Novice level ACTFL Proficiency Performance Indicators

As I continue to interact with the ACTFL Proficiency Benchmarks, the clarity of the can-do statements keeps popping up.  Head over to musicuentos for a nice overview of the Benchmarks in general.

In my Latin courses, students seem to fly through Novice Mid and quickly emerge into Novice High.  Based on what I am seeing from my Latin 1 students this year, I changed their goal for 2nd semester from Novice Mid to Novice High.  Most students are showing emergence into Novice High at least at times.  The new benchmarks and performance indicators validate my decision.

My focus is the interpretive mode as I wholeheartedly subscribe to the notion that learners understand before they produce.  This is clear in my own children as they progress through English.

The Novice Mid performance indicator reads:

I can identify some basic facts from
memorized words and phrases when
they are supported by gestures or visuals
in informational texts.

The indicator separates informational, fictional and conversation style texts.  Notice, the Novice Mid learner might not catch the main idea.  The Novice Mid learner needs a lot of support.  The super familiar is extremely important for the Novice Mid learner.

The Novice High performance indicator reads:

I can identify the topic and some
isolated facts from simple sentences in
informational texts.

Notice, the focus on support is removed from the Novice High performance indicator.  Also, a Novice High learner is able to identify a topic although maybe not a main idea kind of statement about the topic.  From my understanding, Novice High is where a learner starts to branch from the super familiar language for understanding.  A Novice High learner is able to reach back to language that is not the focus of recent instruction to construct meaning in texts.

The clarity in these statements helps me understand what needs to happen before a learner will start to emerge into the intermediate level.  Novice high learners will start to branch from the familiar, although within simple context.  Once again, I find myself thinking that I need to spend more time reflecting with students at this level.  My assumption has been that students also fly through the Novice High level and stall out as they emerge into the Intermediate level.  But, perhaps what I see as the stall out is my own recognition that students need more time with the simple while they attempt to branch out from the familiar.

What do you think?  Does this mean more simplicity at the end of level 1 and perhaps into a large portion of level 2?  When should we expect students to be able to understand language that connects the simple and expands from the familiar?  How might this idea fit in with things such as Free Volunteer Reading when students have a choice to read what they want?  How can we help guide them to understand their own understanding and how to make reading choices that will support their progression?

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