Use this discussion thread to post your response to the question below from the ELL-U online course, Formative Assessment to Inform Quality Adult ESL Instruction. Please share your comments and feedback on the course.

  • What is one important thing you are taking away from this online course? What do you hope to implement in your classroom?

Comments (127)

nicole a.'s picture

I hope to implement many of the strategies and activities to strengthen my teaching and student learning.

melton's picture

I have used many of the strategies in my teaching and will continue to use them.  All have been very effective.

PatiG's picture

One important thing that I have taken away from this course is the process of formal assessment. Although I had studied this in my course at the university, this particular vignette when farther into detail. 

shelleyhlee's picture

I have found that doing frequent learning checks is very effective in my literacy class. Students show us what they have learned through a dictation, reading a list of words or sentences, or answering questions individually. I have a volunteer each day that the class meets, and between the two of us we can do several of these mini assessments quickly each day.

shelleyhlee's picture

My lesson goal today in Level 1 was: TSWBAT talk about a picture of a classroom using common verbs in the present progressive and correct subject pronouns. Ex: "He is standing and talking to the teacher. She is coming in the class. She is reading a book." After TPR, demonstrations of key vocab, asking and answering the question, "What is he/she doing?", I had two activities that I would consider formative assessments. First, a comprehension check: I described people in the picture, modeling the type of sentence I want students to practice. Students put a plastic marker on the person I described. Second, I asked students to talk about the picture in English for 10 minutes. My volunteer and I circulated, making note of which students successfully used complete sentences with the present progressive. About 70% of the students were able to use the present progressive correctly, with varying consistency. So my formative assessments are telling me to keep practicing this skill with different content, but keep using pictures as prompts since that was a successful way to get them talking.

rtowne's picture

Thank you for this assessment example. I also use TPR in my Level ! class, mainly everyday classroom verbs, such as read, write, point, and spell.

I will use picture cards demonstrating these verbs and assess our new goal: spelling  these verbs.

Leigh S's picture

Hi Shelley -- I like the idea of the plastic markers next to the person.  How were these positioned --- on a poster at the front or by pictures that each student had?  I would find having students talk for 10 minutes (each? or in a small group?) about a picture might be long.  I don't know if I could do that! ;-)  After this activity, would you change the time or did you find it comfortable?


shelleyhlee's picture

Hi Leigh, the students each had a set of plastic chips, and they all had a copy of the book at the table. And yes, 10 min was long. I have changed the time since then to 3-5 minutes.



TPR is just a resource that can be used with certain words and situations.It is not something that applies to every case, eg: abstract terms and grammatical concepts. Certain gestures are not universally understood or accepted . TPR must be tailored to students' culture.  

BCarlyle's picture

I have used many of the assessments in this course to help with the quality of my ESL instruction. What I plan to do is tailor my structure to help in the student's learning needs.

LatinLanguages25000's picture

The most important thing I learned on this course is to use the students' background knowledge, and specific needs (as a valuable frame of reference) for designing  "outcome-driven" and "learner-centered" lesson plans instead of putting an enphasis only on "teacher-centered" or "materials-centered" lesson plans.



LatinLanguages25000's picture

I experienced success with the development of  short and long-term goals for lesson planing and assessing students.

DW's picture

 I use students' oral and written responses to gauge understanding. I pay attention to facial expressions and body language as well. My agency uses TABE for formal assessments. I am still learning how to interpret the results from the ESL TABE tests. I came from another agency that used TABE for ABE which I am used to analyzing.

frankie04's picture

Learning Goal:  Given visuals of house/apartment in disrepair, report problem and request repairs.

Task:  With a partner, look at the picture. (1) Choose one item in the picture you need to have repaired. (2)  Decide who you need to call to get the repair done.  Look up the number in the phone book and write it on the sticky note.  Write the name of the company and the phone number. ( 3) Use the cell-phones on the table and pretend to call the repair company.  Partner A will be the customer, and partner B will be the company.  Switch.  Practice.  After break, you will perform this activity in front of the class.  In the skit, include the name of the company and the phone number.  Describe the problem.   Tell your address and phone number, and record the time the repairman will come to your home. 

FawnThibodeaux's picture

Thank you for this exercise!  I am in Havre, MT - a very small rural area.  At this time I have 2 ESOL students - a mother and daughter from Russia.  The daughter has picked up the language quickly, but mom is not doing so well.  I think it is because it is easy for the mother to talk Russian to the daughter to get the "explanation" she needs.  I can partner with her in an exercise of this type to challenge her!  

Leigh S's picture

Frankie, this is an excellent exercise as I find most of my ELLs either have apartments or are on migrant farm premises about which they have to call someone if there is a problem. Usually this would always be the landlord (or the farmer), but in some cases they may need to call other tradesmen.  I would like to know if you found a handy source of pictures that show a broad range of typical home repairs, or if you just went on line and looked.

frankie04's picture

I use both long term goals and short term goals for each topic we focus on.  Short time goals would be learning vocabulary related to the week's study.  How to pronounce it, and what the word represents.  For instance, ten body parts.  The long time goal would be for students to be able to apply the knowledge learned in the unit to be able to call a doctor and tell the doctor - what hurts, and why the appointment is needed.  I think one area I could improve on, is to slow down with instruction, and break it into smaller parts.  I also would like to take the time to create more hands-on actifities and conversation drills on the topic we are doing.

hevans's picture

I find it helpful and interesting to use verbal feedback as opposed to relying on test scores to assess the needs of the class as a whole and each individual student.

hevans's picture

I love to see students journaling. We have several students who journal out of a desire to communicate in a way other than orally. I think this practice is a wonderful way to assess their understanding of not only written but verbal language. Students welcome the feedback of the teacher and this type of journaling opens up endless classroom conversations.

Leigh S's picture

I also have used journaling for my students at every level.  I was encouraged by an ELL PD instructor at one point who reminded us that even entry-level ELLs can journal writing what letters they see outside the home... Or copying words they want to learn... Reminding folks they can always draw a blank (line), use a picture, or write in their native language when they are stuck.  I used to clip pictures like crazy from magazines and have my low-level ELLs try to write every week about what they see in the picture or what they want to know.  I would choose randomly some to come up and read and talk about their journals, and at other times have them read together in pairs or small groups.  Of course there may be some journaling activities that some Ss will not want to share with anyone else but the teacher.

