Colorado LEAP Appendix

It has been awhile since we talked about the importance of the ACTFL Three Modes of Communication, so I thought Iwould bring them back up here today. Actually, what I am publishing here is a local state level documents that acknowledges the role of the three modes in 21st century second language classrooms.

This is the Appendix to the new Colorado LEAP initiative, a critical (in terms of job security) new teacher evaluation tool legislated by the Colorado state government. This Appendix contains a document for foreign language educators that not only mirrors what is happening at the national level, but, in my opinion, describes every single change that will describe how teachers are evaluated in their classrooms in the 21st century.

The document is called the Denver Public Schools “Framework for Effective Teaching Evidence Guide World Languages Appendix”.  Do not be fooled – this teacher assessment instrument, or something very similar to it, will soon be in use by district and building observers throughout the United States.

It is kind of long, but, again in my opinion, teachers who are lucky enough to keep their jobs when the tipping point has been reached will know and implement in their classrooms every single word in this document:

Appendices Rationale

Appendices are meant to be support mechanisms for observers as they enter into observations in certain content areas/grade levels. They provide high-level awareness regarding unique instructional situations. The appendices are important considerations to keep in mind while gathering evidence during observations and should be referenced later when determining ratings.

Various appendices have been, and will continue to be, developed for identified content areas/grade levels for which classroom and/or student attributes should be considered when conducting observations. The appendices are NOT intended to be separate Frameworks, but rather clarifying documents to assist observers in understanding effective practices in particular contexts.

Guidance for Use

Please review all appropriate appendices prior to conducting observations. Later, when weighing evidence that informs teachers’ ratings, refer to these appendices.

The Framework for Effective Teaching Handbook Appendices are available online at:

Essential Awareness for World Languages

• The best practices highlighted in the appendix are based on the Colorado Academic Standards for World Languages and the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages guidelines.

• From the Colorado Standards: “Learners usually require more than one year to progress from the novice-low to novice-mid range and may spend a significant amount of time within two adjacent ranges of novice-high and intermediate-low. A student’s level of language proficiency is dependent on both the length of instruction and the quality of instruction, that is, time spent in meaningful communication on topics that are relevant to student’s cognitive and interest levels.”

• The target language must be used at least 90% of the time. Students must be able to understand the teacher’s message, which can be observed through students verbally responding to the teacher’s questions or responding through body language, (e.g., laughing at the appropriate cue).

• Acquisition of language occurs when students understand messages through: listening to proficient advanced or superior speakers (most often the teacher); reading; and viewing.

– Input is listening and reading/viewing.
– Input leads to the acquisition of the language with novice or intermediate students.
– Output is speaking and writing.
– Output among novice/intermediate language students does not lead to acquisition because students do not acquire language from speaking to or practicing the language with other novices.
– In an effective world language classroom, less than 5% of the time is spent on output activities among students.
– Output defined as answering the teacher’s questions, however, is a necessary strategy, and is not included in the 5%.

• The best environment for second language acquisition is one in which the teacher uses the target language instead of teaching about the target language in English (e.g., teaching grammar paradigms and rules).

• “Hard work” and “taking an active role” refer to students actively listening and watching and responding appropriately with body language and short answers.

• Students do not “facilitate discussions” because they do not have sufficient language.

• Wall posters of the following are essential in all World Languages classrooms and should be observed:

• Question words; high-frequency vocabulary structures (e.g., verb structures, common adjectives and adverbs, common adjectives and adverbs); numbers; colors; Rejoinders (e.g., “Oh really? You’re kidding! That’s great. I don’t know. That’s too bad. I’m sorry. How do you say?”).

• Reading strategies that are used to instruct novice learners in how to select and read independently in the target language, (e.g., “3 finger rule,” reading in context, picture cues).

• Rubrics for writing and speaking in the target language are necessary so that students understand how their writing and speaking are being scored for assessment purposes.

• World language classrooms should have a classroom library with a variety of children’s literature in the target language, including picture books, chapter books, novels, fiction and nonfiction.

• In World Languages, the overall objective stays the same day-to-day: “Understand and interpret written and spoken language on a variety of topics” (from the New Colorado Academic Standards for World Languages).

