How to Prepare ELLs for Language Testing
Each year ELLs take an annual language assessment. In many states, this is WIDA ACCESS. I am not an advocate of extensive test preparation, but I think that students should be exposed to the language of a test beforehand to be better prepared. WIDA has some tips on how to prepare for the ACCESS assessment. Here are some additional ways to help students become familiar with the language and formatting of language testing thought the school year.
Record Students Speaking
Starting in first grade, most students taking the WIDA ACCESS will have to take the speaking portion of the test on a computer. One result of this is that even a student with a high speaking ability could have a deflated speaking score if they are uncomfortable or unfamiliar with speaking on a computer.
Seesaw– Of all of the recording sites, I found Seesaw the simplest to use. As a teacher, you can set up a question, record yourself reading the question, attach a picture, and attach notes such as a sentence frame to go with it. The student interface is simple, and the site is free to use.
You can use this program throughout the school year as a way for students to respond to speaking tasks. It is easy to fit this into the content that they are learning about, and use it as a warm-up, or a center activity.
Have Students Practice Typing
Starting in 4th grade the writing portion of WIDA is taken on the computer. This means that students will need to be able to type their responses. They can use paper to plan their ideas, but will still need to type out their final responses. That is unless they have accommodations stating otherwise. Google Docs are a simple way for students to type out responses. If your school uses Google Classroom, it is an easy way to organize their responses.
Expose Students to Academic Language
I use academic language task cards to easily expose students to academic language. This way I can make sure that an activity contains academic language that students need to be familiar with. Students can practice speaking and writing as they respond to the questions.
Track Student’s Language Growth Throughout the Year
Most language assessments are given once a year. They give a general idea of where students are at that moment in time. To help ELLs progress, evaluating a student’s language level multiple times during the school year is important. Rubrics are a simple way to track students speaking and writing growth using the lessons you already have planned. WIDA has speaking and writing rubrics available.
I have created language assessments with multiple versions for each domain and grade level. They are a simple way to get a snapshot of how your students are progressing in a more formal way.
Have Students Set Language Goals
This is great practice for students at the beginning of the school year and shortly before taking a language assessment. Goal setting can help ELLs to focus on which areas of language they need the most help in. It also helps them to figure out where their strengths are. Goal setting can be as simple as giving students a sentence frame such as:
My language goal is_________, My reading goal is___________. My speaking goal is __________.
I can reach my goal by _____________.
I have a set of language goal-setting sheets and student-friendly language goals available.
How do you Help ELLs Prepare for Language Testing?
Is there a strategy you have tried in your classroom that worked well? Leave a comment and let me know about it!