Articulated Sequences in Language Learning

How sequential study benefits language learners

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In order for learners to achieve the highest level of proficiency possible, sequential study over extended periods of time is necessary.


In order for learners to achieve the highest level of proficiency possible, sequential study over extended periods of time is necessary. The sequence must be well-articulated from elementary schools through post-secondary programs, so that students are able to reach the Advanced level of Proficiency, “career-ready” preparation.


Research has shown that developing an Advanced level of Proficiency takes time. In order for students to reach the Advanced Level they need to begin study as early as possible. Many programs have begun offering world language study in elementary schools. However, the programs vary widely in time and frequency. While some progress has been made, most students do not begin study until middle school or even high school and then only study for one-two years. Research has shown that students who begin language learning early have a distinct advantage and develop a higher level of proficiency. Thus, the development of longer sequences of study will provide more opportunities for learning languages and their cultures.


“An effective curriculum must bring all required elements together to create an articulated scope and sequence that allows learners to advance to the highest possible levels of proficiency given the type of program...Enduring understandings offer a starting point for curriculum development” (Clementi & Terrill, 2013, p. 76). Beginning language instruction earlier leads to higher levels of proficiency (Boyson et al, 2013).

  • Begin world language programs in elementary schools
  • Design a well-articulated program from K-12 (so that students don’t repeat the same curriculum every year)
  • Provide multiple entry points into the curriculum so that students may begin study of additional languages
  • Set exit standards for communication that reflect the additional time available (Seal of Biliteracy?)

Learn More About Guiding Principles

Language learning should be a central part of any curriculum. Here's why:

Opening Statement
Opening Statement

ACTFL is committed to providing vision, leadership, and support for quality teaching and learning to prepare the next generation of global citizens.

Benefits of Language Learning

We believe that all students should learn or maintain at least one world language in addition to English. Therefore, language learning should be a central part of any curriculum.

Literacy in Language Learning

Contemporary definitions of literacy include more than basic reading, writing, listening, and speaking, adding the purposeful uses of these skills in today’s media- and information-rich environment.

Backwards Design
Plan with Backward Design

Backward design is one of the core practices for effective language instruction that relies on thinking purposefully about teaching and learning.

Use of Target Language
Facilitate Target Language Use

The use of target language refers to all that learners say, read, hear, write, and view – production and reception of language on the part of learners, educators, and materials.

Authentic Texts
Use Authentic Text

Interactive reading and listening comprehension tasks should be designed and carried out using authentic cultural texts of various kinds with appropriate scaffolding and follow-up tasks that promote interpretation.

Communicative Tasks
Design Communicative Tasks

Oral interpersonal communication tasks engage students for the purpose of exchanging information and ideas, meeting one’s needs, and expressing and supporting opinions through speaking and listening or signing with others.

Grammar as Concepts
Teach Grammar as a Concept in Context

Grammar should be addressed within meaningful communicative contexts as one element of language proficiency.

Critical Role of Feedback
Provide Effective Feedback

The role of feedback for learners is critical in advancing language proficiency. Feedback should be provided in multiple forms including formative, summative and self-assessment.

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