Monday, August 25, 2014

Alternative Authentic Assessment for ELLs: Area

The following is an authentic assessment for English Language Learners.  The assessment covers finding the area of figures.

Different activities require different types of authentic assessments.  One particular activity will help students practice finding the area of different figures while being assessed authentically.  Various shapes will be cut out on different colored construction paper.  The shapes will be color coordinated so that different pieces of the same color can evenly fit together.  Each student will receive a cutout.  Next, the student will find a partner who has a shape that is the same color as his or hers.  When the students find partners with the same colored shape, they will put their shapes together like a puzzle.  After the partners match up their shapes, they will find the dimensions of their figure by measuring it with a ruler.  Then, the students find the area of the combined figures.  Students can use any strategy that they have learned to find the area, including formulas, or adding together the areas of each individual figure.

For example, one student is given a green square.  The student finds another student with a green right triangle.  The students put the shapes together to make a trapezoid.  Then, the students must find the area of the new figure that they created, which would be the trapezoid.  Besides finding the area, the students will complete other tasks which will test their language domains.  On a piece of paper, the students will show all their work as to how they found their answer.  Lastly, in complete sentences, the students will write out all of the steps they used to solve the problem.

The shapes and area activity will be used for the mathematics domain; more specifically, those at the eighth grade math level.  The activity can also be used for English Language Learners, primarily those who are at a Level 5 in speaking, listening, and writing.  By working with a partner, students will use their speaking and listening skills for effective communication.  Students will also practice their writing skills by writing out in complete sentences all the steps they used to solve problems.  It is necessary to assess English Language Learners, as the activity calls for an authentic assessment, which will be observations and a checklist (see page 5).

A checklist helps keep track of a student's progress or performance and is made ahead of time so that teachers can easily mark down what they noticed in an organized manner.  A checklist gives a teacher specific things to look for in the students.  The checklist for the shapes and area activity will consist of three columns: one to check off a task, one for the activity being observed, and one for comments that the teacher can write.  The tasks that teachers will look for and check off include math skills in finding the area, writing skills, speaking skills through talking with a partner, showing work, and participation.

The instructions for administering the checklist authentic assessment is fairly simple.  While the students are working on the shapes and area activity, the teacher will walk around the classroom with the checklist attached to a clipboard.  The teacher will watch and observe the students carefully.  The teacher will check off the things that the student is able to do correctly or effectively.  The teacher will also write comments about a student's strong suits, areas that need improvement, as well as other additional and necessary comments.

The observation and checklist authentic assessment has several different purposes.  First and foremost, students will be tested on their knowledge of find the area of different shapes.  By completing the activity, it will be determined if the student can successfully find the area of a figure, or if they further instruction.  A teacher will be able to see if the student can do the math correctly or if he or she needs further assistance.  Secondly, students will be assessed on their writing skills.  By writing out the steps used to solving the problem, teachers can see whether a student knows the correct mathematics vocabulary related to area.  Teachers will also be able to see how students structure their sentences, or notice if students use correct spelling and grammar.  The students should be able to write lengthy, complex explanations, and teachers can assess their writing skills through the activity by watching what they are writing.  Level 5 English Language Learners should have strong writer skills, and by observing, teachers will be able to see if they are on the right track.

Also through the shapes and area activity, teachers will be able to assess the student's speaking skills.  The activity calls for working with a partner, as a lot of discussion will take place.  The teachers can eavesdrop and listen to the students' conversations in order to assess them.  Level 5 speakers should have linguistic complexity and vocabulary mastery.  Teachers should note if the students are using mathematical vocabulary.  Level 5 speakers should not have much trouble understanding their partner.  They should be very close to the skills of their English proficient peers.  Teachers should look to make sure that the ELLs are easily understanding their partner and maintaining the flow of the conversation. 

The observations and checklist are appropriate measures of achievement for Level 5 English Language Learners.  Because Level 5 ELLs are more advanced, they do not need to be guided as much; therefore, they can be a little more independent.  Being observed is also less pressure than taking a unit or standardized tests.  Testing can lead to anxiety and may not always accurately assess the students, even if they get a good grade.  By watching the students in action, a teacher can get a better idea of where a student stands.

In general, the teachers will assess the shapes and area activity by observing and making marks on a checklist.  The assessment will be used to see where the students are at in specific domains and whether they are on the right path.  Observing and using a checklist will be the most effective way to authentically assess Level 5 English Language Learners for the area assignment. 
Pennsylvania English Language Proficiency Standards: Classroom/Formative Framework

Content Objectives/MPI:  Students will be able to find the area of combined figures with a partner by measuring and using formulas.

Language Objectives/MPI: Students will be able to write the steps they used to find the area of the combined figures with a partner.  Students will be able to discuss with a partner how to find the area of the combined figures.

Grade Level and Domain: 8th grade mathematics

ELP Level: Level 5 Writing, Speaking, and Listening

Alternative Authentic Assessment: Observations and Checklist

Developed Assessment:  Checklist on shape and area activity

Check all the activities that students are able to complete effectively.  Write comments about strong areas,  areas that need improvement, as well as other additional comments.


Follows directions carefully

Measures the figure correctly

Finds the correct area of the figure

Communicates effectively with partner by speaking and listening

Shows all work

Writes out the steps to solving the problem in full sentences with little or no mistakes

Finishes the assignment in a timely manner

Participation is evident

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