This is a repost from 2018:
There has been a lot of recent discussion in the World Language teaching community about performance assessments that ask students to interact with authentic resources and integrate all three ACTFL modes of communication – interpretive, interpersonal, and presentational. This movement towards asking student to interact with the language in a holistic way, as opposed to memorizing dialogues from textbooks or learning decontextualized grammar paradigms and applying them to sentences that seem random to the students, is to be applauded, as it does contain some of the necessary ingredients for building true language proficiency, namely reading, hearing and understanding the language.
However, the authors have found that asking students to interact with authentic resources in the first year of language study becomes oftentimes an exercise in frustration for all but a few students , leaving their teacher to attempt to drag the rest of the class through a task that is far above their comfort and ability level. Our position is that authentic resources can be used in a judicious way.
Our suggestion is simply to employ authentic resources, when teaching novices, as a springboard for class discussion and not a heavy slog through a morass of words that are incomprehensible to the majority of the class. Thus, students can be exposed to authentic cultural products while under the tender guidance of a skilled intermediary in the form of their teacher who can feed them comprehensible language and help them to express their thoughts and reactions to the product through skilled discussion and questioning techniques. Thus, the interpersonal and interpretive modes of communication are easily addressed, even with novice students.
Preparing students for the presentational speaking mode, however, takes more time than the first year of language study allows. The authors strongly advocate delaying presentational speaking until the end of year two at the earliest, or even later, depending on your students’ confidence and readiness.
Delaying presentational speaking in this manner builds equity into your program. Our profession must wake up to the need for all students to feel successful, even – or especially – those who are reluctant or unable to produce speech output in a whole-class setting for the first two years. The embarrassment and sense of public failure and humiliation that can result from being forced to perform too-early presentational speaking in front of the very people who mean the most to them – their peers – can lead our students to a lifetime of negative feelings towards the language. It also has a deleterious effect on the teacher, who struggles to build a program based on positivity when the presentational aspect of their program is so negative. The authors’ fervent wish is that ACTFL would recognize the reality of being a teenager today in our country and reconsider the expectation that real, live young people will willingly stand in front of their peers and speak in hesitant, forced, memorized, practiced, and stilted/inauthentic isolated words and phrases.
In an almost-paradoxical turn of events, if teachers can delay this kind of presentational speaking task until years two and three, they will find their students eager to display their growing language proficiency. However, like a blooming flower, this enthusiasm for speaking the language cannot be forced. If we ask students to speak presentationally in front of a group too early in their language careers, they might never get to that point.
Therefore, we must embrace the paradox that not speaking actually leads to better and more authentic speech, but later. Speech can’t be rushed. This is because the emotions rule everything, more than the brain, more than our externally-imposed school requirements.
In addition, the research unequivocally states that language acquisition follows from hours upon hours of input. Until we have provided that rich base of input through enough low-stress listening and reading, which alone can lead to fearless authentic output, we really have no business asking our students to stand and deliver in their growing language.