Using ELD Assessments in the Classroom

Using ELD Assessments in the Classroom

ELD assessments for Englsih Language Learners over picture of student writing.

ELD assessments (English Language Development assessments) are an important tool to help teachers determine how much language a student currently knows. You can use them to gain information about students speaking, listening, reading, and writing.

Types of Assessments

Summative assessments (formal assessments) happen at the end of the learning process. High-stakes testing such as the WIDA access test is an example of a summative test. The test gives a student a score, and the teacher is not allowed to assist the student as they are taking the test.

Formative assessments (informal assessments) are used to monitor student learning. They allow teachers to give feedback and improve student learning. You can use teacher-created ELD assessments as a way to gauge a student’s current language level quickly. You can also give students immediate feedback as they are taking a teacher-created assessment. This gives the student practice with testing language but also allows you to help them feel successful even if they do not have enough language to complete a task independently.

Rubrics and checklists are both quick ways to informally assess students’ language levels as a natural part of everyday lessons. Often, to see if a student is performing at a higher level you will need to create a specific question/prompt that requires that level of language.


Using a rubric is a quick way to get a snapshot of a student’s current speaking level. You can informally do this during a small group lesson or individual conference. It is helpful to have preplanned questions that require students to use expanded language.


Read-alouds during small group time, are one opportunity to assess student’s listening skills. Pause during a book or use short passages. Prepare questions about what occurred in the book. Then use them with a checklist to keep track of student responses at the beginning of a group discussion on the book. The WIDA speaking and listening rubric is helpful as a guide to developing the questions.


There are many components that go into reading. You can use a phonics survey to help in reading instruction. Most standardized assessments focus on grammar complexity, sentence length, and vocabulary usage for determining a student’s reading level in language. The WIDA ELD Standards Framework goes into more detail about what features to expect at each reading level.


The WIDA writing rubric is a quick way to assess students writing level. A writing prompt is often necessary to help students generate the amount and complexity of language necessary to score at higher levels.

Monitor Student Progress

It is helpful to monitor how a student is progressing in their language throughout the school year. Standardized tests give information about one moment in time. Informal assessments and teacher observations using rubrics and checklists allow you to more closely monitor how a student is progressing and which areas the student needs additional support and practice.

Keep assessments short. There is limited instructional time, and if you spend the majority of it testing, there is less time for instruction.

If you need to give students an ELD grade, language assessments are a simple way to collect this information. Even if you are not giving official language grades, keeping track of how students are progressing in their language development is helpful. This can help you easily identify students who might have learning challenges beyond simply language and require additional support.


How to Prepare ELLs for Language Testing

Check out these ELD assessments to use in your classroom: 

One of my struggles as an elementary ELD teacher was that I did not have the ability to track my student’s progress throughout the school year. A solution I came up with was to create my own ELD assessments. I developed 4 sets of assessments in reading, writing. listening, and speaking for kindergarten, 1-3, and 4-5.

Writing: Students respond to a writing prompt.  They can use a graphic organizer to plan.
Reading: The assessment is tiered so that students stop if they reach a frustration level. 
Listening: Students listen to a script that the teacher reads. They have pictures or words on their answer sheet.
Speaking: The speaking assessment starts off with basic identification questions and becomes more complex.









Digital ELD Assessments– Like it or not most standardized assessments have moved online. Help your students practice navigating technology, practice their language, and get assessment information with digital ELD assessments.

Informal Language Assessments on

Student writing over text: ELD English Langauge Assessments for English Language Learners


Leave a Reply