What Are Can-Do Statements?
Can-do statements are a way for students to track their progress. They do more than that of course, but an immediate use for them is to help students recognize what they “can do” in the target language. Language classrooms that are based on comprehensible input often do not use textbooks. This is because most textbooks actually don’t contain that much L2 that is comprehensible to students. In lesson 6 of a widely-used textbook for college Chinese classes, there is actually more text in English explaining a dialogue than there is actual Chinese-language content for the students to read! So if students are not using a textbook, how can they (or their parents) recognize their progress? The answer is in can-do statements.
Pictured below is a sample of can do statements made by a group of elementary students. I wrote their answers on a mini white board, but the actual content came from the students. These kids have had about 7 hours of Chinese and they say that they can understand and talk about families, colors, numbers, and likes/dislikes. There is no page in a textbook that we can point to and say “We have come this far,” however these can do statements show that they are acquiring language and they know it.
What is pictured is pretty informal, and a mini version of what the American Language on the Teaching of Foreign Languages promotes. A can do statement for a first semester college course might be more like: “I can describe my family members and what they look like.” Can-do statements can be much more than this. They are a great tool to demonstrate to students (and their parents) what progress they have made.