Ruth's picture

I have asked students where they most need English.  It has been helpful to know which textbook themes need additional support.  And, I ask my (level 0-1) students to tell me when they successfully use English outside the classroom.  We had a celebration when one of my students was able to order a pizza!


Mark's picture

As per the request to submit a summary of a lesson plan designed to give the instructor practice in determining an appropriate assessment that meets a learning goal, I submit the following.  One choice was to give the students a map (although most would immediately use their phone for this), and to ask/give directions to places in the community. This exercise would divide the students into pairs.  Each pair completes a task upon which the next pair builds.  For example, pair one would work to create a replica of the neighborhood, shopping area, etc. on a table using masking tape as streets (or anything that can be the shape of a street), and placing buildings (from old monopoly set, or wood blocks, whatever) along the route.  (A snapshot of a google map would work great, as a good photo shows buildings in place.)  An assessment of this first part of the lesson is evident in the outcome of the replica.  Continue with pairs to manuver a vehicle (also from monopoly, but any toy will do) to the appropriate address/place.  Much vocabulary essential to following directions is needed to have a successful outcome.  Students get immediate feedback when they make a wrong turn, etc., and each pair must convey appropriate directions throughout the exercise. *You may want each pair to work "blind" to the previous pair, so they do not yet know the desired location on the map replica.  The formative assessment strategy focuses on receptive skills.

Mark's picture

In my experience, the Metalinguistic approach to error correction is often needed to help high intermediate and advanced students understand the rules associated with an error.  However, first I observe the error in question over repeated attempts by the student to use the verb tense, article, etc. until I am certain that they may need a greater understanding of the error in question.  Sometimes they know about the error, but have not mastered omitting the error in conversation (or writing) and tend to get it right most of the time.  In such cases, I ask the student to paraphrase the rule they know before I correct/volunteer more information.  Students appreciate a simple, easy to understand explanation.  (Which is not always easy to give!) They also appreciate a reminder or assurance that the knowledge they already have is correct.

Mark's picture

Implementing formative assessments in the classroom is a strategy that will take some work on my part, I must admit.  I am pleased with the focus of this training, and plan to implement these strategies into our program.  While I already employ many of the strategies mentioned, I feel I can implement them better by extending much of the responsibilties to the students by allowing them to monitor and track their own progress.  This training module helped give me some ideas on how to accomplish this goal.

Lori Carswell's picture

I found this short course to be helpful and thought-provoking. Like other recent contributors (e.g., Mark, above), I realized that there are a range of useful assessment tools that I should be using in my class throughout the session. I plan to implement some of them in the near future. Journaling for a few minutes during each class and the "exit ticket" both struck me as productive ways to ensure that students reflect on their own progress at the end of every class. I tried to help students set and monitor goals during this nine-week session, but I think there are ways in which I could help students make their goals more concrete; for example, probe students to identify very specific conversational skills that they want to master. I also discovered that assessments can take a variety of fun and creative forms. I liked the idea of using peer assessments and dialogues or conversation practice as formative assessments. This was a good course. Thanks.

Carmela Kemp's picture

Performance Learning Goal:  Students will successfully demonstrate the use of the "sequence words" by both formulating the "Directions" for a given recipe as well as by creating and answering questions about it.

Task: Students are placed in pairs and given the name of a recipe, a listing of the ingredients, and a listing of the "Directions" in incorrect order.  Student A must compose the "Directions" for the recipe using the correct "sequence words." (First, Next, Finally)

Student B asks Student A questions about the recipe employing the "sequence words."

Student A answers the questions successfully by using the "sequence words."

Students switch roles with a second recipe.



Carmela Kemp's picture

I have regularly written objectives and goals in course planning but have not employed regular formative assessments as often as I should.  I plan to employ more formative assessments and to engage students more in setting goals and welcoming assessment as a valuable part of the learning process.

Hilda Cortes's picture

I prefer to us informal assessment because it gives me a better picture of my students needs. It places the focus on them and this motivates them to show what they know. They try their best in all activities but enjoy the feedback of genuine interest in their abilities. Once I know what they are able to do and what they are still struggling to do I can design fun lesson to teach them new skills

Hilda Cortes's picture

In my class what I have found is most useful is pairing my students and having them ask one another questions and then presenting what they have learned on the topic, one another, etc.. topic range from work, doctor’s visit, play dates, accidents, etc… sometimes these interviewee/interviewer become role playing activities. The change of activity style are at times decided by my students which is fine with me because I get to assess them in what they consider real-life setting.

Dona Haney's picture

Interesting assignment.  I am preparing to change the focus of a small group ( 2 students) I have been working with over the last year.  We will be addressing Job-seeking skills. 

Goal:  The students will be able to interpret a simplified job advertisement

Skills to practice will include Reading job advertisements and Describing the specified job to their peer.

Assessment will be done on an ongoing basis as we chart each week can they

- pronounce  the vocabulary used

- describe what tasks are required for the job

- what are the requirements to be considered for the position.


I welcome feedback because this is truly something I will be doing soon.  Thanks



Dona Haney's picture

I find that I use Implicit correction primarily in informal setting ( general discussions, etc) however as we are doing exercises and reading from a book, Iwill tend to you esplicit correction.  I will use metalinguistic correction only to get to detailed information when rarely needed.

Dona Haney's picture

I have found this course quite useful.  It has placed a theoretical framework on what I have been doing and provided some very helpful tools to assist me to provide a more professional approach in teaching my students as well as working with other tutors.