• Since the overall objective remains the same, conversation/discussion in English about language objective does not contribute to language acquisition and should be limited to only a few seconds.

• Teacher has control of the sequence of vocabulary and structure from the high frequency list; therefore, you will rarely observe students set next steps and/or give one another feedback on their progress with tasks and learning.

• Rigorous tasks include active listening, focused reading of comprehensible text, and oral translation.

• Rigor can be observed in the use of a variety of questions and the student responses to those questions—low to high order.

• Students do not acquire language from speaking to or practicing the language with other students; therefore, providing independent practice will likely not be observed.

• Effective questioning may appear more concrete, given students’ command of the target language: (e.g., yes/no, either/or, who, what, where, when, how).

• Effective language acquisition practices do not require students to “explain their thinking.”

• Whole group questioning is appropriate, necessary and optimal; individual questioning occurs but with less frequency.

• Students do not yet possess enough vocabulary or structure or control to act as facilitators and cannot initiate and create questions of each other or the teacher.

• You will most likely see whole group, teacher-led activities with limited evidence of differentiation based on students’ language proficiency levels.

• Classroom materials will likely be at the students’ language proficiency level, as opposed to grade-level.

• Teacher speaks in the target language at least 90% of the class time. Target language is 100% comprehensible; students are observed responding appropriately.

• Teacher should emphasize mastery of high-frequency words using the target language and spend little time explaining grammar concepts in English during a lesson.

• Teacher uses repetition and questioning as strategies for language acquisition.

• The target language is the academic language.

• The teacher is the only one in the classroom who can speak the language accurately and fluently; therefore, group work, cooperative learning, and paired practice activities do not lead to language acquisition.

• “Problem solving” is acquiring the target language; students acquire the language when they comprehend the message.

• Creativity, critical thinking, and innovation can be observed in the following ways.


     – Answering why questions (when the answer may be either indirectly stated or implied in story).
     – Breaking down the main actions of the story
     – Using a Venn diagram to compare and contrast characters (e.g., physical description, personalities, like/dislikes).


     – Writing an original story.
     – Composing a class story.
     – Inventing new details for a story.
     – Generating/inventing answers to hypothetical questions.
     – Rewrite a story adding details/characters that were not in the original


     – Evaluating appropriate and inappropriate actions of characters.
     – Comparing cultures.
     – Predicting what will happen next in reading or story.

• Collaboration most often occurs between the teacher and the students, not among students (e.g., students add details to teacher’s whole group guided story).

• Students do not acquire language from speaking to or practicing the language with other novice/intermediate students, so collaborative learning may not be observed.



11 thoughts on “Colorado LEAP Appendix”

  1. Oh, thank you Ben! Your timing is wonderful. I just had a pretty disenheartening meeting where the “grammar dragon” of the high school ranted for nearly 20 minutes (including the phrase “and I don’t like what ACTFL is doing”). I came out thinking that I need to keep doing what I am doing, to the point where my students and their grasp of real language are impossible to ignore, but the feeling that battle may be imminent. I generally prefer life under the radar, but just in case, thanks for the ammo!

    1. Just don’t waste your ammo on dragons. We know that dragons don’t exist any longer. I’ve been taking aim at dragons for a long time in embarrassingly quixotic fashion. I’m slowly learning to not do that, and the privacy of our group has helped in that interest more than I would have ever imagined. Of course, if the dragon attacks, then that’s another thing. Always keep your weapon loaded.

