May 10, 2016

How IPAs (Integrated Performance Assessements) Transformed My Language Classroom: Part 1


When I first started out teaching and for several years after, like most veteran teachers, my tests were based purely on vocabulary, grammar, and random textbook cultural knowledge. I spent a lot frustrated hours grading and using up a ton of purple ink marking kids down for misspelled conjugations and nit-picky grammatical details that don't really matter in the long run.

Subsequently, I spent a lot of time feeling guilty for submitting my early students to this type of "assessment" method.  I try to remind myself that I was only using the practices that I experienced in high school and college and observed in my student teaching. I didn't know any better.  I'd never seen or experienced perfomance-based assessment. The only way I knew how to test my kids was to mark wrong what they didn't know and neither my students nor I learned much from these tests except that 1) I had failed to teach them well and 2) they hadn't learned the material.

When I was first exposed to IPAs and performance-based assessment mentods in the beginning of my 4th year of teaching, I was understandably critical. I was being told I was required to give IPAs, but given no training or professional development in what they were, how to make them, or how to give them. This was in 2008 before the popularity of blogs, Pinterest, Twitter, or Teachers Pay Teachers. To my knowledge, even ACTFL wasn't yet publishing much about IPAs.  All of my district information about these mysterious assessments was delivered via email and I was the most experienced of two language teachers at my school, which obviously isn't saying much. Let's just say year 4 was rough in the curriculum department and that the learning curve was steep.

I had to relearn, mostly on my own, how to be a Spanish teacher and the transition was painful and yet incredibly rewarding. I quickly realized that the units I was required to teach didn't match up with anything in the textbook, rendering them useless.  Once I started creating and giving my own scratch-made IPAs, I found that I also had to throw out a lot of my previous instructional practices because they didn't get my students to the necessary proficiency goals.  It was a mess, but it was gloriously exhilarating.

When I look back now at my early IPAs, I cringe a little because I broke a lot of what I would now call "proficiency rules." However, I've been refining and improving my tricks to making an effective IPA for almost a decade (how can it have been that long!?) and I'd really like to share some of them with my fellow language teachers so you don't have to go through as much trial and error as I did! This is just the first of a series posts dedicated specifically to integrated performance assessments.

Click here for the next blog post, Part 2: How to Create and Give IPAS: The Interpretive Task.  I'll be discussing how to create an IPA, actually give them to your students (this is more complicated than one might think), tips and tricks, things to avoid and more. I'd also love it if you'd follow me on social media, subscribe to my blog using form on the right sidebar, and comment below so we can have a collaborative conversation about integrated performance assessments.

Finally, please check out my Spanish I IPAs here! I've worked really hard to make them useable for new-to-IPA teachers and they come with I-can statements, goals, preparation materials, student prompts, rubrics, answer keys, and even student samples.




10 comments:

  1. Thanks for outlining the process for me. My school is late in the game and we are just starting to change our curriculum to teach for proficiency. Your blog is really helping me to visualize the steps involved in preparing the IPAs

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    2. Dana, I can't tell you happy I am that my blog posts were helpful to you! IPAs and going the proficiency route can be daunting at first and I write these posts with the intent of making the process seem more approachable. I'd love to have you follow me on social media (click the flags at the header of my blog) so we can walk the proficiency path together.

      For me, it really helped to see completed examples of IPAs. If you teach Spanish 1, maybe some of these would apply to your classroom: https://goo.gl/Z5Zwzo

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  2. Thank you so much for your blog! We are going to give our first Ipa's this year...in 2 weeks! Do you have any examples of the introduction unit? Thank you!

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    1. Hi there! I'm actually working on the intro unit IPA this week. I wasn't happy with the one I did last year, which is why I didn't post that one on my TPT page like the rest of them. I do have a suggestion though- I'm finding good interpretive authentic resources by using introductions from the La Voz! I will post the link here to you when I'm done with it, ok?

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    2. Also, that's awesome that you're moving to IPAs this year! I know you're going to love what it does for your students' ability to speak. Please let me know how I can further support you! Things I could blog about to help beginning IPA teachers?

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  3. Thank you for this post! I am in a similar situation this year to what you mentioned (just starting using IPAs in a new district), and I'm excited to look at some of your other resources.

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    1. Thank you so much for your feedback; I'm so glad you found it helpful in getting started and diving into IPAs. If I can help at all, please let me know. As you've probably noticed, I have several Spanish I (novice low-novice mid/high) IPAs available on my website if you want to see samples or just use ones that are tested while you get started. Have a great year!!!

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  4. Hi, I am having a hard time looking for interpretive reading sources for lower levels - basically like a Spanish 2 level. Any ideas?
    Thanks!

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    1. It is definitely not easy. I'll give you that. I actually blogged about finding authentic resources. I hope this helps! What is your theme/topic? http://www.secondaryspanishspace.com/2017/03/how-find-authentic-resources-on-social.html

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