May 11, 2016

How to Create and Give IPAs: Part 2: The Interpretive Task

The first, and arguably most important aspect, of the IPA is the interpretive task. It's not that the interpretive is the most difficult or worth more points, but that the other two tasks should be based upon the authentic resource used for the interpretive. Unfortunately, it took me about 5 years to get this part right.

In the beginning, when I didn't know any better, I would create my own interpretive tasks. I used to literally create a task and record it or, if I was feeling extra authentic, have one of my native speaker friends record it for me. My current WL district colleagues reading this are probably gasping in shock and disgust after reading this paragraph, but it's true. My early interpretive tasks were were created by me, a non-native speaker for non-native speaker, which violates one of the most important proficiency rules:

So, where do you find these authentic resources?  They're all over the internet, but they can be difficult to find. I've spent literals days of my life searching for the perfect video clip or infographic for my interpretive tasks, but in the last year or so, I've gotten much more efficient.  My favorite places to find authentic resources are:
  • Pinterest- I'm a pinterest fanatic and you now how access to all of my professional and random personal boards. As you can see, I create separate boards for all of my units and save resources to them as I come across them. Click the link above to check them out. Feel free to follow me!
  • Twitter- I'm so mad at myself for not getting into Twitter earlier because it's amazing professional development. Try searching #authres (authentic resource) and even your topic. Ex. #pasatiempos
  • Youtube- I love pairing a short video clip, especially commercials, with an infographic to make a well-rounded interpretive assessment. Try searching in Spanish for topics you like. Ex. madrid turismo. 
  • Google Images- It sounds overly simplisitc, but it works! Try searching infografica and the Spanish like familia. You'll be surprised by how much you'll find with the right search terms.

Once you've located one or two related authentic resources, it's time to get started creating your interpretive task.  I usually go through the following steps:
1. Look over your authentic resources and try to decide what they have in common.  As an example, let's look at two resources I use for a Spanish I family unit.  After looking around on YouTube, I found a really cool Chilean home store commercial that talked about different types of families, which tied in perfectly with the infographic I found about different types of modern Mexican families. See both below.

2. Create a scenario. Decide what your scenario is going to be for your interpretive, interpersonal, and presentational task. Here's an example. Doing so will really help to tie your IPA together into a hypothetical task and ties in I-Can Statements.  The interpretive task is the "you'll need to learn more about families in Latin America." As you saw above, students will watch a video and look at an infographic.

3. Using the authentic resources, decide what you want your students to do. This amazing resource from Ohio is my constant go-to because it gives such diverse ideas of the kinds of comprehension tasks.  Below are a few of the activities my students completed with the authentic images.

So, there you have my steps to creating a successful interpretive assessment. One aspect I'd really like to point out is that the focus on the interpretive assessment is for students to be able to decipher texts they've never seen. When I first moved in this direction, my students questioned why they were being assessed on information they'd never been taught. It's important to lay out to students that in real life using a language, they will need to use what they already know to correctly interpret new information. They'll need to use context clues, visual cues, etc. to understand new situations. That being said, it's really important to expose kids to lots of authentic texts and formative interpretive tasks on a day-to-day basis so they are used to the challenge.

Finally, to check out my complete thematic IPAs, please click here! I've worked really hard to make them useable for both experienced IPA teachers and those new to the concept. They come with I-can statements, performance goals, preparation materials, student prompts, rubrics, answer keys, and even student samples.

Check back tomorrow for the Part 3: How to Create and Give IPAs: Preparing the Interpersonal Task, which tends to be the most challenging both for students and teachers. I'll be giving lots of tips and tricks to make them efficient and painless and, most importantly, to get students having awesome spontaneous conversations!


  1. Really great work. Hats off to you for finding, developing, and sharing these resources. Do you have anything similar for Spanish 2 & 3 (or know where they can be found)?

    Profe A

    1. ¡Hola! Thank you so much for your comment! I'm so glad that you find them helpful! I actually only teach grades 6, 7, & 8, so I don't but it's quite possible that I'll be creating some IPAs for level 2 in the future. In the meantime, I recommend reading through this blog series (there's actually 6 parts) to create an IPA that fits your needs.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.