November 2014

Teaching World Languages and DoK: Are deep thinking and rigor possible when learning a new language?


I am often told by world language teachers that getting to DOK 3 or DOK 4 is almost impossible for students learning a new language (e.g., French I, Spanish II). I often reply that "speaking/reading/writing” in that new language is not the same as thinking deeply. Consider young children who are learning to read and write in English. We rarely say they are not able to think deeply. They may, however, be unable to express themselves fully with written or spoken language. I suggest that while some assignments in language courses may have a focus on acquisition of language and practice of those skills, others can be used to express reasoning and interpretations of what students hear, view, experience, and read in that language. To that end, below are examples of assignments or assessment tasks that have worked well for teachers of world languages that I have worked with over the years. I hope you will try a few…and send me some of your ideas to add to these. Here is the point – use of planning and reasoning (DOK 3 or DOK 4) can be shared in English; while the prompt and/or product uses minimal terms and phrases in the second language.


  • Many teachers use multiple choice assessments as formative assessments (e.g., quizzes) to test grammar and word usage. I have suggested to teachers to select a small number of questions on this type of quiz and ask students to also explain their reasoning as to WHY they made particular choices of a-b-c-or d for the targeted items. Teachers who want to know, for example, whether students are correctly interpreting a rule of grammar will be able to understand misconceptions that need to be addressed. I worked with a Spanish teacher who said she tried this and the information about student reasoning was more valuable than the student score in terms of knowing what to teach next. She also began doing this with more items and item types that many students seemed to be getting wrong. After all, isn’t that the purpose of formative assessment? (DOK 2 if students only state a procedure or rule; DOK 3 if students explain and support reasoning.)

  • My Favorite “No”- learning from Mistakes is a strategy of selecting a student-generated response (such as from an exit card or warm-up activity) that is partially correct. Students then first analyze what is correct (DOK 2) and later what was not correctly executed in the response. They must use a convincing argument in their explanations. (DOK 3) To see a short Teaching Channel video (My Favorite “No”) of what this might look like, go to:

  • Listen to a spoken description of (a monster, town square, story setting, season, game, flag design, etc.) and then draw and label key aspects of it. (DOK 2)

  • Listen to, view, and/or read a short article, poem, or dialogue between two people/characters (in second language). Then after a few basic comprehension questions (DOK 1, 2), ask students one or two questions, such as: (a) What is the tone or purpose of the article or mood of this scene? What evidence helped you to determine this? (b) Which senses or what images are evoked by this? Explain your thinking using text evidence. (Questions can be in English or use a consistent type of prompt so students become familiar with what is expected in order to construct  a response – DOK 3)

  • Provide a print or non-print advertisement, poster, or short blog post in the second language. Then ask: (a)Who most likely posted this? What evidence helped you to determine this? (b) Who is the intended audience? What evidence helped you to determine this? (DOK 3)

  • Analyze a print or non-print advertisement or short media message in order to identify use of rhetorical devices: pathos (language that evokes emotional appeal), logos (statistical/factual information); or ethos (evidence that this is supported by an authority, expert, government agency, etc.) (DOK 3) For some background, so see a short Teaching Channel video (Rhetoric in Advertising- pathos, ethos, logos) of what this might look like (in English), go to:

  • Analyze and then revise a given print ad or media message to appeal to a new intended audience. (DOK 4)

  • After analyzing children’s literature in both English and the language studied (texts with minimal words, but have a clear message), write and illustrate a children’s story or narrative poem to portray an intended theme or message (e.g., arch types that illustrate the hero’s journey). (DOK 4)

  • Create a photo essay or political cartoon depicting one of several perspectives on an historical or fictional event. Explain your underlying reasoning for choices made. (DOK 3)

  • Create a “text deck” for a given poem or short text. Explain your underlying reasoning for visual choices/interpretations made. (DOK 3)

 (Text decks are visual presentations with minimal words, such as PowerPoint slides with a visual/graphic on each slide depicting interpretations of the key idea of each line of text. For more on text decks or free haiku deck software, Google Haiku Decks or the work of Steve Peha posted on line)

  • Create a “One Pager” (fills only one page):  From a given text or video viewed, select a quote, explain the significance of it, and add a visual interpretation.  (DOK 3)


- Dr. DoK  

Karin Hess, Ed.D, is a recognized international leader in developing practical approaches for using cognitive rigor and learning progressions as the foundation for formative, interim, and performance assessments.



  • Facebook Social Icon
  • Twitter Social Icon
  • LinkedIn Classic

© since July 2014 Karin Hess, Ed.D.