Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Assessing Language for Progress - READING AND WRITING

Last weeks' blog I explained the varieties of ways to assess language for progress in listening in speaking. This weeks' blog is over the next two domains of language: reading and writing.

Assessing our students’ reading and writing is essential especially when they are learning to read and write in two languages. Our students' should be building a strong foundation in their first language (L1) and by doing so their L2 will be acquired more easily in both reading and writing. However, we need to be sure that we are monitoring that progress and not solely depending on that notion. A good way to ensure progress in both reading and writing in the L2 is to keep an on going record or documentation to make sure progress IS taking place.

When assessing for reading, I assess using my districts’ required reading assessment. When I assess them in their second language reading (L2), I assess using DRA (Developmental Reading Assessment) which determines my student's instructional reading level. I start assessing my students in their (L2) reading once I notice that they have a good reading foundation in their first language (L1). When assessing, I make sure to assess students' comprehension and fluency. Although the amount of miscues is important; comprehension is vital to determine a reader from a non-reader. Otherwise if you are just assessing the amount of miscues and not comprehension, your student is only calling out words and not authentically reading. Below is an example of a reading graph I use to monitor reading levels as well and language proficiency.

Journal Writing - From the beginning of the school year, I keep track of my students’ writing progress. I have my students write in their journal from the first day of school. I make sure they have each page dated to keep track of progress. 
On one side of the journal students write in their L1 and on the back side of the journal they write in their L2. What is found is that as their L1 improves, their L2 is developing just as well. Keeping a writing journal throughout the year allows students, parents and administrators to see the writing growth in both languages.
As I grade my students work, I also rate their writing by writing on the right hand corner of their paper the level of descriptor for that particular writing. For example, I write a B for beginner an I for intermediate and so on and so forth. This is based on their writing that matches that particular English language proficiency descriptor.

Work on Writing Station - I have a writing station where my students can practice their creative writing (without a given prompt). This is a good way to assess your students "authentic writing" without a guideline or particular subject matter. It's kind of like taking a look at the BICS (Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills) in writing if you will.

Pen Pal Letter Writing – I like to "Pal Up" with an upper grade level classroom. Have students from that classroom read with your students. Then set up a system where they can send letters to each other throughout the school year. This is another great way for your student to practice "authentic writing" in their L2. They will not only be practicing their writing skills but also work on their comprehension skills as well.

Every year our students are assessed using a standardized language proficiency test in some if not all domains (depending on grade level). Although this assessment shouldn’t be the main reason that we pay attention to language proficiency progress, it is our duty to ensure that our ELL's show PROGRESS in second language acquisition. By doing these simple informal assessments, we can better ensure both academic and language proficiency success.

We’ve spent all the time and effort monitoring and assessing our students’ language acquisition, and now what?  The absolute more important and crucial piece after assessing your students' language proficiency is providing the appropriate accommodations to continue their progress.  This is such an important piece to the language acquisition puzzle that we are going to dedicate the next blog post to accommodations. What are some good ones? What are some resources that we can use? How long should we accommodate? 

So we are asking for your expertise.  Tell us some of the most effective accommodations that you use with your students at different levels of proficiency. Share your ideas with us by commenting below and you may be featured in our next blog!


  1. Hello. Thank you for your article. I did not see the Reading graph sample mentioned. Would you mind attaching again? Thank you!

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