CATALINA FOOTHILLS SCHOOL DISTRICT

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Language Proficiency in the Chinese Immersion Classroom

Fidelity Assurances

CFSD's Chinese Immersion Program

PreK-12 Proficiency Target Overview

What is a Can-Do Progress Report?

Sample Schedules

Will my child become fully proficient in the second language? How long will that take?

After only 2 or 3 years in an immersion program, students demonstrate confidence and communicative competence when using the immersion language with familiar topics, and their listening and reading skills are comparable to those of native speakers of the same age. While these skills remain native-like, students’ speaking and writing skills lag behind those of native speakers. Research finds that immersion students’ second language lacks grammatical accuracy and does not display the variety and complexity produced by native speakers of the language. Achieving high levels of oral and written proficiency in a second language is a long-term process.

A long-term commitment is essential, and parents need to understand that acquiring native-like proficiency in every skill area is unlikely. Still, immersion students will have a strong second language base that they can build upon as they continue to push toward advanced levels of proficiency in the immersion language. During their high school experience, students from immersion programs will also find themselves well positioned to continue to improve their proficiency in the immersion language and/or to develop proficiency in another language.

Language learning is influenced by many factors, including students’ personality and motivation, teacher expectations, parental support, program leadership, and support at both the school and district level. Student success requires the active involvement of all of these stakeholders.

Is my child expected to speak the immersion language all the time when he’s in the immersion classroom?

Children learn their first language in a predictable pattern: silence, babbling, one word, two words, memorized phrases, sentences, and so on. A similar pattern of linguistic development occurs in the immersion setting as students acquire the target language. As time goes by, students advance through the proficiency levels moving from Novice Low to Novice Mid to Novice High and so on.

During the first 15 months of learning in the immersion program, teachers expect that students will be developing according to this pattern of language production; they understand that students will speak English and that they will add new words and phrases to their repertoires as they progress.

I’ve heard my child’s teacher talk about the “ACTFL Guidelines.” What are they?

The ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines were developed by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages in 1986 and revised in 2012. The Proficiency Guidelines can be used in academic settings to assess an individual’s proficiency in a foreign language. The Proficiency Guidelines identify five major levels of proficiency: Novice, Intermediate, Advanced, Superior, and Distinguished. The first three major levels are also divided into Low, Medium, and High sublevels. The Guidelines describe the continuum of proficiency from a level of little to no functional ability to that of a highly articulate, well-educated language user.

Learn More about the ACTFL Proficiency Levels.

Teachers in CFSD use the ACTFL Guidelines to develop CFSD’s “can-do” statements for each grade level in the immersion program. These statements guide teachers as they monitor and assess each student’s unique progress toward proficiency in reading, writing, speaking, and listening. The “can-do” statements are framed using positive language; they focus on what students can actually do with the immersion language rather than what they cannot do. Immersion teachers use this tool to monitor students’ performance throughout the year and to set goals for future linguistic growth. Parents will learn more about the “can-do” descriptors during parent-teacher conferences.

How are the proficiency targets for CFSD’s immersion programs determined?

End-of-year proficiency targets were determined for speaking, listening, reading, and writing based on reasonable expectations for language acquisition given the time students spend in the immersion environment. CFSD collaborated with renowned experts in the fields of language acquisition and immersion education to set targets that are both rigorous and attainable. It is important to note that different learners develop language proficiency at different rates as a result of a variety of factors. Parents and others involved with immersion programs must understand that there will be students who fall below and students who exceed the targets.

K-5 Chinese Immersion Proficiency Targets

Grade Level

Speaking

Listening

Reading

Writing

Kindergarten

Novice Mid

Novice Mid

Novice Low

Novice Low

Grade 1

Novice Mid

Novice High

Novice Low

Novice Low

Grade 2

Novice High

Intermediate Low

Novice Mid

Novice Mid

Grade 3

Intermediate Low

Intermediate Mid

Novice Mid

Novice Mid

Grade 4

Intermediate Low

Intermediate Mid

Novice High

Novice High

Grade 5

Intermediate Mid

Intermediate High

Intermediate Low

Intermediate Low

Why are the district’s targets different for Chinese and Spanish?

Different languages are categorized by their degree of difficulty for native English-speakers. Aspects including the nature of the language’s writing system, grammar, and tonality are some of the factors that contribute to the perceived difficulty in learning a particular language.

The Defense Language Institute classifies languages into four levels of difficulty. Category 1 languages (such as Spanish, French, and Italian) take less time to acquire while Category 4 languages (such as Mandarin Chinese, Arabic, Korean, and Japanese) take more time. Therefore, given the same amount of time in an immersion setting, students in Spanish immersion programs typically reach somewhat higher levels of proficiency as compared to their peers in Chinese immersion programs.

The most critical factor in developing higher levels of proficiency in a second language is time. Students must use the immersion language to engage with their peers and teacher for sustained periods of time in order to attain the highest levels of proficiency.


Information adapted from the following sources:

American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages. ACTFL proficiency guidelines 2012. Retrieved from: http://www.actfl.org/publications/guidelines-and-manuals/actfl-proficiency-guidelines-2012

Association of the United States Army. DLI’s language guidelines. Retrieved from: http://www.ausa.org/publications/ausanews/specialreports/2010/8/Pages/DLI’slanguageguidelines.aspx

Brondum, J. Stenson, N. (1998). Types of immersion education: An Introduction. Retrieved from: http://www.carla.umn.edu/immersion/acie/vol1/Feb1998_ImmersTypes.html

Fortune, T. W., Tedick, D. J. (2003). What parents want to know about foreign language immersion programs. Retrieved from: http://carla.umn.edu/immersion/FAQs.html

Lexington School District One. Immersion FAQs. Retrieved from: http://lexoneworldlanguages.weebly.com/immersion-faqs.html

Met, M. (1993). Foreign language immersion programs. Retrieved from: http://www.ericdigests.org/1994/immersion.htm

Portland Public Schools (2015). Dual language. Retrieved from: http://www.pps.k12.or.us/departments/immersion/10080.htm

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