Assessment Techniques by Language Acquisition Stages

•Student points to the picture of a/the correct answer
•Student draws a picture illustrating a concept
•Student matches items
•Student acts out/demonstrates answers

Early Production:
•Student names answer
•Student matches one-word labels to answer
•Student states answers orally
•Student groups items
•Student responds to W (Who, What, When, Where) and yes/no questions

Speech Emergence:
•Retelling and restating
• Explaining
•Summarizing and reporting
•Answering "how" and "why" questions

Intermediate Fluency:
•Explaining how and answer was achieved (oral and written)
•Essay writing
•Expressing opinions and judgments
•Using figurative language (oral and written)
•Analyzing and explaining data (oral and written)

Communication Tips and Techniques

Tip: Communication is the key to ESL students' success as members of your classroom and the school.
Communicating with someone who doesn't speak your language is as daunting to ESL students as it is to you. It isn't impossible, though. Teachers, English-speaking students and ESL students need to be open to establishing connections so that ESL students learn to belong to their new country.

Technique: Create a classroom environment that facilitates students' communication.
Creating a low-anxiety, welcoming classroom atmosphere is beneficial to all students. In such a classroom, ESL and non-ESL students alike will feel more comfortable learning and communicating.

•Express interest in students' backgroundBe aware of culture effects
•Avoid putting students in spotlight
•Let students decide when to speak
•Encourage native language maintenance
•Focus on the positive
•Sensitize your non-ESL students
•Acclimate students to your school
•Get the student's name right
•Learn words/phrases in other language

ESL, ELA, ELL …… What does it all mean????

ESL: English as a Second Language
ELA: English Language Acquisition
ELL: English Language Learner

Summit School District has had an ESL (English as a Second Language) program in place for many years. Until recently, ESL was the common term used for a program which supports ELLs (English Language Learners) in public school systems throughout much of the United States. Because many immigrants coming to the United States are learning English as not only their second, but for some their third, fourth, and perhaps even a fifth language, the language learning community has switched from ESL to ELA (English Language Acquisition), as a more appropriate term. Summit County has changed the name of our program to agree with this terminology.

What about ELL? There has often been confusion regarding this term. Simply put, the term ELL refers to the English Language Learner - a person. ELL is not a program, but rather this acronym refers to the people in the program. Our students learning English are English Language Learners, ELLs.

So, what does this mean for you? Fortunately nothing, except learning the new acronyms (ELA and ELL). The teachers in your building will remain the same, the classes and services your students receive will remain the same, and the support you receive to help meet the needs of your students will remain the same. Now, instead of an ESL program we have an ELA program, and instead of ESL teachers we have ELA teachers. If you have questions or need assistance, please feel free to call on the staff in our program at any time!

Modification Tips and Techniques

Tip: ESL students need modified instruction to learn both English and content.

Modifying instruction is critical to ESL students' success. However, modifying instruction doesn't mean creating a second lesson plan or curriculum; it just means changing some of the ways you do things. Most of your native English-speaking students can benefit from modifications as well.

Technique: Use various teaching styles and tricks of the trade.
•Teach to varied learning styles
•Encourage students to participate in class
•Have high expectations of your students
•Give students more wait time: at least 15-20 seconds
•Assign students a bilingual or English-speaking study buddy
•Use cooperative learning and put students in groups with English-speaking students
•Use lots of visuals, like graphic organizers and pictures
•Use physical activity: model, role-play, act out
•Repeat and rephrase often
•Emphasize the 5-8 most important vocabulary words of a lesson
•Focus on the 2-3 key concepts of a lesson
•Give students an outline of the lesson that highlights the key concepts
•Let ESL students copy your or someone else's notes
•Write in print unless specifically teaching the manuscript alphabet
•Give simple instructions
•Use concrete language and questions
•Simplify complex questions
•Use children's literature/lower grade level materials to teach content
•Incorporate the 4 skills of language acquisition: reading/writing/listening/speaking
•Check understanding using "show me" techniques

Tip: ESL students experience greater success when class-work and homework is modified to fit their capabilities.

Modifying class-work or homework tasks to fit ESL students' capabilities doesn't mean expecting less from them. It means giving them realistic tasks to complete that increase their chances for success.

