Proficiency Primer


How do we "define" proficiency?
Merriam-Webster defines proficiency as "advancement in knowledge or skill" which is a definition that works perfectly for the purposes of this wiki. All students have some level of knowledge or skill in the language that they are learning, and over the course of time, we expect that the level will increase and they will reach high levels of "proficiency".

Levels of proficiency
Throughout the wiki, I will reference two specific documents which have impacted my development as a teacher and how I work with students. The first are ACTFL Writing Proficiency Guidelines which define language expectations at various levels, and the second are ACTFL K-12 Performance Guidelines which tell how well learners are able to do certain things are various levels.

There are four primary proficiency levels as defined by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages, Novice, Intermediate, Advanced, Superior. With the exception of "Superior", each level is divided into three sublevels. As an elementary language teacher, my students work almost exclusively within the Novice level but this is also true for any level 1 or even level 2 middle or high school teacher who works with students who have not had any previous language exposure. So while my own teaching environment is set in grades K through 5, the strategies and resources in the wiki should be of value to any K-12 language teacher.

Language Characteristics by Levels
The following is a brief list of characteristics of learner language production at various levels. These characteristics will be very important when creating presentational writing prompts based on works of art.
  • Novice Low - identify with lists, produce isolated words, repeat memorized items
  • Novice Mid - identify with phrases, combine words, express ideas with simple phrases and expressions
  • Novice High - describe with phrases, identify with short sentences in present time frame
  • Intermediate Low - describe with sentences, use strings of sentences, express own thoughts in single time frame
  • Intermediate Mid - describe with strings of sentences, combine time frames, create with language
  • Intermediate High - write paragraph-length texts, combine of time frames, use limited idiomatic expressions
  • Advanced Low - describe and narrate in paragraph and longer-length texts, combine time frames

Links and Resources