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Practical Ideas on Alternative Assessment for ESL Students. ERIC Digest.
Many educators have come to recognize that alternative assessments are an important means of gaining a dynamic picture of students' academic and linguistic development. "Alternative assessment refers to procedures and techniques which can be used within the context of instruction and can be easily incorporated into the daily activities of the school or classroom" (Hamayan, 1995, p. 213). It is particularly useful with English as a second language students because it employs strategies that ask students to show what they can do. In contrast to traditional testing, "students are evaluated on what they integrate and produce rather than on what they are able to recall and reproduce" (Huerta-Macias, 1995, p. 9). Although there is no single definition of alternative assessment, the main goal is to "gather evidence about how students are approaching, processing, and completing real-life tasks in a particular domain" (Huerta-Macias, 1995, p. 9). Alternative assessments generally meet the following criteria:
* Focus is on documenting individual student growth over time, rather than comparing students with one another.
* Emphasis is on students' strengths (what they know), rather than weaknesses (what they don't know).
* Consideration is given to the learning styles, language proficiencies, cultural and educational backgrounds, and grade levels of students.
Alternative assessment includes a variety of measures that can be adapted for different situations. This Digest provides examples of measures that are well suited for assessing ESL students.
NONVERBAL ASSESSMENT STRATEGIES
"Pictorial Products." To elicit content knowledge without requiring students to speak or write, teachers can ask students to produce and manipulate drawings, dioramas, models, graphs, and charts. When studying Colonial America, for example, teachers can give students a map of the colonies and labels with the names of the colonies. Students can then attempt to place the labels in the appropriate locations. This labeling activity can be used across the curriculum with diagrams, webs, and illustrations.
To culminate a unit on butterflies, teachers can ask beginning ESL students to illustrate, rather than explain, the life cycle of butterflies. Students can point to different parts of a butterfly on their own drawing or on a diagram as an assessment of vocabulary retention. Pictorial journals can be kept during the unit to record observations of the butterflies in the classroom or to illustrate comprehension of classroom material about types of butterflies, their habitats, and their characteristics.
Sample K-W-L Chart
Lincoln was important.
His face is on a penny.
He's dead now.
I think Lincoln was a President.
He was a tall person.
Why is Lincoln famous?
Was he a good President?
Why is he on a penny?
Did he have a family?
How did he die?
Lincoln was President of the U.S.
He was the 16th President.
There was a war in America when Lincoln was President.
He let the slaves go free.
Two of his sons died while he was still alive.
Before a unit of study, teachers can have students fill in the K and W columns by asking them what they know about the topic and what they would like to know by the end of the unit. This helps to keep students focused and interested during the unit and gives them a sense of accomplishment when they fill in the L column following the unit and realize that they have learned something.
ORAL PERFORMANCES OR PRESENTATIONS
When conducting interviews in English with students in the early stages of language development to determine English proficiency and content knowledge, teachers are advised to use visual cues as much as possible and allow for a minimal amount of English in the responses. Pierce and O'Malley (1992) suggest having students choose one or two pictures they would like to talk about and leading the students by asking questions, especially ones that elicit the use of academic language (comparing, explaining, describing, analyzing, hypothesizing, etc.) and vocabulary pertinent to the topic.
Role plays can be used across the curriculum with all grade levels and with any number of people. For example, a teacher can take on the role of a character who knows less than the students about a particular subject area. Students are motivated to convey facts or information prompted by questions from the character. This is a fun-filled way for a teacher to conduct informal assessments of students' knowledge in any subject (Kelner, 1993).
Teachers can also ask students to use role play to express mathematical concepts. For example, a group of students can become a numerator, a denominator, a fraction line, a proper fraction, an improper fraction, and an equivalent fraction. Speaking in the first person, students can introduce themselves and their functions in relationship to one another (Kelner, 1993). Role plays can also be used in science to demonstrate concepts such as the life cycle.
In addition, role plays can serve as an alternative to traditional book reports. Students can transform themselves into a character or object from the book (Kelner, 1993). For example, a student might become Christopher Columbus, one of his sailors, or a mouse on the ship, and tell the story from that character's point of view. The other students can write interview questions to pose to the various characters.
ORAL AND WRITTEN PRODUCTS
"Content area logs" are designed to encourage the use of metacognitive strategies when students read expository text. Entries can be made on a form with these two headings: What I Understood/What I Didn't Understand (ideas or vocabulary).
"Reading response logs" are used for students' written responses or reactions to a piece of literature. Students may respond to questions--some generic, some specific to the literature--that encourage critical thinking, or they may copy a brief text on one side of the page and write their reflections on the text on the other side.
Beginning ESL students often experience success when an expository "writing assignment" is controlled or structured. The teacher can guide students through a pre-writing stage, which includes discussion, brainstorming, webbing, outlining, and so on. The results of pre-writing, as well as the independently written product, can be assessed.
Student writing is often motivated by content themes. Narrative stories from characters' perspectives (e.g., a sailor accompanying Christopher Columbus, an Indian who met the Pilgrims, a drop of water in the water cycle, etc.) would be valuable inclusions in a student's writing portfolio.
"Dialogue journals" provide a means of interactive, ongoing correspondence between students and teachers. Students determine the choice of topics and participate at their level of English language proficiency. Beginners can draw pictures that can be labeled by the teacher.
"Audio and video cassettes" can be made of student oral readings, presentations, dramatics, interviews, or conferences (with teacher or peers).
The following types of materials can be included in a portfolio:
Audio- and videotaped recordings of readings or oral presentations.
Writing samples such as dialogue journal entries, book reports, writing assignments (drafts or final copies), reading log entries, or other writing projects.
Art work such as pictures or drawings, and graphs and charts.
Conference or interview notes and anecdotal records.
Checklists (by teacher, peers, or student).
Tests and quizzes.
To gain multiple perspectives on students' academic development, it is important for teachers to include more than one type of material in the portfolio.
Huerta-Macias, A. (1995). Alternative assessment: Responses to commonly asked questions. "TESOL Journal," 5, 8-10.
Kelner, L.B. (1993). "The creative classroom: A guide for using creative drama in the classroom, preK-6. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Pierce, L.V., & O'Malley, J.M. (1992)."Performance and portfolio assessment for language minority students. Washington, DC: National Clearinghouse for Bilingual Education.
Tierney, R.J., Carter, M.A., & Desai, L.E. (1991). "Portfolio assessment in the reading-writing classroom." Norwood, MA: Christopher Gordon.
This report was prepared with funding from the Office of Educational Research and Improvement, U.S. Dept. of Education, under contract no. RR93002010. The opinions expressed in this report do not necessarily represent the positions or policies of OERI or ED
Title: Practical Ideas on Alternative Assessment for ESL Students. ERIC Digest.
Descriptors: Charts; Creative Writing; Dialog Journals; * English [Second Language]; * Evaluation Methods; Interviews; Journal Writing; Nonverbal Communication; Oral Language; Portfolios [Background Materials]; Role Playing; Science Instruction; Social Studies; * Student Evaluation; Writing Exercises
Identifiers: *Alternative Assessment; ERIC Digests
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