Because my district has been rolling out SIOP this year, I have been inundated with hearing about the importance of language objectives. The unfortunate part of this is that there are numerous ways to create quality language objectives, and everyone seems to be a bit confused by them. As a new ELL teacher who has not yet been SIOP trained, I’ve found it to be a little overwhelming.
According to Language Objectives: The Key to Effective Content Area Instruction for English Learners at Colorin Colorado, “Language objectives are lesson objectives that specifically outline the type of language that students will need to learn and use in order to accomplish the goals of the lesson.” They focus on reading, writing, listening and speaking, but can include language functions (justify, explain, etc.), content vocabulary and/or language learning strategies that aid in comprehension. Follow the link to learn more about writing language objectives, aligning the objectives to the standards and provides specific examples of quality language objectives. Another website with wonderful resources regarding language objectives and SIOP is Granite Schools.
Courtesy of Language Objectives for Elementary ELLs: Rigor in Reading and Writing by Laura Lukens
Courtesy of instructionandassessment.Wordpress.com
Assessments can be very tricky to plan, administer and interpret, but they are critical to the decision-making process that teachers face daily. An additional layer of complexity is assessing English Language Learners. This article at Colorin Colorado, Assessment for Young ELLs: Limitations in Current Practices discusses some issues in assessing ELL students.
English spelling can be difficult for many students. Because of the variations in orthographic systems and phonological sounds across languages, spelling is even more challenging for English language learners. This excerpt at Colorin Colorado – Teaching Spelling to English Language Learners can help mainstream teachers better understand how to analyze students’ spelling patterns and offers strategies for differentiating spelling assessments for ELLs. One helpful idea is to analyze a student’s writing sample and make a chart of words students are near proficient, learning and not learned yet.
Our students are already coming to us with so many experiences that we can use to relate to the new content. We should view the fact that our ELLs are learning multiple languages as a positive, not a deficit: “Never lower our expectations. They’re already so cognitively advanced because they’re working in multiple languages. That supports their cognitive development. It doesn’t take away from it!”
Balancing standardized tests with authentic assessments (speaking samples, writing samples, etc.) will provide teachers with more information that can guide their instruction. Teachers must remember that we should not just be testing content all of the time, but rather we should be observing how our students are acquiring and developing English.
The word assessment can be a frightening word for educators and students alike. With an increasing pressure on standardized-test scores, sometimes it seems like all we do in schools is test, test, test! However, there has been a small shift lately toward standards-based grading and using more performance-based assessments to gauge how our students are doing in more authentic, meaningful ways. Planning valid, reliable and meaningful assessments can be challenging and overwhelming. Assessing ELL students is even more trickier because there are additional factors to consider to determine what a student really knows and can do. Using assessments that are fair to all students, understand the cultural and linguistic differences of students and are informative for teachers is challenging. Colorin Colorado has some amazing articles and videos to guide teachers when planning for assessments for ELL students.
Using Informal Assessments for English Language Learners
As more schools are moving toward standards-based grading, many teachers are given the opportunity to embed more authentic, task-oriented assessments into their instruction. For ELL students, when these assessments are fair and consider cultural and linguistic differences, they can be really beneficial to the teachers and students. These task-oriented assessments also promote a growth-mindset. This article from TESOL Connections, Making a Paradigm Shift in Assessments, explains this shift and has a wonderful example of a task that assesses speaking in a non-threatening, authentic way.
As I learn more about assessment and culture in EDU581 at Georgetown College for my ESL endorsement, I am learning about how to ensure that assessments are appropriate for my ELL students and that I am monitoring for content and language objectives. According to Mary Ann Lachat in Standards-Based Instruction and Assessment for English Language Learners, “Assessment and instructional practices in American schools were neither created nor designed to be responsive to the range of diversity represented in today’s ELL population, but current reforms in instruction and assessment are being viewed hopefully as offering more effective strategies for educating English language learners.”
Edutopia has an excellent article regarding 5 Keys to Comprehensive Assessment.
Comic strips are fun for people of all ages and backgrounds! Why not use them with our ELL students as well? There are many digital and print resources readily available for teachers to use. Comic strips are engaging ways to retell stories, create narrative stories and to use practicing new dialogue. If you check out ESL Adventures, they have a great article for dubbing and using comic strips with ELL students. Try using comics to step up your students’ listening and speaking!
One of my biggest pet peeves is hearing teachers complain about how poorly their class did on an assessment, only to also hear that they did not use formative assessments to drive their instruction. We have all been guilty of it at some point in our careers. Maybe we were a student teacher who didn’t yet see the benefit of formative assessments or maybe we felt pressure from administration to rush through parts of a unit just to “get through it.” Regardless of the reason, most teachers quickly learn that failing to formatively assess their students can have a very negative impact on their learning, because you are not meeting them where they are and not learning about their misconceptions.
The link below from Edutopia provides teachers with creative ways to formatively assess students’ learning.
Dipsticks: Efficient Ways to Check for Understanding