Language Assessment Tools

What is the Purpose of a Language Assessment? 

Language assessment is important for educators and students to measure outcomes for lessons. The specific choices I make for language components assessment includes developing a strategic plan for overall language learning goals set in one month, three months, six months, and ten months. I use pre-assessment and post-assessment for reading and writing. Pre-assessment is at the beginning of the year in the first week of classes and pos-assessment is at the benchmarks throughout the year. The assessments throughout the school year are both formative and summative. Formative is used with each lesson to ensure the learning outcomes are met as well as at the end of each unit. Summative is in the form of mid-term and final exams in reading and writing. 

What makes for a Good Language Assessment Tool?

In the reading this week, ‘Supporting English Language Learners with Formative Assessment’s (Guest Author, 2018) the author suggests that ‘teachers work with students to co-create appropriate goals for using more sophisticated academic language.  It’s critical to promote student ownership of the assessment process through goal setting, self-assessment as well as peer assessment opportunities.’ (2018) This resonated with me as I have always asked learners their goals for English reading and writing and then discuss what I think is best with my learners. In the future I will include discussing goal setting more specifically with timelines that students set for themselves and self assessment. I will then ask students to prepare one goal they are willing to share with their peer and we will create a classroom norm to support each other and work together with peer assessments. I think this is a great strategy for my high school students to take ownership of their own learning and prepare them for the peer assessment process in university studies. 

I teach grade ten high school students at a Chinese high school international department. The students are learning English reading and writing. In this class I use fiction novels we read together and at the end of each chapter students discuss the plot and characters. We also extract vocabulary words as they are asked to highlight words while they are reading. We will then create a word list of synonyms and antonyms from each chapter for them to make connections and expand their vocabulary. We also discuss these words in Chinese and my expectation is when they are speaking and writing they communicate the new vocabulary learned. 

Students will discuss the chapter questions together then they will complete five questions in their writing journals. I find this helps them with both reading comprehension and writing as they have opportunities to use new words learned and I can assess their writing for grammar and spelling. 

Another of this week’s readings, ‘Watch Them Grow: 5 Non-test Alternatives for Assessing English Language Learners’ (saralicain, 2019), the author listed this method as ‘describing/explaining/retelling/paraphrasing/summarizing texts’ (2019). The strategies suggested include asking students to retell the story or to choose their favourite character and tell the story from their point of view. I will implement this type of assessment for discussing the chapters during class. My students are creative artists and most are phenomenal at art and drawing so I believe this type of question will tap into their artistic abilities where they can think and write creatively.  

What specific choices did you make when creating your own language assessment?

In choosing the language assessment it was important I maintained consistency with previous assessments so I chose to evaluate speaking based on the IELTS Band Descriptors for English language learners (British Council, 2020). The modification I made was choosing my own topic for the assessment. I chose the topic my student has been reading and writing about in classes. This decision seemed most appropriate as it can provide him with the most meaningful feedback about something he’s interested in and to help him meet his goal of of presenting a public speech about his topic next week. This assessment will also help to prepare him for his public speech and any follow up questions he may get from his audience.

What did you choose to assess?

For this assessment I am working with a student to prepare a speech he is presenting next week to the Hainan government, educators for primary, secondary, and university. I have chosen the method I use for the IELTS evaluation for speaking:

  1. Choose a topic for discussion.
  2. Ask the student to describe their topic.
  3. Ask follow up questions for clarification and further exploration of comprehension about the topic.

During this assessment there are some corrections made for word choice, grammatical structures and pronunciation and the students are not provided with information about the topic prior to the assessment. 

See the video of Eden’s assessment here: 

The follow up debrief includes the following questions:

  1. What do you think you did really well?
  2. What do you think are some areas for improvement?
  3. What would you have said differently?

After we discuss these questions I provide my feedback. For this assessment Eden made a few minor word choice errors like when he said ‘publics’ instead of public. His vocabulary was appropriate for his level of English learning, consistent with our studies in class, but he could have expressed his ideas more succinctly. For example, when I offered him the option to use ‘compound’ to describe how little problems turn into big problems. From the IELTS Band Descriptors rubric (2020) I have assessed him at:

  1. 7- Fluency and coherence
  2. 5.5- Lexical resources
  3. 6- Grammatical range and accuracy
  4. 6- Pronunciation

Eden is a high level English learner in my class as he has voluntarily studied English since the age of eight years. He watched English videos online and started to learn how to read English on his own with self-study. He did this while he was living abroad and studying at a Dutch primary school for grades two to six. His mother tongue is Chinese (Mandarin), his grandparents speak Hainanese dialect specific to the region of his hometown in Hainan, China, and he also reads, writes, speaks, and listens with understanding in both Dutch and English. Edens goals are to attain university entrance level English to be competitive in an English environment for his studies. Other than school he only speaks English wth his brother who is currently studying at the University of Toronto in Canada. English exposure outside of class and talking with his brother includes reading English books and watching English television and movies. He is a talented artist and spends most of his free time drawing and creating artwork he can commission for his passion about the environment. His current age is sixteen years old. 

What did you find out through the administration process and as a result of your assessment about the learner?

As previously mentioned I noticed the word choice and how he chose words that were safe in his explanation and did not try an expanded vocabulary for a more concise message. He also made a few errors with pluralizations throughout. I have learned to focus on grammar and word choice when he is articulating his ideas. Eden’s feedback was that he could have used better words when describing the environment. He said, “I know to say climate change but I was nervous” (Wei, 2021). 

In the next four weeks of reading and writing classes I will focus on the two key goals we discussed about pluralization and word choice. There is confusion with pluralization and past tense with my English language learners and Eden’s assessment showed me what may be helpful to focus on these last day of school.

Further Reading

World Readiness Standards for Learning Languages

Assessment of Young Learners

Assessment of English Language Learners

Cambridge Test Your English- Young Learners

5 Ways to Assess English Language Learners

Criteria for High Quality Assessment

Culturally Sustaining Assessment

Supporting English Language Learners with Formative Assessments

References

Guest Author. (2018, February 13). Supporting English Language Learners with Formative Assessments. Getting Smart. https://www.gettingsmart.com/2016/04/supporting-ells-with-formative-assessments/

PETER PAN BY J. M. BARRIE – Free eBook Online. (n.d.). Www.literatureproject.com. Retrieved June 10, 2021, from http://www.literatureproject.com/peter-pan/

sarahlicain. (2019, January 17). Watch Them Grow: 5 Non-test Alternatives for Assessing English Language Learners. FluentU English Educator Blog. https://www.fluentu.com/blog/educator-english/assessing-english-language-learners/

SPEAKING: Band Descriptors (public version) Band Fluency and coherence Lexical resource Grammatical range and accuracy Pronunciation. (n.d.). https://www.ielts.org/-/media/pdfs/speaking-band-descriptors.ashx?la=en

Speaking Assessment IELTS. (n.d.). Www.youtube.com. Retrieved June 11,    2021, from https://youtu.be/4PEn6RyV–8

Published by suzannemarie

Living life to its fullest. I believe in courageously honouring my truth. I am a published author & educator who helps current and future leaders. Lover of meaningful conversations, coffee, food, and learning, I am a global citizen and spiritual badass by day and aspiring yogi by night.

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