Create a Standards-Based Integrated Performance Assessment Unit Step-by-Step

Step 4: Design Performance Tasks

The Interpretive Mode

The Interpretive Mode of Communication gives learners opportunities to listen to, read, or view authentic materials. Learners demonstrate understanding of these materials on two levels: literal and interpretive. At the literal level, learners demonstrate that they can understand the surface meaning of the text. At the interpretive level, learners “read between the lines” to demonstrate that they can use their background knowledge and cultural understandings to provide a more complete interpretation of the message.

Questions for Thought Icon
Before watching the video

In the space below, give some examples of authentic texts that students can listen to, read, view. Remember that authentic materials are ones designed for native speakers of the target language.

Examples of Listening/Viewing Authentic Texts:
Movies, Podcasts, Radio Broadcasts, Television Programs, Plays, Talk Shows, Debates, Performances, Lectures, Demonstrations, Sports Play-by-Play, Music, Announcements, Art

Examples of Reading Authentic Texts:
Signs, Schedules, Menus, Labels, Letters, Email, Stories, Plays, Newspapers, Magazines, Internet Sites, Poetry, Novels, Short Stories, Instructions, Maps, Recipes, Lyrics, Text Messages

Play Video Icon
As you watch the video

Take notes in the box below the video on how the teachers assess the Interpretive Mode. Pay close attention to how they assess for deeper understanding: "reading between the lines." Also, note the challenges of using authentic materials for assessment.


How teachers assessed the Interpretive Mode:

Chinese: learners followed directions from place to place on a map of China
Spanish: learners watched a video in air market in order to determine what someone bought and how much it cost after bargaining; they also read a dialogue and summarized the main ideas in English
Italian: learners read an article about Italian cinema and answered questions about the content; they were also asked to make inferences drawing on their background knowledge about Italian cinema.

Challenges of assessing in the Interpretive Mode:

In terms of culture, Cristina noted that some authentic texts contain too many cultural references for the students to understand. She noted the considerable amount of time it takes to find appropriate authentic materials and/or to tailor the task to language level and cultural background of the students. She felt that a glossary explaining some key cultural references was required to help the students understand both the message and the inferences.

Cristina's concerns are applicable to all languages and all levels. In general, it is challenging to find age and language level appropriate authentic texts. It is helpful to keep an active file of authentic texts and websites whenever you are reading, listening, viewing materials.

Type Your Response icon
After watching the video

Fatima, who teaches Arabic, emphasized that student success in the Interpretive Mode was directly related to the amount of target language that was used in class: the more that students heard and read the target language, the greater their confidence in understanding authentic oral and written texts. Ursula Lentz noted that it is important to give students the opportunity to share what else they notice in an authentic text: it encourages students to be explorers, to be curious, to ask questions. Both of these perspectives are important to keep in mind as you think of your classroom. Using the target language consistently and continuously in class increases your students’ ability to understand the target language. Giving students the opportunity to tell you as much as they can about a text also increases student success.

Look at this authentic text in English (PDF). What sort of tasks could you ask a novice or an intermediate English language learner to complete to demonstrate what they can understand? Remember to consider both the literal and the inferential levels.


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