Technique: Allow for flexibility in the tasks you assign.
•Reduce assignments
•Simplify complex tasks
•Give ESL students extra time to do work or complete projects
•Adapt the task to the students' skill levels
•Ignore spelling or grammar errors except for when explicitly taught
•Allow students to take breaks when working: their brains tire quickly!

Assessment Modifications
Tip: Assess ESL students according to what they can do rather than what they cannot do.

Don't be afraid to tip sacred cows! Standardized tests or even teacher-created tests can't always measure ESL students' progress accurately or authentically. Instead, measure ESL students by what they can do at any point in time, keeping in mind what they could not do earlier. Have they shown progress? Have they sincerely made an effort to learn? Have they demonstrated their learning?

Technique: Modify the tests you give.
•Test key concepts or main ideas
•Avoid test questions asking for discrete information
•Make a simplified language version of the test
•Simplify instructions
•Provide word banks
•Give students extra time to complete tests
•Give students objective tests: matching, multiple choice, etc.
•Make all or part of the exam oral.

Technique: Use alternate assessment strategies for ESL students.
1. Non-Verbal
•physical demonstration (point, gesture, act out, thumbs up/down, nod yes/no)
•pictorial products (manipulate or create drawings, diagrams, dioramas, models, graphs, charts; label pictures; keep a picture journal
•KWL Charts using pictures or native language

2. Oral and Written Strategies
•interviews, oral reports, role plays using visuals cues, gestures or physical activity
•describing, explaining, summarizing, retelling, paraphrasing
•thinking and learning logs
•reading response logs
•writing assignments
•dialogue journals
•audio or video recordings of students


Anatunez, Beth. Directions in Language and Education, Spring 2002, No. 15. National Clearinghouse for English Language Acquisition & Language Instruction Educational Programs.

Lehr, F. and Osborn, J. Put Reading First the Research Building Blocks for Teaching Children to Read. Center for the Improvement of Early Reading Achievement (CIERA) and National Institute for Literacy (NIFL).
NIFL Publications Page

Fillmore, L. and Snow, C. What Teachers Need to Know About Language. ERIC Clearinghouse on Languages and Linguistics Special Report, 2000.

A Commentary on What Teachers Need to Know about Language by Sue Bredekamp

What Early Childhood Teachers Need to Know About Language.
ERIC Digests, November 2000.

What Elementary Teachers Need to Know About Language.
ERIC Digests, ?

Teaching Educators About Language: Principles, Structures, and Challenges by Nancy Clair, Center for Applied Linguistics

Interventions available for English language learners in Summit School District RE-1

Summit School District addresses the individual learning needs of English language learners throughout our school system. ESL staff collaborates with mainstream teachers, specialists, counselors, psychologists, paraprofessionals, parents, administrators to address specific student needs. Summit School District is dedicated to ensuring the success of all students in our schools. The following is a collection of interventions available to English language learners in Summit Schools.


•ESL resource teacher
•Bilingual paraprofessionals
•Bilingual counselor
•Differentiated instruction
•Alternative assessments
•Modified curriculum
•Native language library materials
•Gifted/Talented program
•Special Education
•Extended time
•Literacy resource teachers
•Title I
•Homework club
•After school program
•STAR reading assessment
•Language! Program
•Computer programs (i.e. CCC)

High School:
•ESL resource teacher
•Bilingual paraprofessionals
•Bilingual counselor
•Differentiated instruction
•Alternative assessments
•Modified curriculum
•Diversity Club
•Native language library materials
•International Baccalaureate program
•Extended time
•Literacy resource teachers
•Homework club
•After school program
•STAR reading assessment

Middle School:

•ESL resource teacher
•Bilingual paraprofessionals
•Bilingual counselor
•Differentiated instruction
•Alternative assessments
•Modified curriculum
•Spanish for Spanish speakers class
•Native language library materials
•International Baccalaureate program
•Academic intervention class
•Extended time
•Literacy resource teachers
•Homework club
•After school program
•STAR reading assessment
•Language! Program


Language Acquisition Strategies

Indicate which of the items listed below occur during the lesson you prepare and teach. This checklist represents various strategies that all teachers who have English language learner students in their classrooms can use to facilitate language and academic success. Of course, teachers will not use every strategy in every lesson!

