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Using Informal Assessments for English Language Learners

By: Colorn Colorado (2007) Informal assessments (also called authentic or alternative) allow teachers to track the ongoing rogress of their students regularly and often! "hile standardi#ed tests measure students at a articular oint in the year$ ongoing assessments rovide continual sna shots of where students are throughout the school year! By using informal assessments$ teachers can target students% s ecific ro&lem areas$ ada t instruction$ and intervene earlier rather than later! 'ngoing assessments are articularly im ortant for (nglish language learners (())s)! *tandardi#ed tests in (nglish do not usually reflect ())s% true content knowledge or a&ilities! +et informal assessments can rovide a more well,rounded icture of their skills$ a&ilities$ and ongoing rogress! -oday%s .o Child )eft Behind legislation re/uires that meticulous records &e ke t on the rogress of ())s! 0aving these records will make it easier when /uestions of rogram lacement$ s ecial services$ and grading arise! -here are two commonly used informal methods: erformance,&ased assessment and ortfolio assessment! Both methods utili#e ty ical classroom activities to measure rogress toward curricular goals and o&1ectives! -hese activities can &e monitored and recorded &y teacher o&servation and student self,assessment!

Performance-based assessments
2erformance,&ased assessments are &ased on classroom instruction and everyday tasks! +ou can use erformance,&ased assessments to assess ())s% language roficiency and academic achievement through oral re orts$ resentations$ demonstrations$ written assignments$ and ortfolios! -hese assessments can include &oth rocesses (e!g!$ several drafts of a writing sam le) and roducts (e!g!$ team ro1ects)! +ou can use scoring ru&rics and o&servation checklists to evaluate and grade your students! -hese assessment tools can hel document your ())s% growth over a eriod of time! 0ere is a sam le language and academic assessment form that you can com lete on a monthly &asis to learn a&out the overall academic and (nglish roficiency rogress of your ())s! If there is an (*) or resource teacher at school assisting your ())s$ you can share this assessment of the ())%s rogress during the ast month! "hen using erformance,&ased assessments$ it is im ortant to esta&lish clear and fair criteria from the &eginning! It might &e hel ful to develo these criteria in con1unction with other teachers or s ecialists at your school! 2erformance,&ased assessments romote a wide range of res onses and do not ty ically roduce one single$ correct answer! -herefore$ evaluation of student erformances and roducts must &e &ased on teacher 1udgment$ using the criteria s ecified for each task! 0ere is a sam le oral scoring ru&ric!

+ou can also develo assessment (and instructional) activities that are geared to your ())s% current level of (nglish roficiency! 2erformance,&ased assessment activities can concentrate on oral communication and3or reading! 0ere are e4am les of commonly,used activity ty es designed for assessing s eaking or reading:

5eading with artners 5etelling stories 5ole laying 6iving descri tions or instructions using visual or written rom ts 'ral re orting to the whole class -elling a story &y using a se/uence of three or more ictures Com leting dialogue or conversation through written rom ts 7e&ating$ either one,on,one or taking turns in small grou s Brainstorming Com leting incom lete stories 2laying games

"hen using erformance,&ased assessments with &eginner and intermediate (nglish roficiency level ())s$ it is &est to assess no more than three items at a time! 8or e4am le$ in one role lay activity$ you might assess ())s% a&ilities to: 9! 2! <! 5es ond to :what: and :where: /uestions ;sk for or res ond to clarification 5ead addresses or tele hone num&ers

Portfolio assessments
2ortfolios are ractical ways of assessing student work throughout the entire year! "ith this method$ you can systematically collect descri tive records of a variety of student work over time that reflects growth toward the achievement of s ecific curricular o&1ectives! 2ortfolios include information$ sam le work$ and evaluations that serve as indicators for student erformance! By documenting student erformance over time$ ortfolios are a &etter way to crosscheck student rogress than 1ust one measure alone! 2ortfolios can include:

*am les of written student work$ such as stories$ com leted forms$ e4ercise sheets$ and 7rawings re resenting student content knowledge and roficiencies -a es of oral work$ such as role, laying$ resentations$ or an oral account of a tri -eacher descri tions of student accom lishments$ such as erformance on oral tasks 8ormal test data$ checklists$ and rating sheets

descri tions

Checklists or summary sheets of tasks and erformances in the student%s ortfolio can hel you make instructional decisions and re ort consistently and relia&ly! Checklists can also hel you collect the same kind of data for each student! In this way you can assess &oth the rogress of one student and of the class as a whole! -his sam le math develo ment checklist is an e4am le of how you can organi#e your data collection for each ())!

In addition$ here are a few ways that your ())s can have an active role in the ortfolio rocess: *tudents can select sam les of their work and reflect on their own growth over time! +ou can meet with ())s to develo their goals and standards$ such as with this sam le writing criteria chart! -ogether with students$ you can set tangi&le$ realistic im rovement goals for future ro1ects! *tudents = as a class$ in grou s$ or individually = can create their own ru&rics!

Assessing content knowledge


())s need to learn grade level academic content even though they are still in the rocess of learning (nglish! (ven if ())s are at the &eginning or intermediate stages of (nglish language develo ment$ you can still use their thinking a&ility and challenge them with content knowledge activities! ())s need your hel to e4ercise their critical thinking skills = such as knowledge$ com rehension$ a lication$ analysis$ synthesis$ and evaluation = in order to succeed in school during all stages of (nglish language develo ment! It is ossi&le to assess ())s% understanding of math$ science$ social studies$ and other content areas somewhat inde endently of their level of (nglish roficiency! -he following assessment techni/ues can hel you ada t assessments to reduce (nglish language difficulties while you assess ())s% actual content knowledge! -hese techni/ues can &e used se arately or simultaneously as needed! *caffolding assessments allow ())s to demonstrate their content knowledge through e4hi&its or ro1ects$ drawings$ and gra hic organi#ers! Consider giving ())s e4tra time to com lete these tasks$ or to give short res onses! 7ifferentiated scoring scores content knowledge se arately from language roficiency! -o score content knowledge$ look at how well ())s understand key conce ts$ how accurate their res onses are$ and how well they demonstrate the rocesses they use to come u with res onses!

+ou can use a content area rogress form with the a&ove techni/ues to rate your ())s% overall content achievement in class! +ou will need se arate forms for math$ science$ and social studies erformance! It is im ortant to note that if students are &eing instructed in content in one language (e!g!$ (nglish)$ they should not &e assessed on that content in another language$ even if it is their native language!