will follow.

THEME: Media, CONCEPT: Influence/Persuasion


  • We all know how hard it is to come by our favorite magazines when we’re living abroad, but your friend from Germany has been visiting and has brought you 3 of them! Now that you have been studying how the media can have an influence in society, you tend to look at advertisements in a different light. Write a letter to the editor of one of the magazines commenting on one of the ads in his/her magazine. Explain why you like (or don’t like) it, whether you think it’s effective, and what influence it might have on the public.

  • “TED Talks” is an organization devoted to “Ideas Worth Spreading” and has annual conferences where some of the most influential people in the world speak. Past presenters have included: Al Gore, Jane Goodall, Bono, Bill Gates, and Isaac Mizrahi, among others. They’ve invited you to come and speak about the media of the future. (Just think how impressed your friends and family will be!) What do you see as the future of media? Where is this thing going? How far will we let it go? How far do we need it to go?

THEME: Environment, CONCEPT: Progress/Development

LEVEL: HS IB Language A or B

  • Background: Nuclear waste? Not in my back yard! Citizens In many parts of the world are debating whether or not to allow nuclear waste storage sites to be built in their towns. The U.S. government passed a law requiring each state to find a location for these sites and has promised monetary support to communities that agree to put the waste facilities in their town. The money can be used to reduce taxes, pay for some the education costs, and improve roads or other services in the town. Some citizens are opposed and others feel that the compensation outweighs the risks and are willing to have the site built in their town.

  • Your Task: Your task is to write a letter to the editor of the local newspaper to support your position and to present your view at a town meeting.

    • Position A: We should NOT allow a nuclear waste site in our community.

    • Position B: We should allow a nuclear waste site in our community.

  • Your Audience: Citizens in your town and local government officials.

  • The Purpose of Your Task: The purpose of your task is to study both sides of an issue and come to a personal opinion supported by facts from reliable sources.

  • Big Ideas:

    • Opinions should be based in fact.

    • Decisions that affect whole communities require complex thinking, which addresses individual and group needs, as well as long and short-term expectations.

  • Content:

    • Understand how nuclear energy works

  • Skills

    • Analyze decisions made in the area of public policy, evaluate alternatives and consequences, explain different viewpoints in accounts of controversial events, and determine the context in which the statements were made.

    • Speak with confidence in public.

    • Write an editorial.

THEME: School, CONCEPT: Connections

LEVEL: MS Beg/Int, HS Level I
You have been asked by your middle school counselor to talk to a group of elementary immersion students about school life beyond their elementary years.Describe your school so that they will know what to expect when they arrive.You may wish to mention: One or two classes, teachers, students in the school; activities, what to wear and bring toschool, and any other information you think they might need to know.*Example from ACTFL Conference workshop, 2010.

THEME: Daily Routine, CONCEPT: Self-reliance

LEVEL: MS Adv, HS Level II
You are a normal kid, right? But, did you know that we all have a twin? It’s called a “Doppelganger,” and you have one too! Imagine what your “alter ego” is like. Is s/he a rock star? A super hero? An Olympic athlete? Stronger than Chuck Norris? Imagine what your twin does every day. What’s his/her routine like? For example, in the morning when you’re brushing your teeth, what is your alter ego doing – the SUPER YOU?

Compare both of your days. Explain what your daily routine is like – what do you normally do on a typical day? And what is SUPER YOU’s routine like? What does s/he do every day?

Describe both routines using illustrations and text. The final product can be a video, a book (like a kids’ book), a PowerPoint, a poster, etc. The best writing is connected into cohesive paragraphs, is organized well, and uses transitions to move from one part to the next.

THEME: Fame, CONCEPT: Fitting in

LEVEL: MS Adv, HS Level II or III

  • Interpretive: Read magazine articles about well-known persons from the target culture; write a summary of the article highlighting the most important information about the person. State why the person is significant in the target culture and if that fame would translate internationally (and to your country).

