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Guide to Utilizing Informal Assessments with ELL Students

Performance based assessments are one of the primary tools that the classroom teacher can
utilize to assess the progress of ELL students. It is important when implementing performance
based assessments that the assignment, exercise, or activity have a clear set of expectations
that are well communicated. Therefore, tasks, especially those that are more open ended,
should have a clear, well defined rubric. It is also helpful for the instructor to determine a small
list of skills they wish to assess. If the instructor is aware what concrete skills that observing
students complete the assignment or exercise will help evaluate, the recorded observations will
be more concrete, and thus more useful when informing future instruction.
Teachers can also develop a set of evaluative standards for observing students engage in
collaborative group work based on guided inquiry Socratic questions. Teachers can then
observe group interactions and record specific, more objective information regarding ELL
students ability to collaborate regarding critical thinking exercises. This can allow a teacher to
provide more scaffolding for students who may need additional supports.
Additionally, employing a portfolio style assessment can help document student success over
the course of the year. I employ this type of assessment for written justifications or
explanations in AP Calculus and AP Physics. Students turn in written responses to such
questions over the course of the year, and improvement in the clarity of the written response is
observed. As these observations are collected often, I can intervene with students who may
need additional practice with these types of qualitative responses.
The key to informal evaluation then is having a clear set of expectations for the student, a
clear set of skills which the assignment can help the instructor observe or assess, documenting
such results clearly, and utilizing such results to inform instruction.