Sample teaching materials
Resources for teachers
What can you find here?
On this page we present to you the best practice examples created by educators in the U.S., Canada and Europe as well as links to other Goethe-Institut's and external projects on content learning in German. Sample program outcomes allow you to imagine the entire trajectory of learner linguistic development in all four modalities throughout a K-12 program. Curriculum samples demonstrate the linkages between the content areas taught in the target language and linguistic progression at each grade level. Lesson plans exemplify how German immersion works in the kindergarten setting with children without any prior knowledge of German. Since commercially available teaching materials and programmatic documents pertaining to plurilingual education produced in Europe conceive of language acquisition progression on the basis of Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR), we thought it would be helpful to illustrate the correspondences between the CEFR and ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines used in the U.S. We hope that you find this selection of materials helpful and invite you to dive in!
Lesson 1 materials
Lesson 3 materials
Lesson 5 materials
Lesson 6 materials
What is the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages?
The CEFR differentiates between three major competency levels: A, B, and C, which to some extent correspond to the traditional breakdown into elementary, intermediate, and advanced. These competency levels stem from the sum of various “can-do” descriptors. Can-do descriptors describe the (linguistic) actions that the learners should be able to master. They are positive statements formulated with the intention of covering all linguistic activities and forms of interaction. They encompass qualitative and quantitative aspects: the repertoire, the degree of accuracy, the situation, and the context. There are can-do descriptors for the four competency areas of speaking, listening, reading, and writing.
We talk about the basic user at the A-level, the independent user at the B-level, and the proficient user at the C-level. The changes at the abstraction level ― using comprehension descriptors as an example ― are illustrated using the following excerpts from the global scale (Council of Europe, 2001):
B1: Can understand the main points of clear standard input on familiar matters regularly encountered in work, school, leisure, etc.
B2: Can understand the main ideas of complex text on both concrete and abstract topics, including technical discussions in his/her field of specialization.
C1: Can understand a wide range of demanding, longer texts, and recognize implicit meaning.
C2: Can understand with ease virtually everything heard or read.
These examples show that it is difficult to define concrete learning objectives based on these global can-do descriptors. Since the CEFR is a comprehensive concept that can be used for any language, the competence descriptors tend to be vague. As a result, they provide guidance for adapting the learning content to the specific circumstances of the institutions, teachers, or learners. For example, you will not find any guidelines on lexis or grammar. The underlying principle here is that they are viewed as tools of linguistic action; different languages naturally require different tools. Furthermore, communicative objectives can be reached in various ways. Since the subject of German as a Foreign Language is relevant for our context, we recommend the publication Profile Deutsch, which will help you to understand which linguistic tools are expected at each level.
Not only our teaching outlines and materials, but also most European textbooks are based on these descriptors. You will find the following descriptors in the self-evaluation in Studio 21 (Cornelsen Verlag) and Menschen (Hueber Verlag):
Menschen A1.1: “Ich kann jetzt Komplimente machen und mich bedanken.” [“I can now give compliments and say thank you.” (p. 74) or “Ich kann jetzt mich und andere vorstellen.” [“I can now introduce myself and others.”] (p. 26)
In accordance with level A1, all of the can-do descriptors refer to “areas of immediate need and very familiar topics” (Council of Europe, 2001).
As previously mentioned, we differentiate between global and detailed can-do descriptors. Whereas the global can-do descriptors can be more relevant for determining a level, the detailed descriptors play a role in our lesson planning. Our teaching outlines are based on action-oriented secondary learning objectives, which can essentially be assigned to every activity, and which lead to a general learning objective, i.e., the goal of the lesson. This skill and goal-oriented planning facilitates action-oriented lessons, whereby the learners are perceived as taking social actions in a specific context. This implies that the framework of reference not only accounts for language skills, but also interpersonal, intercultural, and personal skills. Consequently, distinctions are also made between various spheres of life (private, public, professional, education).
