Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Using Rubrics for Language Proficiency Progress and Academic Learning

by S. Romero

One of the biggest questions that teachers find themselves asking, especially when teaching ELLs is, "Did my students get the "gist" of what I want them to learn?" "Is their second language proficiency improving, and if so, in what area?"

Although our ELLs’ listening, speaking, reading, and writing skills are assessed annually, I need to keep track of their progress throughout the year. Anecdotal notes are great, however, as their teacher, I need something more concrete that measures growth which can be shared with my students and their parents. That’s when I thought about creating a rubric.

Before creating a rubric I needed to decide which area to monitor. I decided to start with writing since it can be more subjective to assess. I identified writing expectations that I wanted to target for a particular writing assignment. I made sure they were aligned to language proficiency standards of the state, in this case the ELPS. After identifying the standards, I created a rubric/checklist and included the expectations and proficiency language levels with descriptors.  See below.

I shared this rubric with my students so that there would be no surprises. We reviewed it and made sure everyone understood how it was going to be used. We took a sample writing and together we rated it. This helped clarify questions they had.

Here is a rubric that I completed for Ruben.

After reviewing Ruben’s strengths and weaknesses in the specific expectations, I know that Ruben knows how to write a persuasive letter, capitalizes proper nouns, and understands the use of punctuation marks in a sentence. What I will need to focus on during the next lesson is his use of proper nouns, use of subject and verb agreement, and any other expectations I may add.  

As far as the linguistic portion of the writing, I reviewed the language standards and the proficiency level descriptors for writing using the ELPS at a Glance.  I looked at the specific descriptions and identified the proficiency level that aligned with the skills of the student. Using the ELPS at a Glance  made it easy for me to review the descriptors for all levels: beginning, intermediate, advanced, and advanced high.  You can view all the standards and levels at a glance. 

Documenting the proficiency level for each assignment helps me monitor students' language proficiency progress. It also makes rating at the end of the year a lot easier since I am very familiar with my students linguistic performance and the proficiency level descriptions.

Using this rubric, and others, allowed me to evaluate students' writing as well as their speaking. As you all know, a students' writing mirrors the way they speak. This tool helped me tremendously! It helped me track my student's progress, my grading was less subjective and it gave more accountability for both my students' learning and my teaching. I later created a more formal rubric that I used for other subject areas, which made grading a whole lot easier!

How do you monitor your ELLs’ language proficiency progress? Do you use checklists/rubrics? Share your ideas!


  1. I really like your rubric. Could you share it?

  2. Thank you, and absolutely! I plan on pinning it on Pintrest soon. I will post when it's up and ready. Using a rubric to monitor/measure my student's academic and language progress at the same time, has not only saved me time, but has helped me to better target my student's needs in both areas more easily.


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