General Learning Principles
•Relevant and interesting material activities
•Teaching in context
•Content modified (not watered down)
•Integrated themes/thematic focus
•Connections made to prior knowledge
•Background information provided
•Key concepts and key vocabulary emphasized
•Teaching on a deeper level (less is more)
•Material is broken into smaller chunks
•More time provided (to absorb information/answer quest.)
•Active participation :Experimental, hands-on, discovery learning ,Cooperative learning
•Teacher modeling (language and literacy)
•Lots of opportunities for linguistic interaction

Modify Delivery/Facilitate Language
•Speak naturally/clearly & adjust rate/complexity
•Give precise, explicit directions
•Teach specific information/stay on topic
•Provide cues (e.g., first, second, third, next, last, finally)
•Frequent clarification
•Idiomatic expressions explained in context
•Multiple meanings explained in context
•Culturally coded words explained in context
•Stop frequently and discuss
•Check for understanding
•Frequent review
•Draw out language (give hints, clues)
•Expand and elaborate on what they say

Provide a low-risk environment
•Accept students where they are
•Build on the students' strengths
•More informal atmosphere
•High expectations
•Supportive/Positive reinforcement
•Focus on what the student says, not how they say it (accept mistakes as part of the process)
•Be culturally and linguistically sensitive

Extensive Visuals
•Pictures (magazines, newspaper, books)
•Concrete objects
•Field trips
•Photographs, slides
•Color coding
•Information on blackboard or overhead
•Graphic organizers: Webbing, Charts, Diagrams
•Body language/gestures/acting out
•Point out important information

Modify Materials
•Provide reading materials with lower readability, more visual clues and less information per chunk of reading (needs to look age appropriate, however)
•Rewrite information in simpler language
•Provide a variety of reading materials/multi-media/software
•Include culturally diverse resources/materials

Modify Evaluation
•Evaluate on content knowledge only, not level of language (what said/how)
•Provide frequent evaluation throughout, not just at end
•Devise various types of evaluation

SIOP Checklist

Lesson Preparation
•Clearly defined content objectives for students.
•Clearly defined language objectives for students.
•Content concepts appropriate for age and educational back ground level of students.
•Supplementary materials used to a high degree, making the lesson clear and meaningful (e.g., Graphs, models, visuals).
•Adaptation of content (e.g., text, assignment) to all levels of student proficiency.
•Meaningful activities that integrate lesson concepts (e.g., surveys, letter writing, simulations, constructing models) with language practice opportunities for reading, writing, listening, and/or speaking.

Building Background
•Concepts explicitly linked to students' background experiences.
•Links explicitly made between past learning and new concepts.
•Key vocabulary emphasized (e.g., introduced, written, repeated, and highlighted for students to see).
•Comprehensible Input
•Speech appropriate for students' proficiency level (e.g., slower rate, enunciation, and simple sentence structure for beginners).
•Explanation of academic tasks clear.
•Uses a variety of techniques to make content concepts clear (e.g., modeling, visuals, hands-on activities, demonstrations, gestures, and body language).

•Provides ample opportunities for students to use strategies.
•Consistent use of scaffolding techniques throughout lesson, assisting & supporting student understanding (e.g., think-alouds).
•Teacher use a variety of question types, including those that promote higher order thinking skills (e.g., literal, analytical, and interpretive questions).

•Frequent opportunities for interaction and discussion between teacher/student and among students, which encourage elaborated responses about lesson concepts.
•Grouping configurations support language and content objectives of the lesson.
•Consistently provides sufficient wait time for student response.
•Many opportunities for students to clarify key concepts in L1 as needed with aide, peer, or L1 text.
•Practice and Application
•Provides hands-on materials and/or manipulatives for students to practice using new content knowledge.
•Provides activities for students to apply content and language knowledge in the classroom.
•Uses activities that integrate all language skills (i.e., reading, writing, listening, and speaking).

Lesson Delivery
•Content objectives clearly supported by lesson delivery.
•Language objectives clearly supported by lesson delivery.
•Students engaged approximately 90% to 100% of the period.
•Pacing of the lesson appropriate to the students' ability level.

Review and Assessment
•Comprehensive review of key vocabulary.
•Comprehensive review of key content concepts.
•Regularly provides feedback to students on their output (e.g., language, content, work).
•Conducts assessment of student comprehension and learning of all lesson objectives (e.g., spot checking, group response) throughout the lesson.