      1. I’m going through this TPRS vs. Traditional category and reading this comment made me think of another metaphor here.

        You said that you’ve been taking aim at these dragons (which don’t exist any longer) in quixotic fashion. Which made me think. These “grammar dragons” are nothing more than those “giants” that Don Quijote saw. However we know that they were not giants, they were windmills. Much like how dragons don’t exist, these windmills are no longer functional. I read that many of the windmills ceased to function throughout the 1900s, some as early as 1910, some in the 80s. It begs the question, is it even worth our energy to fight those “giants” when all they are are old windmills from a bygone era that no longer function, serve no purpose (although the ones in Spain are beautiful). Don Quijote looked like a kook fighting those “giants”. Sometimes we’re looked upon as “occultists”. Those windmills no longer function, it was figured out decades ago by a few people, mainly Krashen. So he started breaking ground on a wind turbine factory, knowing that those old decrepit windmills weren’t going to be getting anything done. Blaine Ray was in R&D in that wind turbine factory. He took Krashen’s research on the failing windmills and a blueprint for a new type of windmill and he came up with this really efficient wind turbine. He started training people on building and using this turbine. As more people got involved over the years, the turbines evolved as the employees in this factory starting trying different things, tweaking how the turbines work and we now have these great working wind turbines. The problem is that those old windmills have been standing their forever. And although they don’t work anymore, they just won’t crumble. Some windmills have deteriorated and been replaced with these turbines. Some turbines have been put right beside these old windmills and those old windmills are blocking the wind from hitting these turbines, preventing these turbines from showing just how efficient they can be. And in many areas, people think those old windmills work just fine, they’ve worked that way for decades, they just need some new parts, new motors, maybe they need to be computerized a little bit….that’ll do it! But no, the days of those windmills are over. They will eventually crumble and fall and the sleek, efficient wind turbines will take their place. They aren’t dragons. They aren’t giants. They’re just old, decrepit, deteriorating windmills of a bygone era.

        1. Mark Knowles (U of Colorado blog member) asked me this:

          …but what can moles do? What is there to fear from them? Is it not more the case that the moles have a reason to fear TPRS?….

          Of course, the moles that we are trying to keep from getting into our PLC (I’m up to 48 deletions and still working on it so get your bios in) don’t want those old windmills to be torn down because they are their homes. I answered Mark’s question with this:

          …three of us have ended up in principal’s offices, charged by ignorant moles to be breaking ranks with their ways, and when there are nine of them and one of us, we can (I know of two that have) lose our jobs by the ignorance of these “colleagues”. I myself had to leave East High School basically for that reason, although I chose to leave bc the emotional toll (8 grammarians vs. 2 of us) was destroying my mental health and I’m still in recovery from that and I don’t say that lightly, believe me. So your point is well taken, but at the high school and middle school levels the old guard is still in charge with the weapons in their hands and taking pot shots at us, which seems an odd choice given the way the wind is blowing right now in our favor….

  2. This is right on, in so many ways. Open enough to not be suffocating, but focused on the important stuff, teachers communication with class in TL 90% of time.

  3. I am thrilled and have just gotten thru the observation of the teacher piece. This is a major contribution to the CI community. Thanks DPS!

  4. I am amazed and so pleased that this stuff is in a formal document. Ah–vindication after so many years of ignominy.

    Could someone (Ben/Diana/Colorado folks) explain:

    • Creativity, critical thinking, and innovation can be observed in the following ways.

    I don’t see anything after that entry that tells what those “ways” are. Thank you.

  5. It didn’t hurt that the two former DPS (East High School) AP language teachers, Diana Noonan and Meredith Richmond, were major forces in the creation of this document. If Diana and Meredith, who have had this model in their minds for well over a decade, can quietly each year influence, mold and craft such important governmental statements to actually align with current research about what we know to be true about how people acquire languages, then there is much room for hope. I am amazed at those two on a personal level, because they are truly fearless and, when dragonly confronted (I have seen this first hand), they don’t bristle, they smile kindly and then state the case in no uncertain terms for comprehensible input. If I had to be in a war, I would want these two commanding my unit. They are strong. Come and meet them this summer at iflt here in Colorado!

  6. One other comment – in the original CO LEAP Framework, there was a one-size-fits-all statement for all disciplines that talked about the importance of getting kids talking a lot. We don’t do that. They have to listen first, in my view for at least one year and preferably two before the language fantastically emerges as we know (because we’ve seen gifted students pass the language AP exam in one case by a second year student and often by third year CI students). So that had to be addressed in the Appendix. Just another revelation about the the Cookie Cutter monster plaguing our dialogue in education today.

  7. WOW! This is incredible. We are in the middle of our NEASC self-study, and next year will be when we get the visitations or whatever they are. This document will come in handy for sure 🙂

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