Barbara Mang's picture

1.  Performance learning goal: CALL IN SICK TO WORK
3.  Assessment activities:  Intermediate ESL students; Desired result is correct vocabulary/telephone skills/ability to communicate reason for absence with appropriate manners.  Therefore, I need evidence that the students feel confident in HOW to communicate and actually in communicating to their supervisor over the phone with clarity.
4.  Teach telephone skills through vocabulary/dialog/props.  Teach illnesses/conditions through pictures/pantomime/written corresponding words.  Teach final skills through chain drills/controlled dialog/ quizzes using pantomime/final role playing in pairs
5.  Evaluation criteria:  teacher observation/ students understanding each other and communicating this task to each other in role playing; informal quizzes on health vocabulary and conversation skills via telephone; regular reviewing and activities to foster retention



Donna G's picture

Many of these ideas were not new to me, but I realize that as I implement these techniques I need to improve my record keeping to mark the short term progress that my students are making.  As I plan my next class, I am going to to formalize the goal-setting process and ensure that I incorporate more real-life uses of the language into my assessments.

finnmiller's picture

Hi Donna, You've noted an important take-away from the ELLU Formative Assessment online course. Keeping records of students' short term progress -- and even having students keep their own records-- can make a big difference in achievement as well as persistence.  Formalizing the goal-setting process is also likely to have a positive impact on learner persistence.

I wonder if members of the community could weigh in on this. How are teachers keeping track of learner progress? What are some useful strategies for formalizing goal-setting?

Cheers, Susan

Moderator, AELL CoP

Gladys Lopez-Rivas's picture

I have used several different techniques to assess my students.  However, I have never had my students choose a "theme" to cover in the classroom.   I feel that by allowing the students to make a choice on a topic, they may be more interested and involved in their learning.  I plan on using this format to my future students.  Liz' techniques were very interesting.

Gladys Lopez-Rivas's picture

Goal:  Call in sick to work.  (For lower level.)

Assessment:  Through oral response, during role plays with groups and in pairs, student will call their employer and ask to speak to a supervisor.  Student will identify themselves first; then proceed to state that he/she is ill and will not be able to go to work that day.  In oral reviews and during assessments with teacher, the student can state that he/she is ill, and therefore will not be reporting to work that day.

Because it is a lower level, the section on describing symptoms will also be discussed and practiced, to achieve better performance. 


Gladys Lopez-Rivas's picture

Goal:  Call 911 for medical or other emergencies, which identify the emergency type, location and personal information.  Lower-level students.

Lesson will include:  A review will be presented about why it is important to memorize some of their personal information such as home address and telephone numbers. 

Learning will include memorization of spelling their complete name, their home address and telephone number.  They will also be given the telephone numbers needed to call for emergencies.  Students will learn who to call for a specific accident/incident, i.e., the police department, the fire department, or an ambulance.   Students will work as a group, with the teacher, then students will work in pairs.  They will be provided with guidelines/scripts for students A & B for assistance  Student A will be the person calling in and providing little information about the problem, providing the address and telephone number, and Student B will be asking the questions and taking down the information of the whereabouts and a brief description of the incident.  Afterwards, they will reverse rolls.  Once they have practiced in pairs they will be asked to work with a partner, to prepare for an assignment.  They will be given time in class to work with their partners.  On a scheduled date, students will perform a role play for their peers. 

Assessments will be done during the beginning of the lesson, i.e., asking students for their names, address and phone numbers.  Another assessment will be conducted while they are performing their role play, and a final assessment will be conducted towards the end of the semester on a 1-1.   

Gladys Lopez-Rivas's picture

Goal:  Call 911 for medical or other emergencies, which identify the emergency type, location and personal information.  Lower-level students.

Lesson will include:  A review will be presented about why it is important to memorize some of their personal information such as home address and telephone numbers. 

Learning will include memorization of spelling their complete name, their home address and telephone number.  They will also be given the telephone numbers needed to call for emergencies.  Students will learn who to call for a specific accident/incident, i.e., the police department, the fire department, or an ambulance.   Students will work as a group, with the teacher, then students will work in pairs.  They will be provided with guidelines/scripts for students A & B for assistance  Student A will be the person calling in and providing little information about the problem, providing the address and telephone number, and Student B will be asking the questions and taking down the information of the whereabouts and a brief description of the incident.  Afterwards, they will reverse rolls.  Once they have practiced in pairs they will be asked to work with a partner, to prepare for an assignment.  They will be given time in class to work with their partners.  On a scheduled date, students will perform a role play for their peers. 

Assessments will be done during the beginning of the lesson, i.e., asking students for their names, address and phone numbers.  Another assessment will be conducted while they are performing their role play, and a final assessment will be conducted towards the end of the semester on a 1-1.   


finnmiller's picture

Hi Gladys, Thanks for sharing how you assess students' during lessons on calling in sick to work and calling 911. Of course, learners at the beginning level need a great deal of practice. The series of activities you have them engage in allows them to practice in different ways with the language they are learning. Role plays are a useful way to assess how well students have learned. I will often videotape the role plays and ask students to assess themselves and each other, which is easy to do using a smart phone. This adds another layer to the lesson and engages students in self- and peer- assessment, which can also be valuable.

I'm wondering what other strategies members of the community use to assess learners' progress.

The self-paced ELLU online course on formative assessment, which is available through LINCS Learning Portal, includes a great many examples of how to effectively assess learners' progress. Some members may be interested in checking out this course or one of the other ESL online courses also available through LINCS.

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, Adult English Language Learners CoP


Gladys Lopez-Rivas's picture

I feel that I am able to perfume assessments while in the classroom.  However, when tested, my performance is not reflected.  I did enjoy this and feel the notes I took will help me with future assessments.

Gladys Lopez-Rivas's picture

Lots of valuable information.  Took lots of notes.

Charlotte Bill's picture

Re Lesson 1: I'm working with my first ELL student and even though it's individual instruction, not a group, I already have some ideas from the Liz scenario. Thanks!

pauline morris's picture

I like the way the assessment plan is broken down into its various parts with performance learning and assessment goals and activities. Very helpful!

finnmiller's picture

Glad to hear the ELLU course on formative assessment was meaningful to you, Pauline.

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, AELL CoP

pauline morris's picture

Perf. Learning Goal:  Interpret simplified job advertisements.  Assessment Goal: Goal 2:Apply language to Realistic Language Use outside classroom.

Assessment Activities:   1)  Vocabulary quiz with job ad abbreviations  2)  Video role play of student applying at Temp Agency

Assessed role play of:  Correct Greeting/  Explanation of where found Ad  /  Explanation of which job applying for along with using vocab from advertisement 

Carrie Finley's picture

Formative assessments are significant in scaffolding and increasing students learning and overall academic success. This course has reiterated the importance of these assessments in regards to ELL students. It permits the instructor to evaluate areas that are challenging for students. This provides instructors key information when tailoring/creating instruction to facilitate learning and a positive learning experience. I plan to implement additional conversations with my students about their long and short term goals pertaining to their course work. Incorporating what they need and want to learn will increase their motivation and make the class more meaningful.  

