Avant Assessment Power Up Guide

Guide for Students & Teachers to Improve Language Proficiency

WRITING AND SPEAKING

The following tables outline general skills or abilities at each level and suggest actions that will help you attain higher levels.

Student Guide to Improving Language Proficiency

NOVICE-LOW (STAMP LEVEL 1)

  • At this level, I am able to create individual words that have no extended meaning.

  • I can share some simple vocabulary, which deals with the prompt/task/ situation, but I tend to struggle to connect those words to create meaning.

DO THESE THINGS TO POWER UP TO NOVICE-MID (STAMP LEVEL 2)

Text Type (Novice-Mid) Phrases:

  • Work on increasing vocabulary, including verbs that cover a variety of topics that are at the Novice level. These are topics that you generally experience each day in your every-day life: self, home, friends, school, weather, clothing, food, time, pets/animals, etc…

  • Try to connect different words to a verb to create thoughts and generate simple sentences where possible.

Functions/Structures (Grammar):

  • Increase vocabulary connections to verbs. This helps to create more meaning in language production.

 

NOVICE-MID (STAMP LEVEL 2)

  • At this level, I am beginning to develop the ability to create meaning as they form a connection between words.

  • Specifically, I can connect some basic subjects and verbs or verbs and objects, but I may be inconsistent at doing this.

  • I am often limited in my vocabulary to Novice level topics that I experience in my every-day life or that I have recently learned.

DO THESE THINGS TO POWER UP TO NOVICE-HIGH (STAMP LEVEL 3)

Text Type (Novice-High) Simple Sentences:

  • Work on connecting words that create very simple sentences.

  • Focus on creating simple meaning with the use of different verbs that deal with a wider variety of topics or that address different aspects of a task.

  • Try to re-create and reorganize simple sentences using your own language.

Functions/Structures (Grammar):

  • Know what it means to create a simple sentence. (What is a subject? What is a verb? What is an object? Learn these terms and know why these terms are important.

Other:

  • Don’t be afraid of making errors! Focus on the meaning you wish to convey in your sentences and give all the language that you can. Accuracy will increase naturally as you move into the next level.

 

NOVICE-HIGH (STAMP LEVEL 3)

  • At this level, I can create simple sentences with very basic control and accuracy.

  • There are often errors in my responses, while at the same time I might have good control with some very simple structures and functions of the language that I have just learned or studied.

  • At the Novice levels, errors are expected as I try to create simple sentences.

  • Generally, the sentences that I am able to create are very basic and simple with few, if any, added details.

DO THESE THINGS TO POWER UP TO INTERMEDIATE-LOW (STAMP LEVEL 4)

Text Type (Intermediate-Low) Strings of Sentences:

  • Work on increasing the amount of language you add to each sentence to create greater depth of meaning and begin to string sentences together.

  • Expand vocabulary beyond every-day life to topics such as travel, occupations, health, shopping, local community etc…

Functions/Structures (Grammar):

  • Understand what constitutes Added Detail (details that add depth and clarity to the language: prepositional phrases, descriptive words, basic use of helping verbs, adverbs and more specific vocabulary…yes, learning these terms is important.)

Other:

  • Understand how different forms of Added Detail can help create a bigger picture. Try to show variety in your sentence structure as well.

  • Don’t be afraid of making errors! Use all the language that you can in order to create more detail in your writing and speaking.

INTERMEDIATE-LOW
(STAMP LEVEL 4)

  • At this level, I can create simple sentences with some added detail; such sentences help create VARIETY.

  • At the Intermediate Low level, simple sentences are enhanced by the use of prepositional phrases, helping verb usage, as well as some adverbs and a variety of adjectives.

  • I generally create independent sentences (ideas) that can be moved around without affecting the overall meaning of the response.

  • There are still a number of errors in my response, but I have fairly good control of more basic sentences.

  • I am feeling more confident in using different structures and expanding vocabulary and taking more risks with my responses.

DO THESE THINGS TO POWER UP TO INTERMEDIATE-MID (STAMP LEVEL 5)

Text Type (Intermediate-Mid) Connected Sentences basic:

  • Increase the amount of language you use to address different aspects of the prompt. Strive to create groupings of ideas which helps increase connectedness.

  • Continue to increase the use of extended and expanding vocabulary with less common topics.

Functions/Structures (Grammar):

  • Strive to use different forms of Added Detail, creating greater clarity and richness in your sentences.

