In episode 98, Ellen Toubman and Ryan Rockaitis discuss the Oral Proficiency Interview (OPI) and ACTFL proficiency guidelines. For teachers who want to know more about how to use the proficiency levels to design instruction that moves students along the proficiency path, this episode is full of big ideas and practical examples you can apply to your own classroom.

Or listen on iTunes/the Apple podcast app, on the Google Podcast app, or on Stitcher!

BONUS RESOURCES: Find the transcript for this episode here. Please print off this Episode Guide 98 to use as a resource as you listen!


Show Notes

We welcome feedback, resources, and diverse perspectives on this topic! To contribute to the conversation started here, leave us a voicemail or send a text message to (629)888-3398. Or you can follow us on Twitter @weteachlang or use this contact form to send us an email.


Ellen Toubman has been teaching Spanish for over 30 years and leading the World Language department in Medfield, Ma since 2008.  She founded her school’s AP Spanish Language program in 2006 and has been an AP reader since 2010. She is MOPI certified and AAPPL rater certified as well.  You can reach out to Ellen by email or on Twitter @EHToubs and you can also check out her district’s world language blog.

RR foto

Ryan Rockaitis is a secondary Spanish teacher, the President of the Illinois Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages, and a member of the Board of Directors of the Central States Conference on the Teaching of Foreign Languages. He is also a mentor for new teachers through the Golden Apple Foundation of Illinois. If you want to reach out, you can find Ryan on Twitter @TeachArriba or reach out by email.

Resources related to this episode…

…the ACTFL proficiency guidelines

…have a look at these rated speaking samples and rated writing samples available on the ACTFL website!

Languages in the workplace poster 

More information about ACTFL’s upcoming proficiency workshops 

…previous guest Martina Bex (episode 56) recently wrote this post about doing a mock OPI as a participant!

…and quite a few past guests have had conversations about the OPI on Twitter including Sara-Elizabeth Cottrell (episode 53) and Kelly Ferguson (episode 80).




5 thoughts on “We Teach Languages Episode 98: OPI, the Proficiency Levels, and Expectations for Student Performance with Ellen Toubman and Ryan Rockaitis

  1. Excellent podcast. I learned a lot and am taking OPI training in June and looking forward to it

  2. Although ACTFL standards are great targets for proficiency, I would like to have a conversation with experienced OPI graders on the issue of heritage language speakers taking this speaking test. Sometimes, my HL students have commented with me that, for example, their AP teachers have recommended them to “sound less fluent” and use “proper Spanish” to score higher. I wonder if this is a myth or a reality. If so, it would be a sad example of linguistic discrimination. Currently, my HL students are taking the STAMP speaking assessment to acquire their Seal of Biliteracy, which I would also be interested in researching grading practices. Thanks for an excellent discussion.

    1. Hello Marta! -I am a new AAPPL rater and have been grading the AP language and culture test for a while-that recommendation sounds ridiculous to me. I will say that in my experience as an AP reader (much longer than AAPPL) sometimes heritage speakers make certain mistakes such as not answering the prompt fully or the conventions of spelling (in written language) confuse the message. The AP presentational tasks do look for organization and clarity, and they have to use sources to support their claims -it’s all in the rubric. So, in this case, even if their Spanish is perfect, it is possible for them not have completed the task (particularly with the presentational ones). However, in these cases, it is not about sounding less fluent. It is about knowing how to complete the task and then doing it.
      The AAPPL tasks are different, less formal, I would say. I think sometimes I have noticed that some native speakers might not elaborate as much as they should by giving details in their description or showing that they can narrate with detail. Again, it is not about sounding less fluent, it is about completing the task (the directions for the AAPPL tasks are included in the prompts). As for OPI (again I am relatively new, but certified MOPI, at this), since it is spontaneous, I would say the interviewer has the responsibility to elicit a ratable sample. As interviewers, we are trained to find the floor and the ceiling, so a good, experienced interviewer should theoretically be able to draw a sample that shows those abilities.
      I hope that is helpful

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