Session 8: Assessing Reading and Writing

BILED 717: Language Assessment for ELLs

Anel V. Suriel, MsEd.

CUNY Hunter College

Mahoney (2017), Language and Content

“When assessing content, minimize or simplify the language so you can focus on content” (p. 80)

“Language is not assessed… out of context” (p. 80).

“Integrated assessment (language, literacy and content) creates a more authentic environment to collect assessment data” (p. 91).

“…Developing a student’s language skills used to express reasoning [knowledge skills and logical application] in content areas is now a priority.” (p. 83-84)

Gottlieb (2015): “Language [is] the vehicle toward reaching the goal of success in school” (p. 62).

First bullet further supported by Abedi, 2014


Start with Language Objective by…

1) Within a PUMI table, articulate a method of assessment or domain to measure per standard (Mahoney, 2017).

2) Select a particular language domain target (reading/ listening or speaking/ writing) for the unit/ series of lessons.

3) Analyze academic language:

4) Modify by proficiency level (see ELP standards)

(Gottlieb, 2016; Mahoney, 2017)

Dimension Student Expectation
Discourse (Key Practice)
Sentence Structure and Syntax
Vocabulary (Tier II and III)

Start with the Purpose

What do you want to measure?

What do you want students to master after a period of instruction?

Standards? Language proficiency goals?

What methods and domains realistically suit this purpose?

Alignments and real world use?

(Mahoney, 2017)

ELP : English language learners communicate information, ideas and concepts necessary for academic success in the content area of Language Arts

RL.7/8.1: Write arguments to support claims with relevant evidence.

Writing task/ Argument Rubric

Purpose Use Method Instrument
What do students know about argument & debate? Inform instruction (use what they know for writing) Oral (diagnostic) and written (summative) ?

Remember the Relationship between Domains


Gottlieb: “Minimize interference from other domains” to measure “understanding of text in isolation” (2016)

Content and language may either inhibit or facilitate

Home and target language abilities create holistic pictures of student capabilities.

 Writing

Be wary of genres

Scoring should reflect proficiency-based abilities

Translanguaging allows for use of similar functions across language and “builds metalinguistic awareness” (Gottlieb, 2016)

Tied to oracy in certain elements within a genre. Can serve as models for writing.

Must be prepared to isolate these domains in assessment (Gottlieb, 2016)

Writing: Imitative (spelling), Intensive (form), Responsive, Extensive (i.e., narratives)

Mention Zwiers and “They Say, I Say” Text.


Align to Curriculum & Resources

Available and Non-negotiable:

Workshop model- 80 min.

TC Reading Unit related to informational text and author’s craft

Students reading on 5th grade level in Spanish/ 1-3 grade level in English who love to talk and debate

General love of movies and pop culture

What’s available?

What must you include (and exclude)?

What is comprehensible & ‘usable’ for students at their language levels?

What do they already know?

What do they need to know?

How will the need to show what they know and learn authentically?

Ties into Gottlieb’s Ch. 5 (2016) ideas on assessment ‘as’ learning. Tie to real-world need or use/ build on existing language and content schema’s and level up.

Students need:

Point of entry

Opportunities for success

Highly comprehensible input



Dimension Student Expectation
Discourse (Key Practice) Claims, Evidence, Warrant, Justification
Sentence Structure and Syntax Declarative sentences/ Contrasts/ Cause & Effect
Vocabulary (Tier II and III)

Language Objectives: SWBAT…

…orally and in writing create a claim and defend it with logical evidence (W.7.1)

Using declarative sentences (ELP Level 2-3)

Explanatory vocabulary –BASED ON ASSESSMENT

…orally and in writing counter-argue opposing claim (W.7.1)

Using subordinate clauses (ELP 3-4)

“Cause and effect” language

Who is a Better Superhero?

Pick a side. Share reasons why _____ is a better super hero.

Decide which evidence you will use

Find a partner. Take turns to share our evidence. DO NOT RESPOND.

Return to your group. Share the other side’s evidence.

Decide how you will respond?

Return to your partner. Respond to each side.


Teach into & Start Writing With Support

“________ is the best superhero.

“I think _______ is the best superhero because __________. (S)He has ___________. (S)he can __________. S(h)e always _______________.

“Furthermore,______ is the best superhero because __________…

“Some people say that _____ is the best superhero. But, this is not true because ________. The reason why ______________ is that ______________. On the other hand…..

“This proves ______ is the real superhero.”

Elmer, age 14, 5 months in US:

Discourse Examples

Summative Assessment: What happened to Arthur?Create an argumentative essay explaining with evidence if Arthur’s death was a murder or mistake?

Hillocks, G. (2011). Teaching Argumen Writing Grades 6-12: Supporting Claims with Relevant Evidence and Clear Reasoning. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.


Provided Supports


“I think _____ because _______. For example, _________. This means __________.”


“Arthur slipped.

“I think Arthur slipped. He slipped because there was not enough time to kill Arthur. The house is neat. There is no evidence or proof that they had been fighting. She is unable to fix everything in ten minutes.

“Arthur went downstairs for one drink more. He still had the glass in his hand. The autopsy revealed that Arthur had been drunk. This could cause him to slip and fall.

“Some people say that he tripped. But, this is not true. Because she did not have the strength to kill him. She is very small because she is five hundred and ten pounds and drunk. This is why she stayed still and scared when she saw him. This is why she looks guilty, but she is not.

“This proves that Arthur slipped.”

Elmer, Age 13, Grade 7, EB, First year in US


Language makes content accessible—for ELLs AND students struggling with native language

Teaching through language provides a point of entry into a task

Knowing a starting point helps determine growth points and limits frustration

Bring students on board to assessment allows them success and buy-in.

Additional Resources for Oracy and Writing:

Hillocks, G. (2011). Teaching Argumen Writing Grades 6-12: Supporting Claims with Relevant Evidence and Clear Reasoning. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

“They Say, I Say”

Building Academic Language: Meeting Common Core Standards Across Disciplines, Grades 5–12, Second Edition. (2014). Jossey-Bass.

Other grade levels:


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