What should we be expecting of our students? ACTFL OPI

Let me preface this post by saying that I am referring to ALL the students.  We all know the future Spanish teachers and natural talents who will blow away all of the proficiency guidelines after only 4 years of Spanish.  I am talking about your regular group, your average Joes… and even your special Joes… What can we expect? 

Attending the workshop OPI Adrenaline with now ACTFL TOY Linda Egnatz was a real eye opener for me!  Here is the link to the Wiki of the workshop: http://opi-adrenaline2012.wikispaces.com/Adrenaline+%E2%80%93+Adrenalina+%E2%80%93+Adrenalin+–+Adr%C3%A9naline  For instance, did you know that many universities now require a study abroad for language majors because without a semester abroad, most students cannot reach the ACTFL goal of Advanced Low.  Yes, after 4 years of high school and then 4 years of college, if a student doesn’t study abroad, he or she has a hard time reaching advanced low…. Have you been expecting perfect preterite/imperfect after Spanish two?  I was!  Have you been disappointed when your seniors aren’t getting the ins and outs of imperfect subjunctive?  I was!!  I had such lofty goals that there was no way my Joes were ever going to be able to compete… and so I had some pretty high attrition rates between level 2 and 3. 

I have a lot more realistic goals now.  Linda Egnatz has been a powerful player in the new legislation in IL called the “Seal of Biliteracy.”  Students who score at an i3 on the AAPPL exam (all parts)  or a 3+ on the AP (all parts) are eligible to receive this seal as an endorsement that they are biliterate.  Imagine what having this seal can do for our students seeking internships in fields where their Spanish skills will be advantageous (and where aren’t they??).  I want to see how many kids can achieve it!!

An i3 or 3 is an Intermediate Mid.  Look back at your ACTFL proficiency standards.  If we can get them CONCRETE on the things that constitute intermediate mid (the Joes, I mean), this language can really serve them in the future.  Trust me, the stars are going to remember everything.  You may have some intermediate highs and even some advanced lows but the Joes are who I’m after.  How many of them can I pull up to that 3 without doing a disservice to my stars….

Knowing what to expect, realistically, has helped me focus better on the skills I want to see in my students when they graduate.  Sustaining longer and longer discussions on familiar topics will stretch them out to that strong intermediate level… the more who make it there, the better!! 

Don’t miss this page of Linda’s OPI presentation: http://opi-adrenaline2012.wikispaces.com/My+OPI+Top+Ten  Her top ten have become my top 10 as well! 


  1. I went to an OPI 6 hour workshop. It was more about the actual OPI test to assess language proficiency for the workplace. It was helpful to see the different proficiency levels and really understand them, but there was no real discussion about the classroom implications – what I was really hoping for!

    This post really helps me! I love this post and your previous one in which you say, you are “free from the chains of Realidades”! (My dream!) In a week, I start teaching AP Spanish, so this is a helpful reminder. Thanks for being a big part of my PLN and sharing so many of your thoughts and knowledge! 🙂

  2. I always feel pulled in different directions. As someone who teaches introductory foreign language to college students I have trouble balancing realistic expectations re: language acquisition with the expectation of higher level thinking that comes in college and that students can’t do in the TL.

    • I think you’re probably in good company there! The expectation between 200 and 300 level college courses jumps exponentially! It is hard to know exactly what to do during the hours we DO have them in class! Lots of TL!

  3. Good articulation of the idea “Sustaining longer and longer discussions on familiar topics will stretch them out to that strong intermediate level”. I’m in the OPI certification process right now, and I definitely plan to change a lot of my curriculum next year to align with that idea.

    I believe that the Seal of Biliteracy expectation has always been I5 (Intermediate-High) in all categories. Correct? Was it different in your district towards the beginning, perhaps?

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