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Developing Proficiency in the Spanish Classroom Part 3: Modes of Communication

palabras interesantes

By Maria J. Treviño

Let’s look at the three communication modes of the World-Readiness Standards.  The three modes are:

  • Interpersonal Communication:  Learners interact and negotiate meaning in spoken, signed, or written    conversations to share information, reactions, feelings, and opinions.
  • Interpretive Communication:  Learners understand, interpret, and analyze what is heard, read, or viewed on a variety of topics.
  • Presentational Communication:  Learners present information, concepts, and ideas to inform, explain, persuade, and narrate on a variety of topics using appropriate media and adapting to various audiences of listeners reader, or viewers.


The three modes of communication are very straightforward.  In reference to Interpersonal Communication either a conversation or a written exchange must occur between two or more students.  In Interpretive Communication, a student understands/comprehends something he hears or reads.  In Presentational Communication, a student makes an oral presentation or prepares a written item.

The three modes are applicable to all the levels of proficiency.  A Spanish 1 teacher employs a novice-low/novice-mid level communication task by asking a student to make a short oral presentation describing his family.  A Spanish 4 teacher employs an intermediate-mid/intermediate-high level communication task by asking a student to make a presentation in which he proposes a problem and gives some possible solution.  For example, the student may talk about the trash problem in the school and provides solutions on how to recycle the trash.

Proficiency extends to the remaining four national standards of Cultures (understanding practices, products, perspectives), Connections (acquires knowledge of other disciplines and information), Comparisons (compares own language to language studied), and Communities (interacts in global communities and becomes a lifelong learner).  The three communication modes are utilized in meeting the additional standards. For more information, refer to Standards for Foreign Language Learning in the 21st Century.

In order for students to achieve proficiency in all of the standards, the teacher must be able to provide performance-based tasks in the classroom that address each standard.  On the part of the teacher, this requires reading, staff development, co-teaching, observation, practice, lesson planning, using appropriate materials, and seeking a mentor.

On the part of the administration, the principal must provide time for the teacher to attend staff development (district, regional and state conferences), funding to attend the conferences, time to observe other teachers proficient in performance-based teaching/learning, and teacher substitutes so that the teacher can attend training or observe other teachers during the school day.


María J. Fierro-Treviño

Instructional Specialist, Northside Independent School District, San Antonio, TX. (Retired)

Director for Languages other than English, Texas Education Agency (Retired)

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