Assessing ESOL students & Changes to WIDA scoring

Throughout the school year I am assessing my ESOL students. Often this is through short formative assessments that are integrated into activities we are already doing.  To get a sense of their speaking level I will sometimes take out the WIDA speaking rubric and simply listen to students conversations and write down where they fall on the rubric. Writing is also easy to organically assess. I look at writing samples students have completed or are in the process of completing, take note of how much support they have received and again use the WIDA rubric to score.

Listening and reading are a bit more challenging to assess. When I do a read aloud and ask comprehension questions I can use the listening rubric to get a general sense of their listening levels and use the reading rubric  along with anecdotal notes to get a reading level.

Sometimes I need to get a sense of how my ESOL students are doing through a more formal assessment.  This gives them exposure to the format of the WIDA assessment that they take once a year and the academic testing language they will need.

I recently updated the assessments I have been using with my students this past school year.  I added a color and black and white version to each assessment and changed some of the graphics.  I also reviewed the upper level passages and question and in some cases increased the difficulty levels. This is partially because WIDA has increased the difficulty of its assessment. You can read more about the changes here.

Writing: Students respond to a writing prompt.  A graphic organizer for planning is included along with a scoring rubric.
Reading: The assessment are tiered so that students stop if they reach frustration level. 
Listening: Students listen to a script that the teacher reads. They have picture or words on their answer sheet.
Speaking: The speaking assessment starts off with basic identification questions and becomes more complex.

Integrating Speaking and Writing

My ESOL students need a large amount of practice with speaking and writing. Writing in particular is often a difficult task for them.  Some of them have a hard time generating ideas, others get bogged down with the mechanics of writing (especially spelling).  We have also been working this year on adding details to their writing.

Using speaking as a springboard for writing is an effective strategy for all students, but particularly ESOL students as it helps to build their oral language skills. I created some
Everyday Event Picture Strips for my students to discuss.  I modeled with one set of pictures, and then partnered students up to discuss the remaining pictures. I gave them sentence frames to help guide the discussion.

Afterwards I gave students a graphic organizer for the same pictures they had been discussing.  Depending on the needs of each group I sometimes gave students a specific set of pictures to write about and for other groups I let the students choose which set of pictures they wanted to write about.

Some students received a graphic organizer with a word bank and others did not require this scaffold.
Next they wrote a story adding in additional details.  Having previously spoken about the pictures helped students expand their writing.

What am I Poems

My second graders are starting a unit on poetry.  As an introduction we read what am I poems.  Each poem described an animal or food. They students enjoyed trying to guess what food/animal it was describing.

For my low language ELL students, I also have vocabulary sheets that they could refer to while guessing.

Then they used a template to write their own what am I poems. There were great for my struggling writers. They did not get overwhelmed with a large amount of writing, and were very excited to have their peers guess what their poem was describing.

These task cards and writing templates are available on my TPT store.

What am I poetry Bundle

What am I Poems


Writing Poetry

April is national poetry month.  Poems are fun for students to read any time during the year.  They are typically short which is less intimidating for struggling readers or ESOL students.

Writing poems is also fun for students.  Many of the traditional writing conventions are not as strictly enforced in poems.  Students can use fewer words to convey powerful messages.  Poems are a fun way to play around with language.

When teaching poetry there are a number of terms that students are expected to learn. I have developed poetry writing task cards to help introduce students to rhyming, alliteration, imagery, and onomatopoeia.


Mentor Text for Writing: A Chair For My Mother

My 4th grade ESOL students are writing memoirs. I did a mini lesson on descriptive writing using A Chair For My Mother.  This book has many examples of descriptive adjectives and sensory details. I did a read aloud and paused every few pages so that students could share examples they heard.

One page offers a vivid description of the armchair that family is saving up to buy. “Yes, a chair. A wonderful, beautiful, fat, soft armchair. We will get one covered in velvet with roses all over it. We are going to get the best chair in the whole world.”

While the family is shopping for a new chair, there is an example of using a text to self connection in writing. “We tried out big chairs and smaller ones, high chairs and low chairs, soft chairs and harder ones. Grandma said she felt like Goldilocks in “The Three Bears” trying out all the chairs.”

My students enjoyed listening to the story.  The book gave them many examples they can use in their own writing.  Their next steps will be to think of sensory details to add to their memoir.

After discussing the story have students use a sensory details graphic organizer (I have included one below) to write about their own memory.

Enjoy this Memory Graphic Organizer Freebie.

Memory Graphic Organizer