One of the most challenging aspects for educators of English language learners (ELLs) is accurately assessing language development over time — oral language, in particular. Due to the conversational nature of language, it can be incredibly difficult to assess oral language while simultaneously engaging in conversation, not to mention recording the data as you go.
While the speaking and listening domains can be the hardest to objectively assess over time, reading and writing shouldn’t be overlooked. ELL educators are always looking through two lenses — content knowledge and English language development (ELD).
A few savvy strategies coupled with technology integration can enhance not only English language learning within the four domains (listening, speaking, reading, and writing) of ELD, but your assessment of language development over time as well.
“What gets measured is what gets done.”
I hear this mantra often in the educational world. While some people might read it and sigh, thinking about all the testing our kids have to go through, I see it differently.
Why accept the current frame, that assessment is a tool merely for evaluation? What if assessment were a process that is fulfilling for students and teachers instead of draining?
How might we rethink “What gets measured is what gets done,” and shift our focus toward documenting students’ potential instead of merely passing a test?
One approach I find effective for this work is digital portfolio assessment.
This is the first year that I’ve been using virtual notebooks in my classroom. At first, I was a bit nervous about trying this with six-year-olds, but I felt it could open up so many collaborative tools for my students.
We are a Title I public school in Rhode Island and each student K-12 has his or her own Chromebook. My students are very familiar with different Google applications, but I was looking for something I could use in place of a science notebook. I was introduced to Seesaw by a colleague and decided to give it a try.
I’m a big fan of science notebooks for students. My students use notebooks to develop Cornell Notes from content material, record and analyze lab data, and create “interactive notebook” elements like foldables, flashcards, and puzzles.
I’m NOT a big fan of the lengthy process that ensues when attempting to assess student notebooks. What I find most frustrating is collecting notebooks to see what students are thinking. As a high school teacher with multiple sections of students, trying to carry home hundreds of notebooks isn’t only logistically difficult, it’s time-consuming and inefficient.
I tried something new this year: integrating coding with algebra. This was quite the challenge. With all the pressure for students to meet state standards, how would I introduce coding without sacrificing valuable algebra content?
I dedicated myself to search for that balance between algebra and coding, ensuring that one wasn’t prioritized over the other. I wanted coding and technology to be tools for enrichment that would help kids to understand algebra. This year was all about trial and error, succeeding and failing, experimenting and hypothesizing. It certainly took courage to try out something new, but taking that extra step toward the unknown was absolutely rewarding.
My students loved coding. I started the year with a “sandbox.” They were free to be creative and build whatever they wished. The creativity got them hooked. Once they built something, they were itching to build more. However, it only took a few days for them to realize that there were limitations. They didn’t understand enough coding to build more complex things, which of course stirred their curiosity. That’s where it all started, with the big essential question, “How can I bring my imagination to life?”
What A Great Chat!
Thank you to everyone who joined us as we discussed technology tools for teachers.
Choose a tool you discovered in the chat and use your downtime to learn and explore over the next few months. If you have questions, reach out. And remember to follow the Tchers you connected with in the chat so we can continue the conversation and get better together!
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There’s an urban legend in education that says new teachers will begin their careers as “roamers,” or traveling teachers, in overcrowded high schools. I suppose I was an anomaly. I had my own, beautiful classroom for my first year of teaching, but the glory was short lived. I became a “roamer” in my second year. Traveling to five different classrooms — one for each passing period — isn’t exactly thrilling. Needless to say, I was very disappointed to be displaced.
Was I really going to let this little setback ruin my year? Of course not!
Rather than looking at my new situation as a problem, I used this experience as an opportunity to try something brand new; something completely outside the box. I would redefine classroom. I would build a mobile app — a “mobile classroom” to fill the void.
This is part of Maria Perryman’s Getting Better Together work. Maria and all the Teaching Channel Laureates are going public with their practice and seeking support in getting better from colleagues and the Tch community.
Technology is moving at such a fast pace. I’m trying to keep up with it, yet I can’t seem to fully grasp it. I’ve embraced social media by using Facebook and Twitter, and I just recently added Instagram. I’ve even tried Periscope!
As an educator, I feel as though I should know more about technology and eventually master it, so I can keep up with my students and be my best for them. Last school year I was very fortunate to have a student who was a technology guru. He helped solve some major technical problems that we would have had to otherwise call the district tech department to come out and fix. He was in total charge of all my technology.
I must have thought I would have him as my student forever, because I didn’t take the time to learn from him. Well, as the saying goes, you don’t know how good something is until it’s gone. This is one reason why I decided to focus on getting better with technology – and to try blogging, both for myself and with my students.
As the school year comes to a close across the country, we know that opens up A LOT of time for kids during the long summer days.
We also know that kids today are increasingly using the Internet in their free time to find information, entertain themselves, purchase goods, and communicate with their peers and family. If you’re working with kids this summer — whether in a summer learning program or at home during family time — or if you’re still in the process of saying goodbye to your students, you may be looking for ways to help them sharpen or extend their skills during the next couple of months.
How do we improve? We ask questions. We read. We do what we can to learn more, and make changes based on what we’ve learned. If we want to help our children have a more successful experience in school, it’s no different. We need to understand what they’re doing, where they might be struggling, and what they’re doing well. We might get a rough idea by reading their progress reports, or from the kids themselves, but ultimately, we need more.
Over the last few years, I’ve come to love that my children’s teachers have increased their means of communicating with parents. Communication is no longer limited to the paper newsletter in the backpack, a website, and the occasional conference. That change has created a stronger partnership between myself and the school and teachers. In turn, it has changed how I support my children’s teachers, the school, and learning from home — no doubt enabling my children to have greater success, and enjoyment, in learning.
So, what communication tools do I wish all of my children’s teachers used? And, as a school or teacher, how do you choose which tools to use? Personally, I love online and mobile tools, and there are many reasons for this.