We teach kids to speak real Spanish. For Life

by Erica Fischer on Sep 22, 2014

Practical ways to achieve and show data for students’ reading progress

A couple of weeks ago, Langchatters gathered to discuss writing proficiency. Last week, they were back, this time eager to share creative ways to achieve and evidence student reading proficiency. Participants tweeted about innovative reading assessment methods and forms of feedback for reading proficiency. They also reflected on who might benefit from student reading proficiency data and how that data could best be shared.

Thank you so much to all of the participants who joined us for a weekly dose of #langchat. We extend a special thank you to our moderators, Laura (@SraSpanglish) and Kris (KrisClimer), for leading another productive discussion!

Question 1: What types of formative/summative evaluations or performance assessments do you use to measure reading proficiency?

Langchatters suggested a myriad of creative ways to measure student reading proficiency.

Many instructors recommended having students demonstrate proficiency through art. For example, @MmeFarab said, “Informally, I love to have [students] draw their [understanding]. [This is not] really authentic, but shows what they know [without resorting to their L1].” Other instructors provided examples of artistic evidence of comprehension. @RLavrencic uses art to verify student understanding of poetic language: “I also have had [students] create a comic strip depicting “Le Déjeuner du matin” by Prévert. [Each] image depicts [three] lines of the poem.” @Mr_Fernie also uses a comic book format for stories: “[Divide a] story into sections, put each section in a box, [and ask students to] draw each section of the story like a comic book.”
Some participants highlighted the need to adapt comprehension activities for beginning language learners. @jas347 proposed a modification to the comic book activity: “[My beginning students] listen to me read a story. [Then,] they draw [the content] in storyboard form. [This allows them to focus on] comprehension only. [There results in] less anxiety [for novices] if they [don’t] see all the text.” @ProfeCochran shared another suggestion for novices: “Tomorrow I am trying out having novices label pictures to show feelings of the characters in our story.” As an alternative to drawing, @jas347 noted that instructors could “have students act out what they’ve read at [the] novice level.”

Aside from soliciting artistic output, participants wrote that they like to ask students open-ended questions. @RLavrencic said, “I go old school and like to ask [open-ended] questions where students write a full answer instead of the quick [true or false] style.” @senoritakelly21 highlighted the value of pushing student analyses of characters to assess comprehension: “[Instructors] can highlight part of a text and ask [students] what they can infer about the person.” @senoritakelly21 and others voiced concern about evaluating student understanding on the basis of responses to questions in the target language. She said, “[I’ve] read that you have to ask in [students’ L1] to be [sure that] their answer is not affected by [their] inability to write in [the L2].” Similarly, @srarolfes wrote, “[Most] of my novice level comprehension questions are in [the] L1.” @tmsengel felt that asking questions in novice students’ L1 can also serve to boost their confidence: “[With] new novices I ask questions in English. [It] makes them feel good [that] they can understand a page of Italian in the first days, too.”

No matter what approach you prefer, @KrisClimer underscored the main goal of any reading comprehension activity: “Key to me is seeing what [students are] able to understand. [Pictures], [comprehension questions with] choices, actions [i.e. acting out a story], retelling, [and] continuing [a story are] all good!

Question 2: What measurements or forms of feedback can we use to ‘quantify’ or ‘qualify’ reading proficiency?

Overall, participants agreed that reading proficiency can be qualified on a continuum: “close, closer, really close, on target! :-)” (@tiesamgraf). @jas347 reiterated this point, describing increased proficiency as a move towards precision with less reliance of comprehension aids: “[The] higher the proficiency level, the more accurate summarization of main and [subordinate] ideas and the fewer [number] of visuals needed.” Participants urged instructors to look for a progression of complexity. @jas347 wrote, “[Look] at the types of texts [students] are reading. Can they comprehend lists/sentences/[paragraphs]? Each shows a progression.” In order to assess the depth of student understanding, @ProfeCochran asks “varied levels of [questions:] main idea, a few obvious details, then more [in-depth questions to see] if [students] are exceeding [standards].” @KrisClimer added his view on increased quality in student reading proficiency: “‘[Quality]’ to me is the ability to extend and do more based on reading… [such as] inferences [and] applications.”