LaceyV's picture

I usually choose themes in my teaching and always cover “small talk” but think this semester I will let the students have much more choice in those larger themes and topics to ensure they feel included in the decisions. I am very excited to try journaling with some of my more advanced students. While they often have a great deal to say, they still need to work on their writing skills while I work with some of their other classmates and this will be a great way to keep them stimulated. This course has given me so many wonderful ideas and techniques, I have taken pages of notes!

Goal 1: Use the newspaper ads to make a grocery list and budget

Goal 2: Product-based assessment: Students Books for children; • Criteria for a successful product should be developed with student input and shared with the class. 

Performance-based assessment:  Students will telephone the school office to report a child’s absence. Give the name of the child, the child’s teacher or class, and the reason for the absence. Performance task: Students will leave a message for the teacher, or record a message, without a script, using a tape recorder. 

Goal 3: Journals, journals, journals! Also, these can serve as our original materials and formative assessments.

Goal 4: New Vocabulary words are written on the board, while two students will be given two flyswatters. They will stand up front at the board. Only one student knows the word and will only be allowed to say “up, down, left, right.” I will give the definition at the beginning and end. Other students can write down the word if they know if and check with me to join in helping with directions.

Goal 5: Picture Story Books with magazine clippings for Beginners;  Intermediate/High Level will work on re-telling stories in their own words both written and orally


Performance Learning Goal:Call 911 for medical or other emergencies, identifying nature of problem, location, and personal information.

Course Reflection

I have experienced success in one-on-one evaluations with students throughout the semester as an assessment as well as writing exercises where they choose the prompt/topic. I think I still need to be more creative with the ways I assess and tailor skills throughout the semester. Specifically with my quietest students who like to draw little attention to themselves. I learned some really interesting new things I hope to get to try with them this semester.

ChristieM's picture

I am most interested in activities that guide my students' self assessment, such as logs or journals. I will start those in class immediately. 

I am sold on formative assessments for learning however turning these assessments into successful class practices takes some work. I have several examples of assessment activities that have only worked partially. 

When I tried one of the formative assessment activities suggested in the activities section of the course, picking two students to attend to during the class. I like this idea for many reasons, especially for my students who try to draw as little attention to themselves as possible. However, when I put this in action, it was difficult. My attention was drawn away to instruct the class, address questions from extroverted students, redirect lost students, and other matters. Any suggestions with this activity would be helpful, even though, the short amount of class time I was able to do it, I was able to incorporate information from the one on one meetings I had had with them and put it into action. 





Jo4n's picture

I teach a group of international students at a local community college. I often hear students complain about issues in the dorm. Referencing Goal 2, I will use some of those dorm issues in an assessment to check my students'  ability to communicate using correct grammar with the focus on using correct verb tense in a conversation. After a discussion about adjectives that describe a dorm room, I'll show a picture of a very messy room and ask a student to imagine it's the way his roommate is while the other student is the messy roommate. The will be asked to try to solve the problem of the messy room in a discussion using the correct verb tenses. I will note any time a wrong tense is used and develop activities for further practice.


finnmiller's picture

Joan, Thank you for describing a classroom activity that deals with an issue your students are familiar with. Could you say a bit more about the type of feedback i.e., formative assessment, you provide to the students? Do students also engage in assessing themselves?

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, Adult English Language Learners CoP

Browning Rochefort's picture

Working with low level learners that are just beginning to communicate verbally in English: We do lots of paired activities as information gap (completing forms, ordering pizza, calling to make and appointments) sometimes this is done with a peer and sometimes with a volunteer. Peer interviews are good practice - especially when we are working on job  interviews - first one students works from a script asking the interview questions and the other student answering then they reverse the rolls. We a focused on helping our students to be able to communicate their needs - rent an apt., pay bills, call for a bus pick-up, talk to their child's teacher, make appointments. Role play in various forms help them become comfortable and willing to try.

Browning Rochefort's picture

 Very informative - I need to work more on tying the long term goals to the short term goals. We have been so focused on setting the short term goals hoping it will keep the students motivated as they "check off" these skills that they may have lost sight of the big picture. 

Maggie M.'s picture

I have been using formative assessment, but everything has been very informal.  For example, periodically I do an assessment of how a student is progressing in speaking by having the student respond to a prompt, and I evaluate our conversation based on use of vocabulary, ease of speech, ability to express thoughts, etc.  While this is a regular practice, I have not converted my results into data I can use at a later date.  Instead, I merely get an impression that guides my lesson planning.  I will be doing formative assessments more methodically, and using data to record progress and guide planning.  Journals are another activity I want to incorporate into my teaching.  It would be a good way to see what and how my students are thinking.

Tessa Parnell's picture

"What strategies, activities, or methods have you used as a culturally competent teacher?"

As a new learner of how to teach ESL I have not really had the opportunity to use any culturally competent lessons or instruction.


"What have you observed in other teachers?"

I have not yet had the opportunity to observe other teachers.

Tessa Parnell's picture


Big C Items Little c Items
Star Wars by George Lucus A McDonalds Menu
Beloved By Toni Morrison A Groupon Voucher
Madonna IPods
Betsy Ross' Flag A Bus Ticket
The Great Gatsby By F. Scott Fitzgerald A Coke Can
The Great Depression FaceBook
The White House  
Jeremy Lin  

Debatable Items:

McDonalds Menu-- because although MCD is always changing with the times, it has been around a very long time and is easily recognizable with its 'golden arches'

Coke Can- Same reason, Coca-Cola has been around a very long time, though its can has changed significantly over the years. 

iPods-- the name is recognizable around the world, but because it is an electronic device, the OS system changes depending on the needs of the consumers. 

Tessa Parnell's picture

Description: Describe your observations in concrete and specific ways (what you see, hear, smell, taste, or feel).


Interpretation: Interpret your observations (what you think about what you observed).


Evaluation: Evaluate your emotions about your observations (how you feel about your interpretation of what you observed).


