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Using the IPA to Guide Elementary Spanish Instruction

 In the August 2011 issue of The Language Educator, published by ACTFL, there is an informative article entitled A Guide to IPA Implementation in FLES Programs. Written by Kristin Davin, Francis J. Troyan, Richard Donato, and Ashley Hellman, the article gives an overview of how a fourth and fifth grade elementary Spanish class decided to use the IPA to assess its students and discusses the results of the implementation of the IPA.

The integrated performance assessment (IPA) is a standards-based performance assessment that measures language students’ performance in the three modes of communication—interpretive, interpersonal, and presentational. Students complete tasks in each of the three modes and receive feedback from the teacher that facilitates their performance as they advance through the tasks. 

One of the more interesting parts of the article is when the authors talk about the idea of “backward design.” With backward design, a teacher identifies desired outcomes, then determines acceptable evidence for those outcomes, then plans learning experiences and instruction based on the evidence and outcomes. This makes a lot of sense to me. It is how most things are designed whether they are a civic project or a business. It also reminds me of the lessons in the Sonrisas curricula. Essentially, each lesson is executed using a backward design: each lesson starts with a communication objective—which is the desired outcome, contains performance guidelines—which are the evidence for the communication objectives, and then is implemented with the lesson procedure—which is the instruction. In the article, the authors state how the teacher began to “integrate the teaching, learning, and assessment in concrete ways” through the use of backward design and the guidance of the IPA.

At Sonrisas, as we progress through the development of our Level III curriculum, we are looking closely at the model of the Integrated Performance Assessment as a means to guide our instruction. Anyone interested in learning more about the IPA or reading the article mentioned here can go to the ACTFL website and click on the publications link.

Sonrisas Spanish School creates, publishes, and sells preschool and elementary Spanish curriculum and Spanish music for children. The Sonrisas Spanish School Curriculum can be used to teach Spanish to children at the preschool and elementary level, as well as home school Spanish. The Sonrisas Curriculum consists of fun, effective, standards-based lessons for the most effective language-learning experience for kids—one based on human-to-human interaction.

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