Aims: To introduce educators and non-educators to what Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) is, by giving some insights as to what A1.1, A1.1 and A1 level of language acquisition include. This can give some ideas to people working with small or non-readers in an inclusive context as well as justification as to why these levels (as the initial/basic ones) can be ideal for introducing along European classic literature (e.g. BIBLIODOS), or history or even induction to other cultural aspects or giving basic information on cities, countries, customs and the like. This practice sheet will also clarify how you can choose the appropriate language level for your audience giving some useful links for their (self-) assessment. Choosing the correct level for the audience you have before you is crucial for being in alignment with their backgrounds and needs.
Key Words: Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR), Language level assessment, language level A1.1, A1.1, A1.
Prior Knowledge: Learners are not required to have any prior knowledge of the language itself as A1 is the first level of language proficiency in English and all the other European languages based on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR). It is considered the Level of Breakthrough. As an educator you need to know very well the language you are teaching, basics on the impact of literature and some European classics, and the importance of European Heritage.
In BIBLIODOS there is an attempt to introduce non or small readers to the European Classic literature whilst promoting language learning simultaneously to familiarising with cultural heritage. In other words, BILBIODOS project is combining Language Learning with discovering European Heritage by combining literature and artistic work. Through BIBLIODOS you can see how stories from Europe’s Literary Heritage have been adapted to the basic principles of the A1.1, A1.1, A1 language level acquisition.
Assessment of literacy and language level
It would be a good idea before you use any of the readymade material of BIBLIODOS or attempt to create your own to make sure you know how to assess the literacy and language level of your audience. You can consult with the self-assessment grid to be found through https://rm.coe.int/16802fc1bf p. 26-27 of the CEFR for the reading, listening, speaking and writing levels of language acquisition. It is based on the six common European levels A1, A2, B1, B2, C1, C2. It is intended to help learners to profile their main language skills, and decide at which level they might fit in. Learners can also undertake the free questionnaire including mostly grammar and vocabulary questions to decide on their level of language proficiency. For learners’ literacy level you can start by interviewing them orally if possible, to acknowledge their background.
English language levels
- Recognising / diagnosing the learners’ needs
- Defining the objectives of the course
- Determining the content
- Selection or creation of material
- The teaching and learning methods
- Evaluation of the learning process
You can access the CEFR through this link: https://www.coe.int/en/web/common-european-framework-reference-languages/level-descriptions (Last accessed 17/07/2020)
According to the CEFR, official exams exist only beyond the Α2 level. Of course, some form of evaluation can be done at levels A1.1, A1.1, A1, at an informal basis, even formatively to monitor progress. For more information on the exam material and samples you can find at the link: https://www.examenglish.com/index.html
Α1- Basic User/ Breakthrough: In this level, one can understand and use familiar everyday expressions and very basic phrases aimed at the satisfaction of needs of a concrete type. Can introduce him/herself and others and can ask and answer questions about personal details such as where he/she lives, people he/she knows and things he/she has. Can interact in a simple way provided the other person talks slowly and clearly and is prepared to help ( https://rm.coe.int/16802fc1bf p.24 )
The Α1- Basic User/ Breakthrough Level is subdivided into some more levels.
- Level 1 of BIBLIODOS = A1.1based on CEFR
- Level 2 of BIBLIODOS = A1.1 based on CEFR
- Level 3 of BIBLIODOS = A1 based on CEFR
It is useful here to make clear what these levels involve.
Level 1 of BIBLIODOS (equivalent to A1.1 Level CEFR):
This reading level consists of the visuals, some written data and audio in alignment with readers of A1.1 Level.
This reading level contains very little or no written material, it can be:
- Encrypted information such as dates
- One or two very simple words if it is interesting for the story to highlight them
- A few words that are overall recognizable because the readers encounter them in their lives.
Given the discrepancy between our times and those of the adapted works, there will be few of them. But they could be very well-known place names such as “Paris” in Bel Ami, or words that occur several times in the story, if they are neither too long nor too complicated to recognize (i.e. to photograph for memory) as first names and/or surnames of key figures, a key place name and the like.
The reading can be done with or without the audio of the reference text.
Readers will have to click to hear the sound. In this way they will have the chance to familiarise with the pronunciation by locals and exercise their listening whilst familiarising in parallel with important European Literature.
Level 2 of BIBLIODOS (equivalent to A1.1 level CEFR):
This reading level is made up of visuals, audio and some written material, to allow the association of oral and written material, and better allocation in the audio.
At this level, readers are considered as able to read:
- Very simple and simple words without difficulty,
- Relatively complex words referring to a known or accessible reality (concrete, easily understandable if explained or recognizable if associated with a visual)
- Simple and isolated sentences in the present tense in which the subject(s) of the action is easily identifiable.
Level 3 of BIBLIODOS (equivalent to A1 level CEFR):
This reading level consists of the visuals, a text and the audio of that text.
At this reading level, readers are able to read a very simple short text about a very familiar or accessible reality (concrete, easily understandable if explained or recognizable if associated with a visual).
Since the literary texts chosen have probably little to do with the immediate reality of the readers, adaptations will necessarily be somewhat more difficult than the writings normally associated with A1. The text proposed for this level of reading should not be given in a block, and a maximum of 2 or 3 sentences can be found on the same “page”. It will be important to alternate between “pages” with one word, others with 1 sentence, 2 sentences.
Creating a language level profile for each learner
Creating a profile according to each language -here for the English language- helps teachers and educationalists understand what the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR) means for each. Through the site http://www.englishprofile.org/, you can find the aspects of English typically learned at each CEFR level. This can be useful for teachers, curriculum developers, course-book authors and test writers to find out what is suitable for learning at each level.
The Grammar to be studied for English as a Foreign Language (EFL) in accordance with the Common European Framework of References (CEFR) can be found for free at https://www.examenglish.com/CEFR/cefr_grammar.html. Learners can find free practice sheets from here whilst teachers can use them as sample and reference to what is appropriate for A1 level reading and writing.
You can also find a list of Grammar topics covered at level A1 through https://test-english.com/grammar-points/a1/contents-a1/
In a framework of self-assessment, you can write (alternatively talk to a third party) for three minutes about what you have learned from this ‘Practice Sheet’ including information such as its purpose, its usefulness, 1-2 sources that you found the most useful and how to use it with your audience, in what contexts and when. Look again at the Practice Sheet to make sure that what you transferred to your own paper or to the 3rd party is the same as what is recorded here and there are no misunderstandings.
At the end of this practice sheet, you will be able to:
- Know basic websites/ resources from where you will be able to retrieve information to determine the linguistic level of the learners,
- What do levels 1-3 of BIBLIODOS involve
- What should a learner be able to read in levels A1.1, A1.1 and A1
Free online testing of language level
Free online material for the appropriate content based on language level