  • Try to add elements of complexity to your sentence structures. There are many ways you can add complexity! Consider how you can create longer sentences using some complex structures. Increase your use of dependent and independent clauses – not just compound sentences using ‘and’, ‘but’ or ‘because’. Be careful to not create run-on sentences. Use complexity to add depth of meaning. Use of other tense forms that are beyond the simple ‘present tense”. It is expected that these new skills with be presented with errors – don’t worry about the errors, just do your best.

Other:

  • Make a point to speak or write every day using the new vocabulary intermixed with what you are more confident about. The more you use the new vocabulary, the more natural it will become for you.

  • Don’t be afraid of making errors! (Yes, this is a constant reminder. Errors show that you are stretching and trying new things at this level.)

INTERMEDIATE-MID (STAMP LEVEL 5)

  • At this level, I can now create enough language to show groupings of ideas.

  • My thoughts are loosely connected and cannot be moved around without affecting meaning.

  • I can also create a few sentences with complexity and am able to use some transition words.

  • I am also able to use more than just simple present tense, but often make mistakes when I try to use other tenses.

  • My vocabulary use is expanding and I am able to use more than the usual, high frequency or most common vocabulary.

  • I feel that I am able to create new language on my own and communicate my everyday needs without too much difficulty.

DO THESE THINGS TO POWER UP TO INTERMEDIATE-HIGH (STAMP LEVEL 6)

Text Type (Intermediate-High) Connected Sentences:

  • Continue to work on increasing vocabulary breadth and variety.

  • Increase use of complex structures in your response including, but not limited to dependent clauses. There are a variety of ways to create complexity.

  • Focus on creating connections throughout your writing and speaking responses. This will generate a natural flow from beginning, to middle, to end and will bring your ideas together.

  • Strive to include many details and as much descriptive language as possible to create a clear picture of the situation about which you are writing or speaking.

  • Use a variety of transitional words and phrases and work on increasing these terms to help link and connect your thoughts and ideas.

Functions/Structures (Grammar):

  • Use a greater variety of sentence lengths and types.

  • Use more transition words and phrases to help increase connectedness throughout the response.

  • Increase your ability to use a variety of verb tenses accurately. Be aware of the language that is created as you use different tenses – recognize the strength of language when you are able to switch from one time frame to the next with increased accuracy.

Other:

  • Read novels out loud in your target language. Record unfamiliar words/phrases in your vocab-notepad and strive to use them throughout the week.

  • Don’t be afraid of making errors with new structures. However, at this level, errors should begin to diminish with most basic time frames. You are noticing that you do not have to translate as much in your head before speaking.

 

INTERMEDIATE-HIGH
(STAMP LEVEL 6)

  • At this level, I have good control of the language and feel quite confident about an increasing range of topics.

  • There are still some occasional errors in my language production, but that does not hinder my ability to communicate what I need to share.

  • I can use circumlocution (using a round-about way of saying something because of the vocabulary I lack) to explain or describe things for which I do not know specific vocabulary or structures.

  • I can understand and use different time frames and am just beginning to develop the ability to switch most time frames (going back and forth between verb tenses) with accuracy.

  • I can use transition words and concepts with some ease to create more clear connections between ideas.

  • My language has a more natural flow, but I still may have some unnatural pauses or hesitations.

DO THESE THINGS TO POWER UP TO ADVANCED-LOW (STAMP LEVEL 7)

 Text Type (Advanced-Low) Paragraph Structure basic:

  • Endeavor to learn vocabulary from topics you usually do not learn in formal class settings. Expand your vocabulary breadth by reading and listening to news and other current events, or just by listening to native speakers.

  • Strive to create language that is cohesive and unified with a beginning, middle and end. Clear organization of thoughts and ideas is critical to reach this level.

  • Learn and use idiomatic and colloquial language. This will help make your speech and writing more natural and authentic.

 Functions/Structures (Grammar):

  • Strive to incorporate more complex language. This includes a wider variety of verb conjugations/time frames as well as less frequently used transition words/phrases.

  • Accuracy in functions/structures is important at this level. Pay close attention to those areas where you are not confident nor sure about correct usage. At this level, use of correct grammar, spelling, punctuation, accents, tonal markers, umlauts, etc. (all language specific features) increase in importance – especially if your desire is to reach Advanced levels where business language is expected.

 Other:

  • Connect with as many native speakers as you can each day. You can use a variety of technology resources to do this. Take notes of new vocabulary you hear and try to incorporate that language in daily conversation.

