Have you ever really thought about the fact that at the beginning of the school year, we are using student assessment data that is already dated? If you think about it, our students take their state assessments somewhere between February and April for most districts and then we use that same data to place them into classes in August. For this reason alone, it's great to have some intentional assessment strategies and a plan for getting a better read on student's proficiency levels.
Some of the resources that were shared in my high school teacher membership, My MLL Mentor, this month were around assessing our multilingual learners. One of the most important assessment strategies is using a portfolio to track growth. I like this digital portfolio, but you can also collect physical products and papers to keep in a file folder until the end of the year. You will be able to watch them progress right in front of your eyes and by the end of the year you will see all of your hard work pay off! If students are not progressing like you'd you think they should, it's always best practice to review your scaffolds you have in place for them to make sure you are not over-scaffolding.
Here are some strategies for you to start at the beginning of this school year and continue as the year progresses:
Make a plan
Making a plan might mean that every Friday, you do a short writing assessment. Maybe every Monday, you do a listening assessment that is tied to what you did the week before. It might also mean you are doing daily assessments such as exit tickets. There are a ton of formative assessment ideas that you can review to see what might fit in with your lessons best. The key is to make it intentional and pull out what you want to focus on in student portfolios. Whatever you decide to pull out, it should include all language domains and make sure to include assessments similar to what they may see on their state assessments.
Include students in the process
Let students show you the best way they can show you they know content. You can include them in this way by giving them an Assessment Choice Board or even letting them show understanding with their native language (yes, it is possible even if you don't speak their language! Get some ideas from this book by Margot Gottlieb, Classroom Assessment in Multiple Languages: A Handbook for Teachers). Including students also means that you are investing them in their learning and helping them feel more accountable for the outcomes.
Frequently assess vocabulary and sentence structure
We never want to teach vocabulary and sentence structures out of context. We do want to include words and structures they will see inside the text they will read. But what if they already know the words and structures you have picked out to pre-teach in your mini-lesson? A simple solution is to give students vocabulary and sentence structure self-assessments. You can easily make your own chart by listing out the words and structures and then having students check whether they know it, kind of know it, or don't know it. See more about deciding what to pre-teach here.
Whatever strategies you decide to use as a part of your assessment plan, stay consistent with them. This will make sure that your data is reliable as you are using the student portfolios to track how they are progressing. It also helps ease some anxiety with students so they know when they will be assessed and they know what to expect.
What are your favorite assessment techniques that you can share with us? Comment below or connect on Instagram!
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I support middle and high school teachers through monthly lesson plans, coaching, and guest speaker offerings in our Secondary ESL Teacher Membership.