Planning for Learning, Sp 1 Unit 4: En la escuela

Pushing Proficiency to Novice-High: Reworking the Stamp Sheet

Last night’s #langchat was about moving students from Novice-mid to Novice-high proficiency.   This topic was of particular interest to me because although I’ve read extensively about the proficiency levels, I haven’t had any formal training and it’s difficult for me to  distinguish between Novice-Mid, Novice-High, and Intermediate-Low.  Last night’s chat gave me a LOT to think about:

  • I need to think about students’ interpretive skills in proficiency terms.
  • To improve output, spend more time on input (so true!)
  • I need to define the proficiency levels better, for both myself and my students.

I wrote a few weeks ago about stamp sheets, and how checking off all the goals out loud and individually was making me crazy. So as I was writing my goals today for the unit I’ll begin next week, I decided to reorganize the sheet by modes, and throw in some proficiency descriptors to clarify my expectations to students.

Here’s the interpretive section:

School Unit Interpretive Goals
I think I’ll have students self-assess their proficiency a couple of times during the unit as we do reading and listening activities. I want them at least at Novice-Mid, and at Novice-High for an A.


And the presentational speaking/writing section:

School Unit Presentational Goals
I think I’ll assess these for a quiz grade. I’d like to give students the option to do it out loud or in writing.


I plan to use the same proficiency descriptors for IP speaking. Here’s the complete document: Modified stamp sheet

Proficiency teachers, what do you think?  Did I get the proficiency descriptors right? Should I add or delete anything from the description? Is there something else I could say to be more specific? I welcome your input.

Teaching Reflections

Stamp Sheets Part 1: Pros & Cons

Do you use stamp sheets? I began using a form of stamp sheets three years ago, and this is my second year using stamp sheets consistently.  While there are many reasons I LOVE my stamp sheets, they also drive me a little crazy.  In this post, I want to share a little bit about what I love and don’t love about using stamp sheets.

Unit 1 Stamp Sheet - adapted from JCPS world language documents
Unit 1 Stamp Sheet – adapted from JCPS world language documents


I love how stamp sheets clearly communicate learning goals and organize my units. Just as Kara said in the post linked above, stamp sheets make me plan out my goals for each unit ahead of time. The I can statements guide my lesson plans, and communicate very clearly to students and parents my learning expectations. If a student is out and I don’t have a worksheet they can just do at home (which is often), I can tell them which goal we practiced and point them to vocabulary resources online to work on that goal independently. I also like to show stamp sheets to parents to show them what their child is learning how to do in Spanish class, and maybe even challenge a parent to complete a few of our goals – often, they’re impressed at how much they remember from their high school or college Spanish courses!

I love how stamp sheets give me an opportunity to listen to each student speak, and give individual feedback. Stamp sheets are a great “check in” for student learning. Quiet students often hide in the crowd of a big class, and having these mini-assessments built in gives me a reason to hear from all students, even the quiet ones. I don’t always notice who is struggling, until I hear them attempt their stamp sheet goals, and I’ve been blown away on several occasions by quiet students who never volunteer in class, but speak beautifully when it’s time for them to do stamps.

Stamps are a relatively low-pressure speaking assignment. I do take stamps for a grade, so there is some pressure to “get them done,” but I also consider them part of the learning process, and a teachable moment. So I give feedback, I coach, I prompt, we practice and I let them try and re-do.

That being said…I’m at the end of a unit and finishing stamp sheets is driving me crazy.  Here are a few things I don’t love about stamp sheets:

Memorize and forget. This makes me nuts! Most of my students *know* their stamps when they do them for me, but there are always a few who have clearly memorized a statement and will forget it a minute later. How do I teach for long-term retention? I love how mini-goals are explicit and manageable, but by giving a checklist of mini-goals, am I promoting “memorize and forget”?

Finishing stamp sheets takes forever. I do my best to limit the number of goals on my stamp sheets, and yet, they still take so much time to do! In the post linked above, Kara says,

A. If you observe a student doing the goal during class, stamp it.
B. Give everyone a written or spoken quiz at the end of class or on a specific day. You can cover one stamp or several.
C. Students self-assess themselves. Keep one specific stamp design out that they can use.
D. Pick a few students every day to show what they can do.

She makes it sound so easy, but I haven’t figured out how to balance it! Here’s my unit two stamp sheet:

2014-09-23 15.51.50


16 goals, five classes of 32 students each, equals 2560 mini goals to listen to. If each goal takes ten seconds (some students are fast, some are slow, some need multiple tries), that’s 426 minutes of class, or two whole days of class doing nothing but stamps. For one unit. I try to do stations, and have stamps as a station, where I can listen to individuals and have the rest of the class be productively occupied, or give written work, where again, I can listen to individuals while the rest of the class is occupied, but I’m finding it really difficult to find ways to balance individual assessment and feedback (which is so important!) with simultaneously instructing and managing 31 other students.

What to do? I’d like to write more on stamp sheets later this week – I have a few thoughts on ways to modify how I use them – but I would also love to hear from other stamp-sheet using teachers. What stamp sheet strategies work for you?