Topic Thread

Honors / Non-Honors

  • 1.  Honors / Non-Honors

    Posted 10-18-2017 17:25
    Hi folks -

    Does anyone know if in any of their publications ACTFL has given formal guidance or input on creating good Honors language courses?  I just ordered the "Keys to" series recently, so perhaps there is some info there.

    Not necessarily looking to start a discussion thread about it here - I know everyone has their thoughts and ideas :-)  I'm simply interested to know if ACTFL has published on that topic.

    Saludos -

    Chris Cashman
    Spanish Teacher


  • 2.  RE: Honors / Non-Honors

    Posted 10-19-2017 10:22
    Good question! I am not sure if ACTFL makes any distinctions between an honors class and a regular class. I can only tell you what we do where I work. We do use the same rubrics. However the amount of reading and the level of the readers are more advanced than those used at the regular classes. I know my response cannot help you a lot and hope another teacher sends another response.

    Gisela Cordero-Cinko

  • 3.  RE: Honors / Non-Honors

    Posted 10-20-2017 09:20

    It is difficulty to accommodate the honors students in one class, at my university we have the students registered in regular courses. This is good because they can learn when working with other students. On the other hand, it is a challenge when looking for additional activities for the honor students.

    This semester, one student from an online course, requested to work on a research focusing on the difficulties Spanish speaking students have to integrate with the american school and their peers. This studnet is at the second class beginning Spanish level. I was surprised about her  request. Thus, students in the honor program want to be challenged and learn. Opportunities, must be given to the honor students,  to create additional activities focused on their interests.

    My advise is to continue providing honor students the opportunities they are looking for..

    [Adoracion] [Berry] [Ed.D.]
    [][Instructional Designer and Instructor]

  • 4.  RE: Honors / Non-Honors

    Posted 10-23-2017 01:15
    Hi Gisela -

    Thanks for the response.  How have you personally felt about using the same rubrics for Honors and regular-track?  Do you feel that your courses and assessments are differentiated well enough?

    Hi Adoracion -

    Perhaps I should have specified that I was interested to know if ACTFL has talked about designing courses that are strictly honors courses - not mixed classes of honors + regular-track students in the same classroom.  I have 1000's of my own ideas for my own honors classes I teach; I'm simply wanting to know if ACTFL has weighed in on the topic.  It's looking like that's not the case - future issue of "The Language Educator", perhaps!  *wink wink*

    You mention a couple things:

    - "Look for additional activities" - I feel that that's what a lot of people think for honors students.  Just give them extra.  Give them more than the other students.  I think that's part of it, but I think that the content of a course designed for highly-skilled learners should include breadth as well as depth.  Example:  Honors students need to write their daily routine in an organized, coherent paragraph with transition words; regular-track learners should provide a list of sentences.  Also, the content might be different.  A third years high school honors class, for example, may do a unit talking about the environment in the target language, but that might be too hard to handle for a regular-track - so they read a short, easy novel.  Something like that.  I don't think it's just a difference in quantity.

    - "Provide honors students with the opportunities that they are looking for."  Shouldn't that apply to all of our learners?  In fact, that sounds more applicable to regular-track learners.  I think that honors students may do a better job holding onto greater loads of information that might not be immediately applicable (ex: the subjunctive is used in this context, but we won't really be focusing on it).

    Chris Cashman
    Spanish Teacher

  • 5.  RE: Honors / Non-Honors

    Posted 10-24-2017 02:05
    I don't know that I would agree with this way of organizing a language program, especially at the high school level. I am currently in an institution with an honors distinction, and this has created a myriad of language levels, complete with students in a second year honors course who consistently outperform students in the third year regular course. (And students in a third year honors course that outperform students taking a 4th year regular course.) Why should this be? If we think in terms of acquisition, it would be best to organize a language program to allow students to move through the basic language program at different rates. For a simplified argument, fast-track students could move through language courses, taking levels 1, 3, and 5 (only) Slower paced students would take 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. The sooner students reach level 5, the sooner they can take elective courses on special topics, allowing the target language to become the means of communication as they learn about topics of interest and perfect their language skills.