Source used: Dejinta Beesha: Multi-Service Center – Site  is broken—sends me to a site in Russian to download music and game torrants and pornographic movies.

Second Source: Eid Around the World. 

D: This was a series of 17 pictures from all around the world, showing Muslims celebrating the end of Ramadan or Eid al-Fitr Out of the 17 pictures, only 3 depicted women or girls.  Most of the pictures showed men together in groups in some sort of prayer pose.   Despite the 15 counties displayed, most of the men were in the same attire around the world as well.

I: I think I have observed men (for the most part) participating in the religious aspect of an obviously very important celebration

E: I was not shocked by the fact that the women were not allowed to worship with the men, however, I was in fact disappointed that despite the changes in the worlds that they live in, the countries they inhabit, that this small piece of sexism still exists in the Muslim culture.


  • What did you discover about your own assumptions?

    • That what I assumed about the culture was correct
  • How has going through the DIE stages helped you see new perspectives?
    • It did not in this case, as Musilm culture is something that has become widely advertised. 
  • What challenges did you experience and how did you overcome them? Were any of the stages more difficult than others?
    • Seeing how women were not allowed to participate with the men-- or that the camera operator (who was probably a man) was not allowed to photograph the women in their celebrations except for in a few countries, and no pictures of women in a mass group like that men.  I was curious to see how the women celebrated as well.
  • How can you use the DIE inquiry strategy to address cultural assumptions and cultural dilemmas that arise in classrooms with adult ELLs?
    • We can talk about what the pictures make us feel.
    • Ask if there is something similar in other cultures to the celebration after a religious holiday of fasting and prayer/contemplation



Tessa Parnell's picture

Culture plays a critical role in teaching and learning. How has the content in this course helped you better understand your own cultural investments, perspectives, and values? What are some strategies you will use to facilitate a culturally inclusive learning environment and facilitating (cross) cultural understanding among all members of the class?

Growing up in Fresno, California and then moving to North Carolina at the age of 13 was a HUGE culture shock for me.  I can relate to some of the things that international students feel when moving to a foreign country, because believe it or not, California IS a foreign country compared to North Carolina.  

Some strategies I would use are the DIE method.  I like the idea of showing pictures and letting student interpret them in their own words, thoughts and ideas.  I would go further and actually teach the cultural significance of what the students were seeing after they explained how they feel so that they can better understand what they saw.

Tessa Parnell's picture

Take a few moments to reflect on Liz's lessons and how she used the feedback loop to connect formative assessment to ESL instruction.

Which of the techniques would you incorporate into your lesson plans? Have you ever used any of the activities in your class? If so, what was the outcome?

I would have done just what Liz did.  Students tend to "vote with their feet".  Meaning, if they aren't being served in the way they need or want, they will walk away.  Her approach to finding out what the class wanted to learn as a whole and breaking those things down into easy to understand lessons (with quizzes to show understanding) is the approach I would also use.


I have never had the chance to use this, as I do not currently teach ESL.

Tessa Parnell's picture

Formative Assessment: Techniques and Strategies Activity Summary

Call in Sick to work—

Students will be able to call into work in order to inform their employer that they are not feeling well.

Student will first start with the vocabulary of illness.  Words might include: Fever, headache, nausea as well as other describing words.

Students will also work and creating simple sentences to describe how they are feeling (or potentially feeling) to their employer as a reason to not come in to work.

Example:  I have a bad fever.  I cannot come to work.

Finally students will practice their sentences with each other, by “making a phone call”.  They will correct each other’s work or help each other with new words or phrases. They may use a dictionary or thesaurus.

I may even make it a game to see who comes up with the best excuse for not coming into work.

Another Real world application: I will ask students to call me if they are sick and cannot come to class.

finnmiller's picture

Hi Tessa, Having students call in when they can't make it to class due to illness is a way to build in a real world connection. Letting students know that we expect them to let us know when they are unable to come to class also makes it clear that attendance is important.

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, AELL CoP

Tessa Parnell's picture

Developing and using formative assessments is a complex process that requires the ability to develop short and long-term goals for students, and observe, measure, and assess progress towards these goals. With which parts of this process have you experienced success? What areas do you feel could still be improved upon?

As stated before, I have not yet had the chance to teach a class.  Therefore, I have not ever had the chance to develop feedback and error correction strategies.

I can say that I have had the privilege of knowing many international students throughout my college experience.  I have found that direct and immediate correction has been the most successful in helping persons learning the English language.  For example:  My friend Tolkun once asked "When you go to The Wiley's can you get the juice?" She was asking for me to pick up some apple juice for her, however as you can see by her sentence, that was not at all what she asked.   I had no idea what juice she was talking about, or if she was asking if I was going to drink  or if she wanted me to get it for her. So I used questions to ask what she meant exactly and then we worked towards a better sentence.  The next time she wanted juice from the campus restaurant she simply said "Can you get some apple juice for me when you go to Wiley's?"


finnmiller's picture

Hi Tessa, Thanks for sharing this anecdote about your communication with your friend. What you are describing is a great example of negotiating meaning which is a key aspect of language learning. Ideally, English learners would have many opportunities to negotiate meaning-- both in class as well in the community.

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, AELL CoP

Tessa Parnell's picture

What strategies, activities, or methods are you already using related to each of the topics listed below? What could be added to your practice? 

If I were to teach an Second language course I would include:

  • creating learning objectives based on learners' communicative needs
  • using authentic materials
  • creating opportunities for learners to get to know each other
  • using topics that are relevant to students' lives and goals
Fiona Cook's picture

This course has shown me a variety of ways formative assessment can be used with my students to strengthen their learning and engage them in real-life language tasks.  It is a complex process involving both group and individualized goals and will take some practice to master juggling the many strands and elements.  However, it is clear that this will be invaluable to my students learning and their confidence in handling authentic interactions.

finnmiller's picture

Hello Fiona, It's good to hear you say how essential formative assessment is in teaching. Through effective formative assessment--which, as you note, is differentiated according to student needs--, teachers gain useful information to guide our next steps in teaching and learners are fully engaged in assessing themselves.

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, AELL CoP

Stephen Lux's picture

I have used them, since I always give pretests.  This way students can be given the different types of assignments. 

