EL students must receive direct instruction in English and be given access to the content standards. Best practice dictates that those two efforts be integrated. To provide a model of how this can be done through the use of available technology, I have created a unit which addresses the common core English language arts standards and the WIDA English language development standards. I then linked the assessment and related tools on Mastery Connect to allow access to the unit for both ESL and ELA teachers in the district.
My first step was to create a rubric which addresses the language arts standards and the English language development standards and upload it to Mastery Connect.
I then created a curriculum map in which the assessment could be used. I also added a tracker, as that gave me the flexibility to add in the standards from multiple content areas and grade levels that I needed.
And finally, using the principles of backwards design, I thought about how the standards would be taught. I created instructional materials for the unit and linked them to the unit in the curriculum map.
This unit primarily addresses the following Minnesota English Language Arts Standard:
W.8.3 3. Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, relevant descriptive details, and well-structured event sequences.
This unit also addresses the following English Language Development Standard:
ELD 2 English language learners communicate information, ideas and concepts necessary for academic success in the content area of Language Arts.
In order to ensure that this rubric adequately addresses both sets of standards, I have aligned the strand which meets the ELD standard with the WIDA performance definitions and writing rubric. To differentiate for ELs at different proficiency levels, I have created two rubrics- one for ELs at proficiency levels 4 and 5, and another for ELs at proficiency levels 2-3. For the rubric intended for ELs at higher proficiency levels, "mastery" is aligned to English language proficiency level 6. On the rubric intended for ELs at lower proficiency levels, "mastery" is aligned to English language proficiency level 4. Therefore, growth in writing proficiency in English will be measured fairly and accurately using a consistent scale. In addition, this alignment will allow for assessment of student growth relative to the ELD standards to be done and reported regularly, not just annually when the students are given the state-standardized English language proficiency test.
In this task, students must use their writing skills and knowledge of fairy tales to produce a real “book” complete with illustrations and a front and back cover. Engaging in the same task that an actual professional writer would makes this assessment an authentic one.
Critical to making this assessment as authentic as possible for ELs is activation of prior knowledge of fairy tales and folk tales from around the world. True proof of the assessment’s authenticity lies in the nature of the products the students eventually produce. When students base their fractured fairy tales on stories they were told in early childhood, or the way the story is fractured speaks to an issue with which the students actually contend, authenticity is achieved. I have evaluated fractured fairy tales from by students that do both.
Personal ReflectionThis exercise was a very valuable one for me, as I intend to encourage other teachers in the use of Mastery Connect to meet the needs of ELs and assess them appropriately. Initially, I was intending to begin this work by creating model performance indicators for ELs based on Minnesota state standards. While that is work I still intend to do, as I worked with the Mastery Connect program and tried different things, I’ve discovered that beginning by creating differentiated writing rubrics for ELs at different grade levels is a more concrete task, more immediately useful to teachers, more manageable within Mastery Connect and more manageable in scope.