  • Interpersonal: In small groups, discuss what makes a person famous. Include the advantages and disadvantages of being famous. Include a personal opinion about the desirability of being famous some day.

  • Presentational: Write an essay about fame. Five examples of people from the target culture who are famous and why they are famous. Note the difference between being famous within a country and internationally. Discuss the possible negative aspects of fame. *Example from ACTFL Keys to Assessing Language Performance (2010).

THEME: Clothes, CONCEPT: Fitting in

LEVEL: MS Adv, HS Level II
Five days a week teachers wake up, guzzle 3 cups of coffee, and get ready to shape tomorrow’s leaders. When they dress for school, they know it’s important to dress professionally and to think about practical matters like whether there will be an art project or how much walking to the elementary building there will be that day. Teachers who have been leading the youth of this world can easily get stuck in a rut, wearing the same outfits over and over. But sometimes an opportunity comes along to do something different….and that’s where you come in!

All of our teachers are attending the CEESA conference next week, and we’ll have an opportunity to go on a cruise on the Danube Saturday night. We want your help suggesting some new and different styles to wear to really show the other teachers that are coming from around the world that AISB teachers have class! Here’s what you’ll do!

  • Get 2 copies of a picture of the teacher you’d like to help! Put them both on one big piece of construction paper side by side.

  • On one picture describe the “normal” clothes the teacher usually wears. Write this down on the picture or on paper and glue the paper to the picture.

  • Look through some magazines for some inspiring new ideas! Cut out clothes from magazines (or draw them) and put together a fashion forward new outfit for your teacher that is sure to be a HIT at the party! Glue this new outfit onto the other copy of the picture (sort of like a before and after picture.)

  • Write a description of the new outfit and attach it to the paper.

  • Present your outfit to the class (and teachers)!

THEME: Market/Shopping, CONCEPT: Persuasion/Consumption

LEVEL: MS Adv, HS Level II

  • Set up your own market with a few different puestos. Ideally, get a Spanish-speaking friend or relative to play the part of the vendor. Film the conversation/interaction between the two of you in which you ask to see something, use polite language, and bargain for a better price. Save the video as an .mov file and bring it in on your USB/flash drive.

  • Plan a craft market for the International Fair. Decide on how many booths, or puestos, you want to have, as well as how many vendors of each type of craft. Think about where to hold your market, and create a floor plan showing where you want the different vendors to set up. Include booths for ceramics, wooden crafts, art, and hand-made clothing items. Draw the floor plan on A3 construction paper. Indicate what country each puesto will represent. Finally, create a flier to advertise your market. Include pictures of the items.

THEME: News/The past, CONCEPT: Perspectives/Truth

LEVEL: MS Adv, HS Level II

  • You’ve just gotten your first job! Congratulations! You all are reporters for the new Spanish language newspaper at AISB. You’ll go looking for a story that is of MASSIVE importance to AISB, Budapest, or the world. Write an article telling what happened (in the past), and include a picture with a caption.

  • Next, we’ll make the paper. Each of you will have a specific role to play. You can choose from those listed below.

    • Founders – name the newspaper and develop the motto

    • Entertainment – create a crossword or word search so that our readers can enjoy themselves

    • Comics – Create a comic strip!

    • Publicity – Get ads for our paper, publish it, and distribute it. (The ads don’t cost money, they just have to be sponsored by teachers, students, organizations at AISB.)

    • Editors – collect all the parts of the paper into one document, organize it, and edit it.

THEME: Pirates (Story about Pirates), CONCEPT: Discovery/Exploration

LEVEL: MS Int, HS Level I

  • Presentational: You are the captain of a pirate ship and need more pirates aboard your ship. Write a short, adventure story that will be read to a group of potential pirates. Through the story, try to convince them to join you on your next adventures.

  • Presentational: Choose a location in the Caribbean. You are working as an independent tour guide and want to encourage tourist to travel with you to Cuba. Market the area to them by including maps, hotel, activities in that area, weather, etc.