12 Practical Tips to Help Second-Language Learners

There are currently more than 180 different language groups represented in America's schools. Students who speak English as a second language (ESL) constitute a significant percentage of the nation's school population: schools currently provide programs for nearly 3 million ESL students. As teachers, we face multiple challenges: We need to teach the content-area curriculum, while at the same time supporting students' English-language development, and helping them adjust to a new school and a new culture. The following are some strategies to consider as you try to meet the educational and social needs of your second-language learners.

1. Assess needs.
Within a few days of the newcomer's arrival, assess her English-language proficiency. Does she know letter names and sounds? Can she follow simple directions and answer simple questions? What has her literacy experience in her first language been? Ongoing, informal assessment will give you a clear picture of where the student is.

2. Empathize.
Imagine how overwhelming and alienating it is to be educated in an unfamiliar language and culture. The student grasps only some of what he hears and probably feels disconnected from the school community. After assessing his particular needs and sensitivities, you might decide to help the group understand and appreciate his position by arranging for an adult to present a short lesson to the group in the student's primary language.

3. Foster a sense of belonging.
Help the newcomer feel welcome. Make sure to say her name correctly, communicating friendliness and patience with a warm smile and relaxed body language. Discuss with the rest of your class how they might help the new student adjust to the class and its routines. If you can find someone who speaks the student's native language (another student, a parent volunteer, or school personnel), have them write or record a welcoming message in that language.

4. Assign a buddy.
Ask a responsible and friendly student to help the newcomer find his way around school, master classroom routines, get involved in games at recess, and understand directions. Arrange for different students to be his buddy for various parts of the school day, or rotate the responsibility on a weekly basis, so that a number of students can share the experience. Try to be particularly vigilant about certain problems that may arise, such as finding the right school bus at the end of the day, counting money at lunch, and so on.

5. Use "sheltering" techniques.
Sheltered English is, in part, an approach to teaching ESL students so that they can comprehend and participate in as much classroom learning as possible. When you speak to her, slow down your rate of speech and repeat directions several times, checking periodically for understanding. Whenever possible, use simple, subject-verb-noun sentences, visual references (words written on the board, pictures, photos, maps, diagrams, charts, and so on), and physical gestures or pantomime as you speak.

6. Teach key words.
Make sure the student knows basic school-based words such as student, teacher, principal, bathroom, nurse, book, reading, math, writing, board, homework, clock, cafeteria, lunch, playground, recess, and bell. You might draw pictures on index cards and label the objects on the back. Keep a box with these cards in an accessible place in the classroom and add new vocabulary words as needed. Also, be sure the student knows how to ask for help in various basic contexts: if he's sick, if he doesn't understand, if he needs to know what page the class is on, and so on.

7. Read and reread books aloud.
Read aloud to the student (or have a buddy or volunteer do so) to help her learn the language, build curriculum concepts, and expand vocabulary.
Choose high-interest books with strong visual cues that correspond directly to the text; use patterned, predictable books when possible. Find books that she can read independently, using her reading level and interests to guide your selections.

8. Provide opportunities for success.
For instance, the student might read a story to the class in his native language, display an outstanding art project, or act as the captain of the soccer team for a day. Give the student simple, nonverbal classroom jobs, such as passing out or collecting papers. Encourage participation in less language-demanding subject areas: music, art, physical education, and certain areas of the math curriculum (such as computation). When the class is working in small groups (this type of interaction with native English speakers is ideal because the student gets many opportunities to speak), give the student a specific, manageable role such as being responsible for the supplies or creating a chart or time line.

9. Keep track of language progress.
Keep a portfolio of the student's work throughout the year. You might audiotape conversations with the student at different times of the year to show him how he has progressed.

10. Value bilingualism.
Support continued literacy development in the student's first language, because literacy skills in the native language enrich English-language development. Encourage the student to continue reading and writing in her native language and invite her to practice this during free-reading time.

11. Encourage the family's involvement.
Different cultures have different perspectives on family involvement in school. Help parents of ESL students feel part of the community by first arranging for an interpreter (or inviting them to bring one) at your initial conference. Explain certain school procedures and expectations that may be unique to American schools. Find out what special skills, talents, or interests families might be willing to share with the class. If possible, have school communications translated into the parents' native language.

12. Foster an appreciation of cultural diversity.
Consider a whole-group social studies unit on family origins and cultural heritage. You might display a world map on the bulletin board and have all students put pushpins with their names on their families' countries of origin. Students might interview a family member, plan an international food festival, teach the class several words from another language, create country maps, and so on.

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this page last updated December 17, 2003