7. Teachers regularly assess students' reading progress and refine their instruction based on assessment results.
Assessment procedures that are embedded in instruction can provide accurate information about how ELLs are progressing in the curriculum. These assessments highlight students' instructional needs and their accomplishments. Informal classroom-based assessment of comprehension offers a fuller picture of ELL readers, whose understandings are not always captured well by tests.
Periodic one-on-one reading conferences serve several purposes. First, they provide valuable experiences in which individual ELL students can interact with the teacher. Second, they are an opportunity for teachers to look for evidence that students understand what they read. It is important not to confuse a student's nonstandard grammar or accented speech with lack of comprehension. During conferences, teachers try to determine which comprehension strategies students are using and which strategies they need to learn to use. Effective teachers not only assess students' reading comprehension but also support comprehension through explanation, skillful questioning, and demonstration of reading strategies. Regular reading conferences enable teachers to pinpoint instructional needs for individuals as well as needs common to several students, and then to plan lessons to address these needs.
Reading aloud individually or in small groups can be a valuable experience for English language learners (ELLs). As ELLs read aloud, teachers make notes on students' miscues (misreadings) and on the strategies students use to "repair" (or reread and try to correct or clarify meaning). When necessary, teachers prompt students to use comprehension strategies such as rereading a sentence from the beginning, summarizing what has happened so far, predicting what the sentence might say, identifying and thinking about word parts, and looking for cognates (sister words across languages).
After ELLs finish reading, teachers ask them to retell or recall orally what they have read. For beginners, teachers may scaffold retelling with story picture cards, sentence strips, and incomplete sentences that students can finish. In cases where the teacher understands the student's home language, retelling in that language can serve as an excellent way to assess comprehension, as distinct from speaking ability. Teachers also ask ELLs comprehension questions at several levels of difficulty (e.g., literal, interpretive, generalizing, and personalizing).
Effective teachers make notes on what students do and do not understand, on what kinds of scaffolding and prompts students need in order to read and retell the story, and on students' vocabulary comprehension and word use. In reviewing their notes, teachers can determine which reading skills need strengthening and which prompts and scaffolds support comprehension. This information guides planning for future lessons that incorporate appropriate teaching strategies.
ELLs keep reading logs, recording information and reactions to the books that they have read. Teachers help students to keep reading logs by teaching, modeling, and practicing the use of graphic organizers in class.
ELLs may be unaccustomed to assessing their own comprehension. It is helpful when teachers and classmates model this process.
To model, teachers and classmates say things like:
The characters in this story are . . .
This story takes place in . . .
The problem in the story is . . .
The character wants . . .
Which words tell us that . . .
Goldenberg, C. (1991). Instructional conversations and their classroom application (Educational Practice Report No. 2). Washington, D.C.: National Center for Research on Cultural Diversity and Second Language Learning.
Kress, J. E. (2002). The ESL teacher's book of lists. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.