Inside: The Proficiency Puzzle in Spanish class. Explaining World Language Proficiency levels to students and teachers with the proficiency puzzle from Mis Clases Locas.
Why the Proficiency Puzzle?
In my 1st week of Spanish class plans blog post in 2015, I mentioned that I wanted to do a station involving students beginning to distinguish between proficiency levels. This came from the background that I was starting a new school. At the time, I did not know the students’ knowledge of the different levels of proficiency.
The Proficiency Puzzle was created as a way for me to introduce students to the basics of the World Language proficiency levels. This station activity was the solution for teaching language proficiency to novice Spanish 1, as well as checking for understanding for upper-level students.
Beyond the original goal, this activity helps students understand what they need to be successful in class. It helps them take ownership of their learning and set goals. Plus it is a fun and interactive activity for the first week of school.
What is the Proficiency Puzzle?
The goal of the Proficiency Puzzle activity is for World Language students to gain an awareness and begin to distinguish the various world language proficiency levels. The original idea was a printable puzzle that students could work on in groups as a part of 1st week of school stations. Since 2015, it has evolved to also be able to be a fully digital manipulative. This has allowed the puzzle to work for virtual school, as well as paperless in-person classes.
To Prep for the Paper Proficiency Puzzle
- Download the ready-to-go Proficiency Puzzle here.
- *Update* by request there is now an ink-friendly option with a white background and black ink. You can print this low ink version on colored paper or cardstock. Or you can print the original color version.
- Print the proficiency descriptions and cut the squares. If you are planning on using it for multiple classes, print on card stock and laminate for durability. Since I used it at a station and not as a whole class activity, I only prepped a few sets in different colors, so they will not get mixed and jumbled together.
- Print the blank proficiency levels on card stock. Attach them to form one poster if you would like. (Link in the image below)
How to use the Paper Proficiency Puzzle
- Give each group one set of proficiency descriptions and the three blank proficiency level pages
- In pairs or groups have students work to match the proficiency description in the corresponding box. Provide guidance by walking around and assisting where needed.
*Variation How to use Digital Proficiency Puzzle
- In the Proficiency Puzzle download, click on the digital Google Slides for the students’ version. This version has drag-and-drop pieces that can be sorted digitally without any paper needed.
- Assign the digital version on Google Classroom by clicking make a copy for each student. Or make a force copy link and share it with your students in your password-protected LMS of choice.
- Have students sort the pieces into the correct spaces, just like on a paper puzzle. Then have students click turn in. Or wait to let students discuss and change their answers. (The whole goal is to gain awareness of the levels, not to trick, trap or punish students for not already knowing them).
How to mix both versions – An example of using both the paper and digital puzzle during the 1st week
- Have students work in small groups to complete the paper puzzle as one of their 1st week of school stations.
- Correct the puzzles, by discussing proficiency levels as a class, and showing the expectation of that class via your syllabus.
- Then have students individually turn in the digital proficiency puzzle version for personal accountability or an exit ticket or for homework. With it, they can also share their proficiency goals for the semester in each mode of communication.
- Once finished, project the included answer keys to discuss the proficiency path and the expected proficiency at their particular level. (This leads well into the Syllabus).
- As an extension, you could have students track where they believe they are for each skill at the start of the year. Then, check at different marking periods throughout the year as well. This could be done on an actual chart, or through writing about goals for the year that are kept in a portfolio.
- For more details, this activity is a part of my 1st-week plan bundle.
- If you would like to download all of my 1st weeks of school resources together including this activity, you can find them in this time-saving Back to School Mega Bundle
- If you are looking for what to do next, I suggest High-Frequency Verb Unit to Start Spanish 1 & 1st Day of Spanish 2, 3, 4 Plans.
Bonus ways to use the Proficiency Puzzle
- Use this puzzle as a part of teacher professional development to help teachers review proficiency levels. It can be helpful to remember what is expected at each level.
- Bring the puzzle back multiple times a year as a review and checkpoint for students to evaluate where their level is.
Need more resources for back to school in Spanish class?
- Grab Free 1st Day Introductions Slides
- 1st Day of Spanish Class
- Name Game Speedball – 1st Day Activity
- 1st Day of Spanish 2-4
- 1st Unit of Spanish 1-2
- Tons of Resources for Back to School
- Spanish Syllabus Template
- Parent Newsletter for Spanish class
How do you talk about World Language proficiency levels in your class? Please share!
Proficiency Puzzle was originally published on 8.2.15 by Allison Wienhold & has been most recently updated 6.27.22 on Mis Clases Locas
I would like to read some ideas on how you get your classes to actually participate in the different proficiency levels.