Stephen Lux's picture

students review goal to understand what is required

students review in home language and in English what is done elsewhere, schema.

students review vocabulary

students do cloze activity and matching for vocab.

students think pair share always.

students role play and eventually in a culminating activity role play with mock phones; recorded, presented on a oak tag or trifold to be placed in a center...

Stephen Lux's picture

Hmm. where have I experienced success, and where am I lacking? Well, I have always followed the process of pretest, instruct, posttest, reflect, adjust based on backward design using state standards and Adult Ed. guidelines.  I need to find ways to answer students while getting all involved in the possible outcomes based on error analysis.  I presently use the does it look right? equals spelling; does it sound right? equals grammar or syntax; and does it make sense? equals semantics: self correct percentage? 

finnmiller's picture

Hi Stephen, Setting learning goals for ourselves, as you do here, is important to continue growing and improving as teachers. Good luck to you as you seek to learn more from your students about how to enhance your practice.

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, AELL CoP


Aymara Lorente's picture

Hi, everyone, I just read Stephen Lux comment on this matter. I know it is not a recent one, but I have to say I found it very honest and helpful. I like the details he offers regarding how to analyze through specific questions different areas of teaching and learning English. I really appreciate his input.

Karen Salina's picture

I felt this was a very comprehensive program from which I have learned much, and have a much clearer, systematic idea of how to actually assess and how to create lessons around the skills of the students

thank you!


finnmiller's picture

Hi Karen, It's good to hear you valued this course. I agree that the course helps a teacher to see how to effectively integrate formative assessment to support English learners to build their skills in listening, speaking, reading and writing.

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, AELL CoP

mdarling's picture

Take a few moments to reflect on Liz's lessons and how she used the feedback loop to connect formative assessment to ESL instruction.

I have also asked students to "vote" on the topic(s) they would like to cover in class by using a needs assessment.  I think students are much more likely to consistently attend class if the topic is of interest to them.

finnmiller's picture

Hi Melissa, Conducting a needs assessment with the students in our class is a valuable step. It would be great to hear how you do this in your classroom. What level are you working with? Thanks for your response.

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, AELL CoP

mdarling's picture

I work with students in both beginning and intermediate/advanced classes.  I use a needs assessment with a list of topics where students choose whether they already know about the topic, want to know more, or do not want to learn about it.

Marilyn Beres's picture

Her routine helped me realize how to integrate assessment into the classroom schedule without it appearing like anything other than a lesson. This is a good way to help the student review what was learned on a previous day and to also provide feedback to the instructor for future lessons.

finnmiller's picture

Hi Marilyn, When you say that formative assessment "provides feedback to the instructor for future lessons," you are right on target. This is one of the key aspects of formative assessment. When we carefully observe how students respond to a lesson, whatever aspects of English the lesson entails, i.e., listening, speaking, reading and/or writing, we get useful information to guide our next steps in teaching. We may need to reteach a specific point or give students more practice. Or when students demonstrate their understanding and perform well, we recognize that it is time to move on to the next thing.

Thanks for your comments!

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, AELL CoP

Lisa Hamid's picture

Can anyone recommend an ESL program that you've had success with for adults.  I am trying to start up an ESL program for adults at a religious affiliation.  

Thank you,

Lisa Hamid





mdarling's picture

Performance Learning Goal: Interpret Simplified Job Advertisements

Assessment Goal: Students can successfully apply language to realistic use outside the classroom (real, authentic job ads)

Activities will include use of the JobFlash report, teacher-created job advertisements, and authentic job ads from the local newspaper and online listings.  Assessment tasks will include matching and comprehension activities with common abbreviations (PT, exp. pref., ref. req., hrly., mgr., etc.) as well as role-play activities to be completed in pairs.  Comprehension activities will be handouts that will be evaluated by the instructor; role-play activities will be evaluated with a rubric.

finnmiller's picture

Hi Melissa, The assessment activities you have planned sound quite useful. I especially like role plays, and I would like to include more of them in my own teaching. Having a rubric to provide feedback on the role plays should be very helpful to students. What criteria are you using for this rubric? Will you have students evaluate themselves as well?

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, AELL CoP

mdarling's picture

I haven't created the rubric yet, but things I will include are eye contact, pronunciation, vocabulary, grammatical errors, hesitation, and maybe others.  I like this rubric: I do like the idea of having students evaluate themselves as well.

finnmiller's picture

Hi Melissa, Thanks for sharing the link to this fluency rubric. I think many teachers can find this tool useful. Let us know if you how it works after implementing it with students in your class. Also, I appreciate your emphasis--as recommended in the ELLU course-- on evaluating students on the authentic language students know and can use rather than on facts about language. That is a valuable distinction and a great take-away for you!

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, AELL CoP

MinaC's picture

Hi Lisa! Please check "". Intercambio has a great, affordable ESL program for adults. It is 6 levels, 12 books and audio CDs. There is also a resource to help set up the ESL program for admins. Good luck!

Brenda Huntley's picture

One thing that really stood out to me and answered  a lot of my class management questions was :"Students don't come to ESL class to EXPLAIN the difference between the prepositions  to , at, on & in.  They attend class so they can, for example, describe locations, indicate days/times, give directions,etc.

Another eye opener was related to assessments being tailored to the learner's needs  and the impact that a student's culture may have on assessment activities.  I wondered often why some of my students seemed uncomfortable with activities that required them to use English for communication, cooperative learning, team projects, role plays,etc.  Some of them only wanted to learn grammar and to have homework to turn in.  Now I understand why and that I need to research my students' background in educational practices and try to ease them into activities that may make them uncomfortable, while leading them to more communicative assignments.  Lastly, I loved the "HOT SEAT"  game  on the site.   I'm going to use that to teach and practice  classroom protocol and behaviors.

finnmiller's picture

Hi Brenda, This is such a valuable reminder: "Students don't come to ESL class to EXPLAIN the difference between the prepositions  to , at, on & in.  They attend class so they can, for example, describe locations, indicate days/times, give directions,etc. Also, as you note, learners come to us with important differences that teachers would be wise to become aware of.

Please let us know how the "hot seat" activity trecommended in this ELLU course goes when you try it out!

