SBG (Standards Based Grading) for Foreign Language Classes

As I begin to make the TPRS switch this year, I am making a MAJOR switch in my grading system.  I could devote half of this post to what I used to do, but I know you’re not interested in that! =]

The basic shift in my ideology in grading is that achievement will match the grade.  Academic grades will be based on proficiency levels rather than a number of assignments turned in.  Skills will be used to assess students, not what students produce.



Grading Scale

Advanced Skills


Proficient Skills


Intermediate Skills


Novice Skills


Beginning Skills

59% and below


As learning Spanish is a skill that one practices rather than a subject one studies, grades will represent the student’s progress from beginner to through advanced.  Beginner means that a student is at the beginning level and doesn’t know much about the language.  As students progress through novice, their comprehension skills are beginning to develop.  An intermediate level student generally has good comprehension skills but is still developing oral and written communication.  A student who is proficient is able to comprehend oral and written language as well as communicate orally and in writing at the appropriate level.  Those students who are at the advanced level have exhibited full proficiency at the class level, have progressed beyond those levels, and levels are moving into the beginner stage of the next level of Spanish.


10% CULTURE – These will come in the form of T/F, MC Questions and they will be asked in English.  This is because I want to test if they actually know the information.  If I ask the question in Spanish, they might not be able to answer because they can’t figure out what I am saying and I do not want to test them on word meaning.  However, it is worth noting they will have acquired this culture through details I’ve added in the stories for the week.

The reason culture gets the lowest percentage is because it is lower (knowledge) on the Bloom’s Taxonomy chart.

15% LISTENING COMPREHENSION:  I will write a story using structures from the week and will record it.  The reason I will record it is to make sure that each and every class hears the same audio.  Sometimes I read faster or slower depending on what’s going on in class, and that’s not fair to those classes.  I will have 10-20 comprehension questions in English (again, done in English for the reasons mentioned in Culture).  Questions will be T/F, MC, and possibly fill in the blank.

This category receives a higher weight than culture because it’s comprehension on the Bloom’s Taxonomy chart.

15% READING COMPREHENSION: These questions are also in English.  Maybe first starting out or with younger levels, you could have students circle the correct drawing that demonstrates what’s going on in the story.

This category receives a higher weight than culture because it’s comprehension on the Bloom’s Taxonomy chart.

30% SPEAKING: One way to assess speaking: (1) divide students into groups of 4 or 6; (2) students will fold a paper so that it has as many squares as there are kids (ex: 4 kids – fold hot dog and hamburger = 4 boxes); (3) as a group, students get 10 minutes to draw out pictures in a box to create their own story strip and then also practice it; (4) don’t show students the timer so that when students beginning to memorize instead of practice, stop and allow them to present; (5) have students go back to original seats so they’re not practicing over other students; (6) each student talks about 1 square, which is usually about 30 seconds per kid; (7) don’t tell students a minimum or max; (8) grade students on rubrics as they go and voila!

This category and writing will both receive the most weight, because students are synthesizing and creating on Bloom’s Taxonomy Chart.

30% WRITING: To see more on writing, check out my post on Timed Writing!


I will enter 60 individual grades for each student for the entire year!  Here’s how:

For each quarter, students will have 2 scores entered per category ( =10).  I will then give a test at the end of the quarter, but when I enter the scores from the test I will enter 5 separate scores (=15).   I will do this with test scores because getting a C on a test doesn’t tell me WHY a student got a C without pulling that test out.  Did the student get an entire section wrong?  Did the student leave a portion incomplete?  BUT, if a parent wants to know what their child needs to do better I can pull up grades and show that the student has a difficult time with listening and can help the child better.

Quizzes will be unannounced, with the exception of the writing.  If you read my post about Timed Writing, what I will do is require writing from students weekly but I will choose which week’s writings will be assessed.

So if each quarter is 15 grades, multiply that by 4 and you get 60!


Here’s my secret: I’m not giving any!

For the last two years, I’ve abhorred homework.  The first reason I dreaded it was because of how much time it took me to create, copy, and then grade it.   I often had many students not do it (especially on days I planned to go over it together in class!), and a select bold few would often do it right before my very eyes, with the few seconds before the bell rang in my desks!  I also got sick of catching students cheating.

So I’m doing away with it.  I don’t want to waste my time.  Most students don’t actually use it as extended practice with the TL like I hopefully think it is.  I think this will also improve relations with students because I won’t have to have that awkward “now-why-aren’t-you-doing-the-homework?” with the students, and consequently not with the parents as well.


I know this is a lot of information and there is still so much more to share, so let me know if you have any questions!  I might not be able to answer them all but I’ll try my best because I’ll be learning more about SBG with you!


13 thoughts on “SBG (Standards Based Grading) for Foreign Language Classes

  1. I did a major shift in my grading last year and it was great. I did not do weighted categories like you, but each trimester contained a little over 100 points (making each point about 1 percent of total grade).
    The big change was using a 5 point scale for grades which aligned to (A+, A, B, C, D, and F) and aligning it to proficiency levels. For unit tests, I didn’t give traditional tests, but instead used proficiency-based assessment. 4 categories each worth 5 points made it a 20 point value.
    The only homework I gave was some required practice using online flashcards, which was worth 1 point.
    I think you’ll find that the students’ grades at the end of the semester/year will more truly reflect their capabilities and finally have some sort of meaning.

    • I’m so glad to hear I’m not alone! I am very interested in hearing how other teachers grade. My school says they want to change to SBG eventually so I’m trying to get a head start. Truth be told, I think it’s the right way to be grading but I’m a little scared because it’s unfamiliar territory for me.

