DISCUSSION, WEEK 4-Shaping the Way We Teach English

This week’s discussion was mostly on the nature of/types of assessments, and how they are changing to more accurately judge the performance of ELLs in our schools.

What kinds of learner feedback and alternative assessment do you use or would you like to use in your classroom?

  • I work with students from Kindergarten to 5th Grade. On the average, I have more Intermediate to near-Proficient level students in my daily pull-out groups. My largest group is 4 students, Kinder and 5th. Kinder group is mostly at the emergent level, and 5th are mostly Intermediate to near-Proficient.
  • Our curriculum adoption includes many opportunities for alternative assessment, including the use of KWL charts, organizers of all kinds (Summarizing, Comparison, Main Idea and Details, Classification, Sequencing, Character Analysis, etc). I have been keeping student portfolios with more continuity and integrity, featuring various samples of their growth, with authentic practice, assessment, projects, as well as summative assessments.  I’d used many of these before I began teaching ELD/ESL students, but not with as much regularity.
  • I like to incorporate 4-square thinking organizers (Vocabulary: Word, Part of Speech, Student Meaning/Sentence, Synonym/Antonym, Optional Illustration; Cross-Curricular: Define, Use the content word in sentence, tell what it is, tell what it is not (Example/Non-Example). I also use journaling, narratives, summarizing/paraphrasing, short reports and presentations (using office tools, technology, slide-shows); Students have opportunities to take notes on topics of interest within the curriculum, cite sources, paraphrase facts and events, and report or present them in various ways, sometimes using multi-media (example: slide-show, video link); I also have a lot of art integration: The students produce and artistic representation, and then attach a written narrative, response to literature, report, or biography. I try to include at least one major project per unit.

What ideas in the article or the video have given you some new approaches to assessment and feedback? Are there other activities you have tried or would like to try?

  • I would like to include more physical response and role-playing. This can be difficult when I only have two to three students in my one-hour pull-out groups. We have done some short dramas, based on folk-tales, and my younger ELLs have done some greetings/social discussion, and surveys of other students and adults in the school community. In this way, they use their oral language skills, and interact with peers and adults in a real-world way.

What assessments are used at your school?

  • Our school relies almost entirely on summative and standardized assessments (at least on a whole-school level), which are frequently used even with the ELLs in the mainstream classes. If they are in my pull-out groups, I share my assessment results with their regular classroom teacher, to show their strengths and areas for improvement, in a much more balanced and fair way. Because the ELD curriculum is designed for language-learners, it is largely fill-in the blank, multiple choice, and uses diagrams and illustrations (mostly at the basic and intermediate levels) to support student comprehension. It is my job to support the teacher, the student, and to advocate for their language acquisition. There is still a long way to go in getting everyone on board, from the principals to the teachers/aides, in understanding that the standard assessments used with proficient students are not always appropriate for English language learners, and may give false or seriously skewed results. And there is the added problem of state assessments, which favor proficient students. And yet, student and teacher performance are judged almost exclusively on state-mandated testing.



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