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, AELL CoP

mdarling's picture

I learned a lot from this course.  The most significant thing I hope to gain from this course is to remember that "students should ultimately be evaluated on the authentic language that they are able to produce and use in appropriate contexts--rather than on the "facts" that they might know about the language."

Julia V. Waclawek's picture

Performance Learning Goal: Call 911 for natural disaster emergency, identifying the nature of the emergency, your location and personal information.

Formative assessment goal: Students will be able to apply language and content in real-life situation.

Learning Objective: Students will be able to communicate natural disaster emergency to 911 dispatcher evidenced by a role-play activity.

Task 1 (listening activity is intended to scaffold role-play activity): Students are 911 dispatchers. They are given 911 report forms to complete. Students will listen to 3 phone conversations of the people talking to 911 dispatcher about natural disaster emergencies twice and complete the forms with the information they received from the caller: emergency, phone #, location, injuries. In pairs, students exchange their dispatcher reports and evaluate their peers’ performance.

Task 2: Students are given 20 minutes to work in pairs creating dialogues.

Student A: 911 dispatcher.

Student B: caller reporting natural disaster emergency.

Each pair of students is provided with a worksheet:

- three photos picturing natural disasters: tornado sighting, flood, and wildfire

- three sets of 6 vocabulary words about natural disaster emergencies

- three sets of 6 questions

Students will make a choice of 1 picture, name it and align it with a choice of 6 vocabulary words and 6 questions they will use in their dialogue.

Students practice their dialogue in pairs and follow up with acting it out for class.

Students performance will be evaluate by assessment rubric.

Criteria: vocabulary, content, clarity, language structures.

Score: 0 – 25 points.

Anne Gould's picture

Performance Learning Goal:  Ask for promotion/raise, citing examples of effective work performance.

Objective:  Students will be able to ask for a promotion or raise to earn more money or provide for better opportunity as evidenced in a role play.

To start the lesson, I would ask the class how many of them work.  How many of them like their jobs?  How many of them like the money/hours? 

Then I would ask them to brainstorm ways to improve their situations – answers would vary but some might want to go from part time to full time, some who don’t work may want to find a job, etc.  I would jog their answers on poster paper without commenting or correcting them.  I would think at least one would come up with “ask for a promotion or raise.”  If not then I would suggest it to gage their reactions.  (Some immigrants don’t want to ask for something when they feel lucky to have any kind of job).

Next I would ask “How would you ask your supervisor for a raise or promotion?”  And I would write down the example of questions they might ask.

“What are some skills you could use to improve your chances of a promotion?”  At this point, I would have a rubric grid drawn up and the students would design an easy scoring system that would include appropriate answers, making eye contact, keeping hands still, bringing “Completion Certificates” to prove they had extra training (say in First Aid/CPR, or had completed a number of classes in ESL).

I would then show them a couple of short videos of people asking for promotions or raises.  We would use the rubric to “grade” who to worker did.

After I would ask, how can you “market” yourself?  (In other words, why do you think YOU need a raise or promotion – what do you do well on the job?  How are you improving yourself?)

Then I would assign them to work in pairs and have them write 3 of the questions down and imagine what a supervisor might say.  In response they would write why they deserve a raise.

I often write conversations for the pairs to practice, the students know one line is in red, the other in blue.  I would have each pair write a conversation then practice having that conversation.

After practicing, I would call one pair at a time to demonstrate their conversation to the class.  The other students would use the rubric to evaluate the conversation/body language.  I would take notes on individual students.

PS  I have found a great way to evaluate students by jotting down notes.  Get a file folder laminated.  Use a post it note for each student. Stick the post it notes in rows in the file folder.  Just put the date and your observation of the student.  When their post it note is full, you can transfer it to their Working Folder.

Anne Gould's picture

I cannot think of just one thing.

I think, in order for students to feel "ownership" in their learning, they need to have a visual of how they are doing.  I love the idea of using checklists of skills or even something elementary as a thermometer bulb they color in to different lines when they achieve a goal.  I know that sound babyish, it's just an example.  We don't use grades where I teach and the only assessment is the testing that is done every 60 hours of instruction.  There is not way for the student to know how they are doing.  I also love the idea of self assessment - how comfortable are they in the different concepts we learn?  I would love to get ideas for teaching them from the class, however, we have benchmarks that must be met.

Normally I put the skills and activities the student complete for each class.  Tomorrow night I am going to actually go over them and on future power points I will type them as user friendly not in teacher "lingo."

I am really excited about using some of the communication strategies listed in the readings.

Anne Gould's picture

First Successes:

I like to motivate my students.  I want my class to be fun and I want my students to feel safe and secure and comfortable enough to respond.  Many students lack self confidence or perhaps they had minimal experiences in a classroom in their own countries.  I like to provide a variety of activities, such as, conversations, templates for writing, activities where the students have to get up and move around, team work, etc. 

I have just started a Level 2 class and I am using unit tests - the old fashioned multiple choice with the bubble sheets.  Why?  Any one of them that decides to go back to college will have tests of these kinds.  The monitoring tests we give are this kind.  These are end of unit.  I do formative assessments throughout the lesson, listening and jotting down needs of the students, difficulties in pronunciation (for practice in our next class), grammatical errors etc.  At the first class I asked the students to think of 3 ways they liked to learn English (from previous classes).  That snow balled into what did they want included in this class?  Many want to work on pronunciation and listening skills, which I had not even considered when I began my planning.  I like the idea of the exit ticket, I have also used "3-2-1" which is, for example "Write 3 things you learned tonight, 2 things you want to know and 1 thing you will practice before the next class."  I post my objectives on the first slide of the power point then at the end I ask the students if they "did" these things.

Here's what needs improving - I need to use a better way to show ongoing progress - perhaps portfolios?  I would like to involve the students in this process.  I have used Direct Instruction for teaching Reading (not in ESL) and I like that the students could document their own progress and have a visual of how they were doing.  I would like to assess the student's confidence level in each unit.  This will give me an idea of what needs focusing on.


finnmiller's picture

Hi Anne, Thanks for posting your lesson plan and reflections on the ELLU course on formative assessment. Focusing a lesson on asking for a raise is sure to be interesting. I think almost anyone could benefit from practicing that, including most of us teachers!