      Were your scales used through rubrics? The few I’ve talked to recommend them. I might find it difficult to have a rubric for everything, but that’s my intent right now.

      • I’m a French teacher in a middle school, and looking to change to SBG. I use TPRS regularly, don’t give much home work except for online practice, which currently is a big grade and I’m hoping to change the set up for that.
        I’m trying to decide whether to go to a 4 or 5 point scale, to match the more traditional scale. We use Powerschool and so I have to somehow figure out how to make SBG and Powerschool play nice in the sandbox… Any suggestions or have you seen any other SBG sites/blogs that have done this?

        I love your info, thank you for sharing!

  2. I love the idea of SBG, but I find it to be EXTREMELY overwhelming. What do your rubrics look like that you’ll be using? Would you be able to share? Also, what do you think is a good idea/way to incorporate it slowly into this year, so I can maybe go full next year?

    Thanks for any tips/advice! I LOVE your blog, it’s extremely inspiring for me! 🙂

    • Small Confession: I don’t prepare weeks in advance, so I have about one rubric ready to go right now! I usually prepare the day/night before so I know it’s fresh. Eeeek – I know!

      BUT I can tell you I will be referencing Scott Benedict’s website, as he was the presenter of the conference I attended and is a major player in my decision to make the switch. He has some specific links on his site that I will be referencing throughout the year:
      I recommend going to the link first and looking at his information on rubrics because he has plenty!

      I know a lot of school effectively use TPRS with a textbook, but I’m not quite sure of the perfect blend between the two. I can tell you what I did last year that made me decide it was the way to go. First off, I read up a lot about it (especially after I joined Twitter!). I tried to figure out what it was on my own and what the process was, and luckily I had a TPRS supplement for the textbook I was using.

      We were learning about time in Spanish, so I luckily found a story about a watch. Surprisingly, I hadn’t actually taught the term “watch” yet. I hated the way my textbook presented material, but that’s worth another post entirely! I geared my students up ALL week by letting them know on Thursday in ALL of my classes, I was ONLY speaking Spanish (I was so bad about not using it enough!). Come Thursday, I had my target words on the board with English meanings, I said the Spanish words and did a gesture and students repeated both. Then I asked for my volunteer and I told the story.

      For my story, I used notecards. On one side I had the script written down, and on the back side I had my questions I wanted to ask because I wasn’t secure in my ability to sequence them right on the fly. I punched a hole in the top left corner and used a fastener (like this one to keep the story together and in order.

      The story was about Betty White and she loses her watch in the bathroom… super weird to me, but my students loved it! They also readily remembered the words for watch and bathroom (which I hadn’t outright taught them) and the word “encuentra” until the end of the year while they struggled to remember some vocabulary I had stressed the week before. This is when I made the official decision that I NEEDED to be full blown TPRS the following year, and I better learn from some professionals.

      If you’re reading: tell your students you’re going to do it on a certain day, commit to doing it, bring some props if possible or wear a costume, and have as much fun with it as possible! The more you are into it, the more the kids will be too!

      If you’re STILL reading: another tip is that if you have block days, use TPRS it to split up the monotony of a block day. I have a weird schedule with regular schedules Mon-Wed, and an evens-block-Thursday and an odd-block-Friday schedule, so I used it to help break up the routine on longer days when students had a hard time focusing.

      I hope you found something helpful in all that! I’m clearly getting excited to try this all out next week if you couldn’t tell. =]

  3. Wow thank you for the thorough response! I will definitely begin to check these out and explore. I’d really like to move towards this slowly, but surely, but not quite sure how to implement this in a middle school setting. I might need to look into some P.D. this year. I’d like to start by slowly implementing some of this in, so that I’m not overwhelmed by doing it all at once. I teach block schedules too, but this year they’ve lowered our time, so it’s going to be a struggle.

    Thanks for everything, and please keep sharing!

    • No problema! If you have more questions on standards based grading you could also reach out to Scott Benedict (the creater of the site). I’m really using his model, so he might have better ideas on how to start slowly implementing the SBG.

      Good luck with your school year!

  4. Thanks for this post. My school district is also looking to move to SBG within one or two years from now which I think is a great idea and will better inform both students and parents about the students’ progress in the class. I don’t do TPRS, though I have been looking into it for the past few months, but I’ve been wanting to change my grading and through my google searches your blog came up and I am so glad I found this particular post. Please keep sharing your ideas as they are highly inspiring for beginning teachers like me!

  5. Pingback: Señora Dentlinger’s Standards Based Grading (SBG) Journey | La Clase de la Señora Dentlinger

  6. Hola! Did you attend NTPRS? If so, I might have seen you because I was there also. 🙂
    I am going to be using SBG this year and I wondered two things:
    1) may I copy some of your explanations? I am too lazy to put it in my own words apparently!
    2) how will you handle absences? If a student is not there for a week, for example, they can’t really make up that TPRS/CI time. I keep asking people how they handle that and I have received a satisfactory answer yet!!! Any suggestions?

    • Laura,

      It’s kind of funny how often people tell me that they thought they saw me somewhere or met me before. Sadly, I have never been to NTPRS – but I’m hoping to go next year! I’m jealous that you were able to go.

      Feel free to copy my explanations.

      As far as absences go, that’s a tricky one. A TRUE Standards Based system would not care if a student was gone for a day or a week AS LONG AS the student is able to perform well on the assessment. This is why things like Essential Questions and I Can… statements are really popular right now – they let students know what they should be able to do at the end of a unit of study. On a practical level, I give students an absence sheet ( and describe what was done. If handouts were given, I attach those, too.

      Good luck with 2015-2016!

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