ACTFL’s modes of communication in action

2015-02-06 13.52.58

ACTFL is helpful for framing lots of ideas for language teachers. However, they never really say how a teacher should conduct class except to suggest that immersion is a key factor for moving students through various stages of proficiency levels. Here are some examples of student work that might help understand some of ACTFL’s modes of communication. This activity is a timed listening and drawing class activity that ends by students retelling the story in written from.

  • Interpersonal (speaking+ listening+reading)
  • Interpretive (reading, listening, viewing)
  • Presentational (writing, speaking, visually representing)

In this lesson, I used a script that I adapted from MartinaBex.com in order to engage students in the interpersonal mode of communication.  Since the textbook theme is sports I use various sport props, gestures for certain actions and point to unknown words on the board (like entrenador).  There is a subtle negotiation of meaning because I am almost acting out the story as I tell it. I am tracking comprehension by teaching to the eyes of my students but I am not giving them the opportunity to stop the story.  I consider this a mixture of Interpersonal and Interpretive modes of communication as defined by ACTFL.

I add language and details relevant to my audience based on prior knowledge, the level of class, and specific sport teams where we live.  Because of the one-way communication, I often hear students say. “Is this a test?” Students are not permitted to stop and ask questions for this one.  The one-way communication or dictation lasts 1-3 minutes for each part and then I ring the bell indicating the time to start drawing for each box (dictate, ring, and draw, dictate, ring, and draw…).

Click here to see the script used for creating Interpersonal interaction.

Sports script

The drawing of what they hear and understand is very much a formative assessment that allows for some student imagination and creativity. In the next part of the lesson I ask students to find a partner and retell the story in written form.  I only ask that they write a minimum of 4 sentences. Some do more but the expectation is that they can retell a lot from this story. I am looking for proficiency before accuracy with this activity. Accuracy will occurr slowly overtime and so as long as students are provided large amounts of Comprehensible Input.

We can see that the students derive meaning from this listening comprehension activity.  After listening and drawing, I love that they get the chance to work with peers in this part of the lesson.  I walk around and often hear students teaching other students grammar pop-up lessons and discussing similar and different details in their story.

2015-02-06 16.16.49

Students worked with peers to “presentationally write” 24 sentences based on the story.

This is one way that I incorporate a textbook vocabulary list while maintaining a CI-based curriculum.  You can see from the script that I am trying to use words from the “Super Seven.” At the same time, some past grammar and vocabulary themes are used.  In the aural teacher presentation of the story new structures like “más que” and “mejor que” were emphasized but have not yet been internalized enough to appear in their output.  This output is guiding my instruction.  If I want students to write something like “María corre más rápido que todos los chicos,”  we have more hours of providing relevant input.

Following further discussions about sports, sporting events, and personalized mini situations, students will have opportunities to read in Spanish about popular sports in the U.S. and Spanish speaking countries.

About This Author

2 Comments

You can post comments in this post.


  • Wow, this is great. I’ve been striving to more deliberately align my lessons to ACTFL standards. I am going to do this activity this week! Thanks!

    Lauren Tauchman 3 years ago Reply


    • Glad it was helpful…I need to see examples to understand how things work and should be applied.

      Michael Coxon 3 years ago Reply


Post A Reply