Many of us have English Language Learners (ELL) in our classrooms, day cares, etc. We often assess all children but wonder, "How can I learn more about my ELL children?" The answer to this question must first be considered by addressing your purpose for assessments. Best practices tell us that assessments are ideal when they are used to drive instruction. So, if you want to discover how to help children make progress, then that is a good reason to assess. Sometimes, formal assessments like DIBELS, do very little to help us plan lessons and, in fact, it is my belief that formal tests like this can end up harming instruction for children. More on that next week!
Let's consider our early ELLs. Many times when these children first come to school they are still in the Silent Period or the Early Production Period (for more on this please see our posts, "The Silent Period" and "Early Production"). We need to know how much English each child can understand. There are wonderful assessments that are perfect for listening and speaking such as the SOLOM (Student Oral Language Observation Matrix). Assessments like this provide helpful data and give you a range as to where each ELL is on the Language Acquisition Continuum.
But, you likely have specific needs in your classroom. A simple listening comprehension assessment is helpful in getting to know individual children. You likely want to know if a child can understand basic English words, especially basic school vocabulary. You can create your own assessment by using any background knowledge you have about the child and using these interests to discover more about his or her listening language. For example, if the child likes soccer, put out three different color balls. Ask the child to give you the red ball, etc. You can observe the child to see if the gives you a blue ball or if the red ball is merely picked up. Responses can tell you if the verb is not understood or if the color word is not understood. These kinds of qualitative determinations are important for classroom success. And, when you use the child's interests, you are likely to get a better picture of the child's abilities.
As you create basic listening skills assessments, we encourage you to consider the necessary language for your classroom. Is "raise your hand" an important phrase that you want a child to understand? Is "sit on the carpet?" a command you need for all to understand? Finding out if children can understand YOUR classroom language is helpful for you and the children. So, make your assessments work for your classroom!
NAEYC - 2.D.01 & 02.
Head Start - VIII.A. & IX. A