THEME: Literature, CONCEPT: Timelessness

LEVEL: Depends on the story

  • Presentational: In Spanish, set parts of the novel to music that you create or that already exists. Use a video, podcast, or PowerPoint format. Be sure to explain why you chose a particular song for certain parts of the novel.

  • Create a mix tape! One of the most romantic things you can do is to make someone a mix tape. Create a mix tape (CD) from Don Quixote to Dulcinea. What songs would he include that expresses his love for her? Why?

THEME: Health, CONCEPT: Health/Perspectives

LEVEL: Various, depending on task

  • Find out: In pairs, ask your partner the question, “What happened?” Your partner makes up a health or medical problem using at least one body part and at least one symptom. Based on the information, ask two other appropriate questions. Be as funny or dramatic as you wish.

  • You are at the doctor’s office for your yearly physical examination. The doctor (played by a partner) comes into the exam room, greets you and asks you routine questions about your health. Answer the questions and bring up one or two health concerns. The doctor advises you what to do or not do. After practicing, perform your role-play for the class.

  • Tell your partner about a time when you were sick or injured as a child. Describe the symptoms and what you or your parents, doctor, friend, teacher or other person did, and how long before you were healed.

  • A Swiss doctor (played by a partner) wants to know about the plans for a new hospital that Army contractors will build in the city. S/he asks you how big it will be, how many floors, how many rooms, how many patients, the number of doctors and nurses that will work there, and so on. Answer the questions and also ask for suggestions. S/he comes up with some suggestions – how many beds, ambulances and operating rooms will be needed, and how many staff members and volunteers will be needed.

  • Your friend has become very sick. Call a doctor’s office to make an appointment and describe his/her symptom(s). The receptionist (played by a partner) tells you that the doctor is so busy he cannot see your friend today. Try to work out a solution with the receptionist to get to see a doctor today.

  • Quick Advice:

    • Preparation: Photocopy the set of pictures below and cut them up. Each student takes a different one of the complaint cards. Circulate around the room and say your complaint in (target language) to each of the other students. Each of them will give you an instruction, some advice, a suggestion, or offer some help. See the examples and come up with your own instructions or advice that is appropriate to each situation.

    • Some examples:

      • Some instructions you give may be in the imperative:

        • Take two aspirin four times a day.

        • Go to the doctor for some medicine.

      • Other instructions might be advice:

        • You must to go to the hospital.

        • You ought not to walk on it.

        • You need to go to bed.

      • You may also make suggestions, such as:

        • Let’s go together to the clinic.

        • Let me help you for the first week.

THEME: Various Integrated Topics

LEVEL: Various Higher Levels

  • You are an editor, and the following short story has been submitted to you from an unknown author. It reads very well, maybe a little too well. You suspect plagiarism. Check out your suspicion and write a tactful but firm letter back to the "author" on the likely source.

  • Design and build a model of a French science/art/history museum to proper scale and to budget. Propose the major people whose lives will be highlighted, and outline all the hands-on exhibits; build one of the exhibits. All the exhibits will be judged, in part, by students from younger grade-levels.

  • Investigate the packaging of foods. Why is a tuna fish can the size and shape it is? Why is milk often packaged in tetrahedron-shaped cartons In Europe?

  • Investigate the price of new technologies vs. the price of products five or six years after the innovation. What can we predict will be the price of new versions of today's CD players and computers in 2017?

  • You didn’t believe Mr. Anderson when he said he had invented a time machine. Well, now you’ve paid the price after he sent you back to Aztec times where a few tribe members have accepted you into their group. You have spent a few weeks getting to know them, their customs, tools, jewelry, art, and homes. There is a small window of opportunity for you to come back to the present time, but you have to agree to share your findings with the AISB Archaeology Department. Prepare a presentation with artifacts and explanations of their use.

*Please note – many of these examples have been Prepared by: Tami Canale, EdD

borrowed from colleagues over the years. American International School of Budapest

I owe them my eternal gratitude!

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