The CEFR and ACTFL scales ― A comparison
Whereas in Europe, foreign language instruction is based on the CEFR, the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) scale dominates in the United States. The levels have been compared using various test methods and are applicable for all languages (ACTFL: Assigning CEFR Ratings to ACTFL Assessments, page 2). In the following, the two reference systems will be compared with regard to the skills described.
The most significant difference concerns the skills described. The CEFR levels describe four language skills: speaking and writing as well as reading und listening. These skills can be assigned to certain linguistic activities. Unless they are integrated, these skills are referred to as receptive (reading and listening) or productive (writing and reading). When there is an exchange, we call it an oral or written interaction. If no direct exchange can take place due to language barriers, language mediation becomes necessary. This includes interpreting or summarizing a text that is not easy for others to understand.
Whereas the four skills (reading, writing, speaking, listening) were the focus when the ACTFL Guidelines were originally drafted, the descriptors were restructured in 2012 so that the focus is now on the communicative function of the skills and the intention of the person communicating. The varying classification is thus: interpersonal (the productive skills in an interaction), interpretive (receptive skills), and presentational (writing and speaking in one-sided communications) (ACTFL, 2012).
The can-do descriptors from the framework of reference can be interpreted as corresponding to the ACTFL Performance Descriptors. For example, the framework of reference for “Reading A1” says: “Can understand and use familiar everyday expressions and very basic phrases” (Council of Europe, 2001), whereas the ACTFL performance descriptor for Interpretive Communication at the Novice range is described as: “I can identify the general topic and some basic information in both very familiar and everyday contexts by recognizing practiced or memorized words, phrases, and simple sentences in texts that are spoken, written, or signed” (ACTFL: Can-do Statements).
Both reference systems are designed so that they can be applied to different groups of learners and institutions. One objective of the Performance Descriptors is to help teachers come up with “performance tasks” (ACTFL, 2012: page 3) that correspond to the respective language level and simulate realistic, authentic situations. Both reference systems thus serve to promote teaching that focuses on action and skills.
Please refer to the following table for the corresponding ratings (ACTFL: Assigning CEFR Ratings to ACTFL Assessments):
After this brief introduction to the CEFR, you can make a more conscious decision when choosing from our materials and navigate through the lesson plans more easily. We thought it would be particularly important to clarify the terminological differences. You will find other useful literature on this topic in the list of sources. As you have seen, there are certain differences between the two reference systems. However, they follow the same principle: They help to create action-oriented and success-oriented lessons by focusing on the learners as people taking linguistic actions.
List of sources and additional readings
- ACTFL: Assigning CEFR Ratings to ACTFL Assessments: https://www.actfl.org/sites/default/files/reports/Assigning_CEFR_Ratings_To_ACTFL_Assessments.pdf
- ACTFL: Can-do Statements: https://www.actfl.org/publications/guidelines-and-manuals/ncssfl-actfl-can-do-statements
- ACTFL (2012): Performance Descriptors for Language Learners: https://www.actfl.org/sites/default/files/pdfs/PerformanceDescriptorsLanguageLearners.pdf
- Bausch, Karl-Richard et al., Rahmenplan “Deutsch als Fremdsprache” für das Auslandsschulwesen: http://www.bva.bund.de/DE/Organisation/Abteilungen/Abteilung_ZfA/Auslandsschularbeit/DSD/RahmenplanDaF/DaF-Rahmenplan.pdf?__blob=publicationFile&v=1
- Beese, Melanie et al. (2014), DLL 16 – Sprachbildung in allen Fächern. Klett-Langenscheidt Verlag, München
- Council of Europe (2001). Common European Framework of Reference for Languages: https://www.coe.int/en/web/common-european-framework-reference-languages/
- Glaboniat, Manuela et al. (2005), Profile Deutsch – Gemeinsamer Europäischer Referenzrahmen. Langenscheidt Verlag, Berlin
- Mohr, Imke / Salomo, Dorothé (2016), DLL 10 – DaF für Jugendliche. Ernst Klett Sprachen, Stuttgart