Pre-assessing and setting goals with emerging Intermediates

This is the fourth installment in a series of posts about Assessments in the Communicative and Comprehension based classroom. Please note, this is an older post from 2015. This posts present a process to pre-assess emerging Intermediate students and set goals for the year.

Whether or not you live in a state that requires you to show evidence of your students’ growth, assessing your Intermediate students at the beginning of the year to evaluate what they can do with the language and inform your practice is really a good idea!

Why do I pre-assess my French 3 students?

In French 3, we leave the Novice realm and venture into Intermediate territory: speaking in strings of sentences, writing using connected sentences, using multiple tenses, etc. Also, and perhaps most importantly, pre-assessing my students enables individual goal-setting for the year.

If you are not sure whether or not you should do this or even read this post, just click here and enjoy perusing what pertinent information my students and I have access to in order to set our goals for the year. If perusing is not your thing, here is a snapshot:


When do I assess them?

I wait until the second week of class to assess them. I like to spend the first week reconnecting with my students after not seeing them for a whole school year (I teach French 1 but not French 2) and getting them used to hearing French 90% of class time again.

How do I assess them (1/2)?

Because I am addicted to Integrated Performance Assessments (I never get tired of saying why: Authentic, All modes of communication, Cultural, and my favorite: Students learn while being assessed), I use this IPA on the theme of vacation.

Interpretive reading: I can comprehend main ideas and some details in a travel brochure for teenagers

Interpretive listening: I can comprehend main ideas when francophone speakers talk about their vacation (I have confession to make: this resources is not authentic. Sacrilege! I am using a textbook video. It is a very high quality video, with speakers from 3 different francophone countries speaking in their local accent at a very authentic pace, now go ahead and shoot me:))

Interpersonal conversation: students exchange opinions about which vacation package they like the most in the brochure and why.

Presentational writing: they write to their e-pal to suggest a vacation together based on the brochure.

How do I assess them (2/2)?

Our wonderful Ohio Foreign Language Association recommends using rubrics at the level students are at (I.e. end of the year French 2 rubrics in this case). I tried that first and it did not really work for me because I was using the pre-assessment to set-up goals. So I used the end of the year French 3 rubrics.

How long does it take?

With my class of 24 students, it took me 3 days to run the IPA:

Day 1: Interpretive reading

Day 2: Interpretive listening

Day 3: Feed-back on interpretive reading + conversation in groups of 3 + presentational writing (I always cheat: I run the conversations while students are writing). I had to have one group come back after school to run their conversation.

How do I provide feed-back?

Let me say here that this assessment is absolutely not for a grade since it is formative. Some teachers have asked me how to keep students motivated to do their best without a grade. I guess, I ask students to give me their best because this will help them set goals for the year and most of them do their best. I have wonderful students.

After scoring the IPA using the rubrics, I sit down with each students individually (before school, during my lunch, during a study hall, after school… It is quite intense and my husband gets annoyed at me for leaving the house even earlier for 2 weeks in a row). I use this document to share how they did for each skill: interpretive listening, interpretive reading, interpersonal conversation, and presentational writing.

I focus first on what they can already do, hey let’s celebrate! Then, I move on to some suggested goals for the year. I strive to make the goals as SMART as possible. Finally, I ask students to either select one of my goals or write down their own. This becomes their focus goal for the year.

I love sitting down with students individually, it is so worth it! You may wonder if students even care about this whole feed-back process? Well, these two anecdotes tell me some of them do: 1) we talk about how we feel everyday (our daily warm-up). Two or three weeks ago, Ben attempted to use the past tense, he stumbled and self corrected a few times. Some students started chatting. I said “shhh, Ben is working towards his goal for the year!”. Everyone paid attention and once he was done, we all clapped! 2) Every Monday we talk about our week-end. This past Monday, I was modeling with Cody, who spoke in strings of sentences for the first time this year. I praised him out loud for working towards his personal goal and you should have seen the smile on his face.

My pre-assessment method and rubrics may not be perfect, but I am very pleased to see my students embrace their goals. I plan to revisit the goals mid year and again at the end of the year. Pre-assessments can be cumbersome to administer but they are extremely valuable when you don’t know where your students are at at the start of the year. 

Read the last installment in this series on Assessments in the Communicative and Comprehension based classroom: Why I still mostly love with Integrated Performance Assessments (IPA).

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  1. Thank you so much for sharing this! One of my goals for the year is to be more intentional in helping students set their own goals. You’ve given me the resources I need and great examples for why I need to do this!

  2. Thank you so much for sharing! This is really helpful. As the year new starts off one of my goals is to give students a meaning pre-assessment at the beginning of the year, set goals, track goals, and give the same pre-assessment at the end of the year so that they can see their growth. I teach novice low to novice high with the occasional merging intermediate. Do you have any novice rubrics you can share with me?

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