ACTFL TOY 2010-Lisa Lilley-IB MYP Coordinator-Central H.S. /Pipkin Middle School-Springfield, Missouri

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2012 ACTFL TOY Presentation
Critical thinking & Problem-solving

2011 ACTFL TOY Presentation


The Interpretive Mode focuses on the appropriate cultural interpretation of meanings that occur in written and spoken form where no way exists to obtain clarification of meaning from the writer or the speaker. Simply put, it is the ability to listen to or read a text and interpret its meaning.

An interpretation is NOT a translation. It IS an opportunity for students to construct their own meaning at their own level.

Language learners need to be challenged to go beyond a recall level with the text. They need to find connections to their own experiences, form their own interpretations and realize there may be multiple interpretations with no single right answer.

The Interpretive Mode is not limited to the use of just one text or one reading but may consist of multiple sources that may include songs, film, ads, web sites, and artwork.

“Invoking the interpretive mode is one of the most creative ways to make a text personal to all kinds of
learners. Every student in a classroom can come to appreciate a text on his or her own level.”
—Virginia Scott, Chair of French and Italian,Vanderbilt University

Other points to keep in mind:
The teacher is needed to guide students so that they don't over personalize and miss the intrinsic meaning of a work.

Interpretation deserves our attention because it is a lifelong skill and allows us to be successful in the interpersonal mode when we share our ideas with others.

The way that questions are framed is what allows and encourages students to expand upon their interpretation in the interpersonal mode. It is more than a summary of what happened when and to whom but additionally has a relevant connection to students' lives. It allows them to make inferences on the basis of their own life experiences.

Ideas to keep in mind when selecting text:
How does this text relate to the unit's theme and enduring understandings?
How will their exposure to this text help their language and cognitive skills?
Choose texts that appeal to different learning styles as well as differences in ability.
May be done as a bell ringer or as a whole class activity
Can be reutilized for the presentational task

What can students DO in the interpretive mode?
Write down or highlight words or ideas they understand
Make a list in advance and ask them to check off words/sounds they hear
Come up with the gist (may need to give some choices at lower levels)
Follow a route on a map (Toni urges us to ramp up this activity by using google earth)
Brainstorm vocabulary in categories
Paraphrase in native or target language
Identify situation by matching correct statement to picture
Search for specific clues to meaning
Describe what is being drawn
Fill in graph or chart
Compare/contrast literature, personalities, art, etc. with a Venn diagram

Here is a good example from the ACTFL Community of the interpretive mode used with Shakira’s song Waka Waka (Esto es Africa):

For detailed step-by-step instructions on how to design an Interpretive Task, be sure to see the materials available through The Annenberg Foundation’s Teaching Foreign Languages K-12 Workshop, Meaningful Interpretation: Putting It Into Practice

Where to find resources for the interpretive mode:


for photo galleries with creative common license filter
CARLA's Virtual Picture Album at

Bob Ponterio’s video links shared through the FLTeach Listserv


What are some tech tools students can use to express ideas in the interpretive mode?

This site offers a good overview of various tech tools and ideas for how to implement them

Make a word cloud with or try tagxedo which uses the words to form images

Ways to share your thoughts and ideas with others:

Create “Thought Bubbles” using target language artwork