  • Listen to music or watch movies in the target language each day. Repeat along with the singer – or actor. This will allow you to practice speaking more quickly – as well as help you acquire cultural perspectives and learn new vocabulary in fun and engaging ways.

  • Teach what you are learning to a friend or relative. This is a great way to process and remember new content and concepts.

CAN DO STATEMENTS

In order to get a sense of where your level is, you can use this quick self-evaluation to showcase what you are currently able to do and help direct you to move to higher levels.

Directions: Read each Can Do Statement and place a check in the column titled My Level that best identifies your ability with that mode and domain. You may want to write the date of this evaluation and do this again in several months to monitor growth in these areas.

Teacher Guide to Improving Language Proficiency in the Classroom

READING AND LISTENING

Reading and Listening behave a bit differently from the Writing and Speaking domains when it comes to what a learner can do to improve or Power Up with these skills. Often referred to as the “Black Box” skills (not easily observed), these comprehension-based domains require more exposure to written and spoken material along with application of specific strategies to aid in expanding comprehension (increase ability). While text type (text length and genre) and language complexity do play a role in comprehension, it is often more about how well the reader or listener can “guess” meaning from what they are able to extract from the chunks of language that they encounter. Unlike the productive skills, where application of specific structures and verb conjugations are clear indicators of higher levels of writing and speaking ability, receptive skills require much more language processing and “critical thinking” to determine what the author intended in their message, with even small chunks of language. Creating with the language (writing and speaking) allows the writer or speaker full control over the language that they can use/produce and is easy to observe and measure. Comprehension, on the other hand, is much more internal to the reader/listener and there are limited ways to check understanding, making clear levels of ability more difficult to identify and assign without some formal means of evaluation or comprehension checking.

Therefore, our approach in addressing these challenge areas is to share the core skills that are required to accomplish these critical comprehension tasks and give several strategies that can be used to increase ability with these domains on a consistent manner across all levels. The most critical take away from this is that it is necessary to teach both reading and listening in direct ways, showing how to apply strategies (modeling) that will aid in achieving higher levels of comprehension. Another critical point to consider is the amount of exposure that learners need to have with realia-based written material and audio samples, which simulate what happens in the every-day world around any given learner. In the following tables, we have outlined critical definitions of what each skill really entails and have included several strategies that learners should use to help increase skill and ability with these domains. You can share this information with the students as you feel it will be helpful for them.

General Guidelines and Teaching Strategies

1. Make it a point to include on-demand comprehension activities with both written and spoken passages/audio of realia-based reading and listening tasks on a (more) regular basis.

2. Model, Model, Model. Take time to model what good readers and good listeners do. This will allow you to teach strategies, rather than just rote memorization of vocabulary and structures.

3. Teach learners the power of metacognition and why it will help them retain learning better.

  • Think aloud protocol (TAP) – learners talk about what they know and don’t know as they engage in comprehension-based activities. In this sharing, they come to recognize natural strategies that are used to facilitate and assist in comprehension.

  • Word mapping – learners can generate word maps that will build connections with previously learned and new vocabulary and expand their depth and breadth of vocabulary.

  • Research other metacognition strategies and implement those with your students.

4. Assess reading and listening on a regular basis:

  • Comprehension check: Ask questions that address the critical details of the text addressing: who, what, where, when, why, and how type questions.

  • Have learners write summaries of what they have read or heard. Simple lists of details are fine for lower levels and this can be done in either English for lower level learners or in the target language for students at higher levels.

    READING

    The following table outlines general skills or abilities with Reading and suggests actions that will help attain higher levels.

What is Reading?

Reading is a skill-based activity that requires the ability to:

  • SKIM (quick observation of the text to look for known vocabulary, general topics and formatting/organization of the text)

  • SCAN (looking for some specific details inside of the text, answering who, what, when, where, why and how, and using contextual clues)

  • Read for Deeper Comprehension (understanding main ideas, points of view, author’s purpose and direct facts in the text. Generally, able to comprehend at least 70% of the text or above – “Lexile approach”)

  • Apply Critical Thinking (reading between the lines and making inferences, based on the author’s implied meaning)

  • Reading is NOT decoding or translation. Translation is a much more complex and complicated task. Do not translate word for word, but rather, use the skills listed above to initially interact with the texts and identify all that you already know.

Strategies for Improving Reading Skills

  • Reading is NOT a passive activity. Always read with a purpose or specific focus in mind.