Participants discussed possible quantifiable aspects of reading proficiency, as well. @KrisClimer wrote that quantifiable aspects included “speed, accuracy, [and the] number of details [provided],” adding, “[These] are the same for my 8 [year] old in [the] L1.” @jas347 encouraged examining the frequency and extent of student comprehension: “[How] much do they understand, how often do they understand it, and what aids did they need to understand.” Finally, @tiesamgraf directed instructors to ACTFL Can-Do statements (, which “have some specific language about reading proficiency” that he has found helpful.

Question 3: Who else besides teachers can benefit from reading proficiency data, and how can we share it with them?

So, once instructors have collected student reading proficiency data, should they share it with anyone? Langchatters reflected on who might benefit from student data and weighed in on how this data could best be shared.

  • Students
    Participants overwhelmingly agreed that reading proficiency data should be shared with students themselves, first and foremost. @jas347 wrote, “STUDENTS! [They] should own their proficiency and know what they need to do in order to progress.” @SenoritaClark whole-heartedly supported student ownership, adding, “I love the idea of [students] making, using and owning their OWN data.” @KrisClimer also highlighted the need to make students aware of their progress: “First the [students] themselves need to hear/see how they are progressing!” and @MmeFarab echoed this point, “Seeing progress ([especially] in [the] L2) is so important!” Finally, @SenorG commented on a potential additional benefit of sharing data with students: “[Students] tracking their own data can lead to buy-in, motivation.”

  • Parents:
    Langchatters felt that parents could benefit from student reading data if it was presented to them in a comprehensible format. @sentoritakelly21 wrote, “[Parents] can benefit if [information] is shared in [a] comprehensible way for them.” @SraB_C commented on the need to encourage parents and students to focus on progression: “I think parents [and] students need to look at progression of a skill, rather than just looking at grades.” @tiesamgraf suggested that instructors could bring up proficiency at Open House: “[Open House] is the perfect opportunity to educate parents about proficiency – I hand out a proficiency rubric with the syllabus.”

  • Administrators… and beyond:
    Some Langchatters also recommended sharing reading data with administrators and other members of the community. One instructor supported discussing progress, not just graded exercises, with administrators: “I think administrators need to know a little bit of our lingo too–breaking away from grammar quizzes can confuse some.” @Mr_Fernie saw the potential benefit of sharing reading data with members of the community at large: “Positive reading proficiency data would make a great advocacy tool [to] show the community what the [students] can do in [foreign language] classes.” Finally, @ProfeCochran proposed a large potential audience, extending beyond the school administration: “parents, administrators (for bragging :)), registrar/counselors, employers, higher [education institutions]?”


Participants agreed that there are multiple ways to assess student reading proficiency, which “can even be fun and creative” (@SenoritaClark). They emphasized the value of focusing on proficiency as a continuum, with students progressing towards a more nuanced understanding of texts with less reliance on supporting materials. Langchatters also acknowledged the value of sharing student reading proficiency data with students (above all), as well as parents, administrators, and members of the community at large.

Thank You!

Thank you again to all of the participants who made time for #langchat last Thursday and to Laura (@SraSpanglish) and Kris (@KrisClimer) for moderating an action-packed hour! We will see you again on September 25. In the meantime, “[remember] to follow your #langchat colleagues and continue to share great ideas!” (@KrisClimer).

Due to space limitations, many tweets had to be omitted from this summary. To view the entire conversation, you can access the full transcript on our tweet archive. If you have a topic you’re eager to discuss, send in your ideas for future #langchats so that our weekly discussions can become as relevant and inclusive as possible!

P.S. Have you ordered your #langchat shirt?! Don’t forget to post a selfie (#langchat or #langchatT) as soon as it arrives!

P.P.S. Help #langchat present at #actfl2014 by sharing what #langchat means to you:

Erica Fischer
Erica is the founder and CEO of Calico Spanish. Her passion for teaching her own children to speak Spanish led her to create Calico Spanish. Our mission is to give all children the opportunity to learn to speak real Spanish for life.

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