Part 3: The 6 dos and don’ts of a proficiency-based grade book

By Cristin Bleess
Instructional Strategist

In the first two installments of our proficiency-based grading series, we discussed how I came to use a proficiency-based grading system and ideas on how to set up a proficiency-based grade book. Today, I want to share some thoughts on what types of grades we want to include (or not include). Remember, our goal with transforming our grade book is to have our grades truly represent what our students know and can do in the target language.

Here are the 6 dos and don’ts of a proficiency-based grade book:

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Part 2: The nuts & bolts of proficiency-based grading

By Cristin Bleess
Instructional Strategist

Grades should be effective communication vehicles, and the methods used to determine them need to provide optimum opportunities for student success and to encourage learning.—Ken O’Connor, How to Grade for Learning 

Over the course of a few years, my colleagues and I came up with a proficiency-based grading system that we felt truly reflected how our students were able to use the target language. I want to share a few topics you need to consider when making the shift to a more proficiency-based grade book. You may not be at a place to implement all of these ideas right now (if you are, that’s awesome!) and that’s OK; you can start by changing one or two things now as you are transitioning. 

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4 steps for refreshing your teaching & starting strong in 2020

By Elena Spathis

Teaching often seems like running a marathon—we train and prepare, we push ourselves, and we keep going no matter what the circumstances. Reaching the end-of-year “finish line” to winter break gives us the opportunity to pause, reflect, and recharge.

I take this time to evaluate my methods and my students’ engagement. Which activities did my students seem to enjoy? Which activities fostered the most growth in their speaking, writing, reading, or listening comprehension? I also take some time to organize myself, and most importantly, to decompress—we’ve earned it!

The start of the new year brings a sense of rebirth and renewal. It’s an ideal time to seek new inspiration and to set new goals. Read on to learn about my 4 steps to start your new year off strong.

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Part 1: Getting started with proficiency-based grading

By Cristin Bleess
Instructional Strategist

I have always focused on getting my students to use the language in the classes I have taught, even before anyone was talking about the “path to proficiency”. But I never really thought much about my grade book and if it reflected what was important in my classroom: how the students use the language. I now realize that for more than half of my teaching career my grade book was not focused on what I was saying important. It was focused on tests, projects, quizzes, homework, and participation, not communication. 

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Holiday activities for your world language classroom

By Diego Ojeda

Christmas and the end of the year are two important events for most of the Western world, but of course there are differences in how they are celebrated in different countries and cultures. I am originally from Colombia and I came to the United States 20 years ago and I still remember my first Christmas in this country as if it were last year.

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ACTFL 2019 Conference Hacks


Attending a large conference can be overwhelming. So many sessions! So many exhibitors! So many new people to meet! To help you out, we collected some amazing tips from our instructional strategists. Deborah Espitia, Cristin Bleess, Jay Ketner, Jen Carson, Helen Small, and Michelle Olah know how to get the most out of a large event like ACTFL. Below, their best suggestions for ACTFL 2019: 

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Why should I attend a language conference?

For language teachers—or really for teachers of any subject—it may often feel like you are tucked away in a silo, toiling away alone day after day. Attending a language conference can remind you why you chose this profession in the first place and connect you with hundreds (or in the case of ACTFL, thousands) of like-minded educators.  You will walk away with not only professional growth, but also with lifelong friends. 

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Day of the dead; day of the living

By Diego Ojeda

Celebrations such as the Day of the Dead allow us, Spanish teachers, to reflect on the purpose of our classes. Do we teach Spanish so that our students learn to decode the language? Or is it also our responsibility to teach about culture? A language is not only its syntax, but also its semantics, and it is semantics combined with cultural expressions that allows us to find the ultimate meaning of each interaction.

The Day of the Dead is one of those celebrations that can cause problems for more than one Spanish teacher. In Western European culture, death is a dreary, sad and sometimes even forbidden topic.

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See you at FFLA 2019

Find Wayside at booths 21-22

We can’t wait to see you at the annual FFLA conference this week and show off our latest language programs like EntreCulturas for Spanish, EntreCulturesfor French, and the new Triángulo APreciado. And we want to hear what you need to support your instruction and your students this year.

Don’t forget to enter the conference raffle to win Wayside’s delicious snack box, a tote bag, and free classroom readers!

Mark your calendar for sessions with FFLA past-president Michelle Olah: 

  • 8:15 a.m. Friday: Brain-Friendly Lesson Design 
  • 8:30 a.m. Saturday: From Authentic Resources to Authentic Assessments

See you in Orlando! 🌴

Michelle Olah, Debbie Simoes, and Eduardo
 Wayside Publishing’s Florida Team

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