  • In tests like the STAMP test, read the context and the questions FIRST and then skim and scan the text to locate the answer.

  • Build meaning on what you KNOW in the text and let that knowledge direct your understanding.

  • Guess the meaning or answer from what you KNOW. It is ok to guess when it comes to reading. We call this “educated guessing” because it is based on those things that you do know from the text and helps to give meaning to those things that you do not feel that you know for sure in the text.

  • Slow down and think about the context and consider the types of things that you might encounter in that context. For example, if you see a context that states, “An advertisement in a newspaper,” you should consider the types of advertisements that might be found in a newspaper. This focus will allow you to activate specific vocabulary/topics in your mind and be better prepared for the text.

LISTENING

The following table outlines general skills or abilities with Listening and suggests actions that will help attain higher levels.

What is Listening?

Listening is a skill based activity that requires the ability to:

  • Hear input stimulus (audible sound/language)

  • Identify sounds in terms of words, phrases and sentences or in other words “Language”

  • Comprehend the language spoken or presented

  • Listening is usually the strongest skill for immersion students and the weakest skill for traditional language learning students due to exposure to extended listening passages or tasks.

Strategies for Improving Listening Skills

  • Listening requires focus and attention.

  • Listening requires much practice to be able to differentiate word boundaries and deal with different accents and pronunciation elements.

  • In tests like the STAMP test, read the context and the questions FIRST and then listen for the specific answer. You are able to listen to the audio sample two times in the test. • Practice eavesdropping (listening to spoken language live or via media.) Take notes on what you do know compared to what you do not know as you ‘eavesdrop’. Select specific vocabulary to study and use in your own language or teach someone else the things you learned.

  • The elements that make listening difficult, and that you MAY be able to control are:

    • Rate of Speech – asking someone to slow down when speaking may help you better focus on word boundaries and assist in understanding.

    • Background Noise – eliminating background noises or distractions will help. If you are in a loud environment move to a more quiet location or ask for music or other sounds to be minimized.

    • Repetition – asking someone to repeat something will allow you one more opportunity to listen for specific details. However, if you ask them to repeat something more than one time, the speaker may change what they are saying to make it “easier,” when in reality it has now complicated things because they are adding new information. Also, be specific in your request and let them know that you did not understand a specific word or section rather than having them repeat the entire statement. This lets them know where the problem was for you and they can then just deliver that word or section.

THE AVANT STAMP SCORING RUBRIC

LEVELTEXT TYPELANGUAGE CONTROL
Functions/ComplexityVocabularyAccuracy/Comprehensibility


Novice-Low
(STAMP Level 1)
Words

Shows ability to produce individual words that could be related to the prompt.
Use of isolated words that deal with the prompt/task, shows inability to connect words in order to create meaning.Limited vocabulary which deals with the prompt or situation.Errors in spelling, word order, word choice and usage limit communication. Language produced can only be understood by the reader/listener with great effort by someone accustomed to a language learner



Novice-Mid
(STAMP Level 2)
Phrases

Shows ability to create simple meaning by grammatically connecting words. Specifically, some basic subjects and verbs or verbs and objects, but may be inconsistent at doing this.
Single, isolated connections to verbs. May be inconsistent at connecting words grammatically or have errors throughout. However, the errors must not prevent understanding of what is being said.Typically limited in their vocabulary to Novice level topics that they experience in every-day life or that they have recently learned.Errors in grammar, word order and word choice are prevalent and limit communication. Language produced is understood with difficulty by someone accustomed to a language learner.


Novice-High
(STAMP Level 3)
Simple Sentences

Shows ability to create simple sentences with very basic grammatical control.
Shows the ability to use very simple structures and functions of the language that have just been learned or studied. Extensive use of formulaic sentences, phrases and memorized sayings.Generally, sentences that are created use basic vocabulary words with limited ability to elaborate.Errors in grammar, usage, word order, and word choice sometimes limit communication. Language produced is mostly understood by someone accustomed to a language learner with some effort.
LEVELTEXT TYPE LANGUAGE CONTROL
Functions/ComplexityVocabularyAccuracy/Comprehensibility




Intermediate-Low
(STAMP Level 4)
Strings of Sentences

Shows ability to create simple sentences with some added detail. Simple sentences with different forms of added detail are generally produced with no connections or links to each other.
Shows the ability to produce simple sentences that are enhanced by the use of prepositional phrases, adverbs, etc. Independent sentences (ideas) can be moved around without affecting the overall meaning of the response.Vocabulary is beginning to expand beyond the most frequent words and the ability to elaborate is more evident in the language produced. Drawn from daily life.Errors in usage, grammar, word order, and word choice continue to be common, but generally do not hinder communication. Language produced is understood by someone accustomed to a language learner with little effort.