    Marda Rose

  • 6.  RE: Honors / Non-Honors

    Posted 10-24-2017 12:25
    An engaging and interesting discussion - and one for which each institutional setting may have its own solution.  Two ACTFL position statements related to the topic of differentiation are:
    1.  Demonstrating Educator Effectiveness and Documenting Student Growth ( which identifies the need to chart each learner's progress
    2.  Languages as a Core Component for All Students ( which outlines the variety of ways language learning develops 21st century skills that apply far beyond the language classroom

    Personally I have seen the best institutional response be to vary the time learners may take to reach the targeted proficiency level and not to vary the standards or expectations.  Consider how Learners usually show different strengths and different areas of challenge in different Modes of Communication (some love to take risks and jump into spontaneous Interpersonal conversations; others love to polish and edit Presentational writings; native/heritage speakers and non-native speakers have different strengths). I am not sure that "Honors" or "Regular" are labels that really describe learners.

    One district's high school program put in place evidence of what the learner can do as the way to move from one course to the next:
    1.  Every unit ended with an Integrated Performance Assessment - targeting the range of proficiency for that course (e.g., Second Year: Novice High-Intermediate Low).
    2.  Every semester exam was an Integrated Performance Assessment so students could chart their progress to the top of that course's proficiency range.
    3. Students moved to the next course when their profile (looking at evidence from all three modes) at the end of a semester showed they were ready for the next course (with each course having an overlapping proficiency range as the target; e.g., Third Year: Intermediate Low-Intermediate Mid).
    4.  Every course had four semesters of content focused on that course's proficiency range, so that students could stay in the course for 1, 2, 3, or 4 semesters and NOT repeat the thematic focus of a unit; what was repeated was the practice of what they needed to move to the top end of that course's targeted proficiency range.
    Yes, while most students moved on after 2 semesters in a course, students were able to move to the next course at the end of 1 semester or stay for a 3rd or 4th semester as needed.  This was possible because the courses were not identified as the only place where a specific grammatical structure or set of vocabulary was taught and practiced - all were spiraled throughout the program.

    Thanks for starting and sharing a valuable discussion.

    Paul Sandrock
    ACTFL, Director of Education

  • 7.  RE: Honors / Non-Honors

    Posted 12-07-2017 13:58
    Thank you, Paul, for your detailed response to the honors/non-honors question.  The idea that standards and expectations do not change, but that the length of time varies for learners to reach those standards makes sense to me.  It seems that what we are really talking about is differentiation, not labeling.  Your comment that  "I am not sure that "Honors" or "Regular" are labels that really describe learners" strikes a chord.

    What needs to be in place for a program, school or district to make a shift to this type of program?   How can such a transition take place?
    Many students, parents, teachers and administrators are highly invested in the "honors" designation.

    Freda Yoshioka

  • 8.  RE: Honors / Non-Honors

    Posted 12-08-2017 01:32
    I think one of the biggest problems with distinguishing "Honors" vs. "Regular" is that there is no differentiated instruction between the two.  All there is in most cases is that Honors students are given additional assignments to do because it is deemed they can handle the extra work.  I'm a high school teacher and even in my Level II courses I am talking to them about Linguistic Prejudice, Dialectology, etc.  These outside concepts and variation in assignments, like Paul suggested, is what should separate the two.  Perhaps with that, we would be preparing them for AP early so that not only would they skip Level IV for AP Language and Culture, but there would be enough competency and interest to start offering an AP Literature and Culture class (or Independent Study for a small group to help prepare them for the Exam).  I can't blame the kids for not wanting to move up to Honors if the only difference is the workload.

    Tom Beeman
    High School Spanish Teacher
    California Virtual Academies