Intermediate-Mid
(STAMP Level 5)
Connected Sentences

Shows ability to create enough language to address a majority of the prompt or situation, showing groupings of ideas. Thoughts are loosely connected and generally cannot be moved around without affecting meaning.
Demonstrates the ability to create enough language that shows the beginning of connectedness. Able to create several sentences with complexity and may use some transition words. Connectedness begins to emerge as they create ‘groupings of sentences.’ Learners begin to transfer previously learned skills and language to new structures/functions.Vocabulary use is expanding, and language used is more than just the usual, high frequency or most commonly used vocabulary. May begin to use circumlocution haltingly due to limited vocabulary.Shows ability to use more than just simple present tense, however errors occur when trying to use other tenses. New skills, such as creating more complex sentence structures or using other tenses, will generate some errors. Language produced is easily understood by someone accustomed to a language learner.





Intermediate-High
(STAMP Level 6)
Pre-Paragraph

Shows ability to create language with a more natural flow. The increased number of complex structures are well constructed. Sentences and ideas are connected with multiple, varied connectors, transitions and other linking strategies.
Shows the ability to use different time frames and just beginning to develop the ability to switch most time frames (present, past and future) with increased accuracy. Complexity and variety of sentence types and structures is increasing, helping move response to a more natural and smooth flow.Use of transition words and concepts with more ease is evident in language production. Circumlocution is used more effectively. Ability to create new language on less common topics is evident.At this level, good control of the language and confidence is evident with an increasing range of topics. There are still occasional errors in language production, but errors do not hinder ability to communicate. Language produced is generally understood by someone accustomed and those unaccustomed to a language learner.
LEVELTEXT TYPE LANGUAGE CONTROL
Functions/ComplexityVocabularyAccuracy/Comprehensibility





Advanced-Low
(STAMP Level 7)
Paragraph/Advanced Language

Shows ability to address each aspect of the response with Complex structures, which demonstrate an increasing ability to produce a greater depth of meaning with language that effectively and more thoroughly addresses each aspect of the prompt. Able to create a paragraph-length description with a natural flow.
Shows the ability to create a smooth and natural flow by using a variety of added details, complex grammar and descriptive language. Shows ability to switch time frames naturally with a high degree of accuracy. Ability to use a wide variety of sentence structures, patterns and tenses is evident in communications.Use of advanced vocabulary (less frequent and specialized), advanced structures and/or terms evident. Able to address a wide variety of ‘less common’ topics. Advanced language is used within the response, which helps demonstrate an increased ability to more effectively demonstrate their language skills.Majority of language is error-free, creating a smooth and natural flow. However, there may still be occasional errors, but without pattern or causing any breakdown in communication. Language produced is easily understood by those unaccustomed to language learners. Use of correct orthography (elements of writing such as spelling, grammar, punctuation, accents, tonal markers, umlauts etc.) increases in importance – especially if the desire is to reach Advanced levels. Correct orthography is expected to meet basic WORK and/or academic writing needs at the Advanced level.





Advanced-Mid
(STAMP Level 8)
Extended Paragraph and Language

Shows ability to confidently address each aspect of the prompt with clear organization and a native-like flow. Able to incorporate a significant number of complexities with higher degree of accuracy throughout, giving that depth of meaning expected at Advanced Mid. Shows skill with creating a response that is interwoven with lexical and syntactic density, which one might expect to see at the Advanced level. Increasing ability to extend discourse beyond immediate experience to better address the prompt.
Shows the ability to create sophisticated language with in-depth description and narration interwoven throughout. Syntactic density is evident as well. Ability to switch time frames is natural and generally without error. Complex structures and grammar are used to create linguistic diversity in the language.Effective use of concise language across a wide variety of topics is evident. Vocabulary helps create Advanced language throughout the response, demonstrating a deeper cultural understanding, adding more clarity and depth of meaning.Language is almost entirely error free, creating a smooth and natural flow. Any errors in the language are not easily identified and do not occur in any patterned way. Language produced is native-speaker-like and understood by those unaccustomed to language learners. Uses correct orthography throughout the response. Correct orthography is expected to meet basic WORK and/or academic writing needs at the Advanced level.

Updated May 2022

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