Your way of using sticky notes to record comments on student work sounds like an useful way to keep tabs on student progress. The 3-2-1 assessment strategy is an easy one to implement and gives teachers a great deal of useful information to guide their next steps in teaching.

Inviting learners to identify topics and skills they want to learn more about is important. I am certain the learners will benefit from your incorporating more listening and pronunciation into your lessons.

It's good to hear the ELLU online course was so helpful to you. Anyone interested in checking out the free, self-paced LINCS ESL courses, can find them in the Learning Portal on the LINCS home page

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, AELL CoP

frances harvey's picture

The presentation on this topic was informative, the questions asked and scenarios were quite helpful and allowed me to give more insight on how I deal with ESL students and also their parents that I may come into contact with from time to time.


Marites De Luna's picture

I would like to take away strategies on how to make my esl students successful, not just in their academic literacy skills but also in how to use those skills in real-life situations like applying for a job.

2learn-English's picture

There are numerous tools available for accomplishing the assessment and implementing indicated methods. One of the ways is to use the assessment tools in books such as WORK/LIFE ENGLISH, a six level program with 17 student books and 17 Instructor's books. Instructor's books cover Reading, Writing, Listening, Speaking and Grammar and have assessments at six levels. 

The books actually teach English in the context of work and daily living, helping learners to apply English to numerous aspects of their lives. 

See them at Or e-mail


Bruce Koch's picture

I tried the Hot Seat activity with my more advanced ESL class and it went pretty well.  I modeled what is like to be in the Hot Seat and then had one of my students "volunteer" to be the first in the seat.  After a little coaching she did just fine and we worked on pronouncing Ed endings, which we had been working on in class.  This activity was a change from simply having them read aloud from a passage.  It was more interactive and interesting.  We had fun with some of the questions.  Has anyone else tried this activity?  How did it go?

Bruce Koch's picture

I had my basic ESl students work on a labeling exercise in the classroom.  We started a s a group and labeled 10 things in the room, tables, desks, chairs, etc.  Students were then put in a modified Line Dialog and each given 5 stickies with the names of the objects written on them.  They took turns labeling objects in the room and practiced saying the words to each other after labeling.  For a final assessment individual students were given 5 stickies and asked to place them on the appropriate object.  The students were then encouraged to go home and label objects in their house (I passed out some more stickies to take home) and take a picture with their phone of any object they could not name (we also practiced this in class).  This lead to some interesting objects and conversations the next time we met.

Bruce Koch's picture

I guess I instinctually vary my feedback to students and do the three types of feedback out of habit.  It can be hard to draw the line between how much correction you give a student/class.  I certainly try not to badger, or "pick on" one student.  The lower the class/student level the more explicit my feedback.  I would rarely use metalinguistic feedback on a lower level student, it's too much.

Kimberly Kiersarsky's picture

I will take away additional methods to gauge student learning via formal methods. 

Tricia Conner's picture

Great reminders about backward design. Helpful to see examples of how teachers with good intentions can still miss the mark.

Kelly Smith's picture

Performance Learning Goal:  Calling in sick to work

Assessment Goal #2: Ss can apply learned language and content outside the classroom

Student language proficiency level: Low literacy/Beginning

Learning objective: Ss will learn vocabulary related to illness (fever, headache, backache, vomiting), as well as how to call in sick to work

Desired result: Ss can effectively communicate work absence due to illness

Need evidence that: Ss understand illness vocabulary, and have language for a simple phone conversation (greeting, identifying self, stating reason for absence, stating return to work date).

Formative assessment tasks:

Show Ss pictures of people with five common illnesses—headache, backache, stomachache, fever, and vomiting. T uses TPR to demonstrate what illnesses are. To assess comprehension, T acts out illness and Ss put a chip on the appropriate picture. Ss take turns acting out illness, while class puts chip on matching illness pictures. T walks around to check accuracy. Check for understanding before modeling “I have a (headache).”  

Talk about calling in sick to work. T role plays both sides of conversation of worker calling in sick to work place. Worker: Hello, this is Maria. I have a fever and can’t come to work today. I’ll be back tomorrow. Boss: I’m sorry you’re sick. I hope you feel better. Worker: Thank you. See you tomorrow.

Ss practice in pairs role playing: S1 calls in with a headache; S2 is Boss. Then Ss switch roles and illnesses.

T circulates to monitor progress. T asks for volunteer pairs to role-play in front of class. T verifies comprehension by asking questions: Did S1 have a backache? No, fever. Did S2 have a headache? Yes.

Criteria for evaluation: Ss can effectively call in sick to work. T and Ss can understand the reason for work absence. 

Kelly Smith's picture

I enjoyed this course and gained a lot of knowledge on how to use formative assessment in the classroom. Building assessment into the class as you go, as well as at the end of a unit helps the teacher adjust to learners' needs on the spot, and help to formulate a more tailored lesson plan for the next class. Identifying goals and working backward by building in assessments throughout helps both the teacher and learners gauge how well the content has been mastered. Learners can see their own progress, gain confidence, and feel motivated to continue coming to class. 

Barbara Balogh's picture

I have used many of these assessments but have unfortunately not been diligent about recording them formally. I do jot down notes for myself about what the students have been able to accomplish but need to be more disciplined as a teacher in doing this .I use picture stories and sentence strips too, along with retelling and inferring at the higher levels. Something I have yet to do but now in going through this course would like to do in the future is dialogue journals. This is a great way to have students write freely and have the teacher not only see what needs to be worked on more but also to give insight into the students' lives.

Barbara Balogh's picture

I need to improve upon the writing feedback portion. I must admit I have been a product-oriented person, and I realize now how important it is to be process-oriented. I have to blame it on my major, which was journalism, but now I'm not in the role of editor but rather a guide in this aspect of teaching/evaluating. The red pen has got to be retired!

Nicole Bowman's picture

Barbara, I like your analogy. =) It's important to be product and process-oriented I think.

Nicole Bowman's picture

I have asked students what they would like to learn (i.e. which skills were most applicable to them) and then based planning off of that. I have also asked students where they speak English most often or why they need English. I attempted to do an "exit ticket" several times, and I either forget to do it or students were not enthused. I probably should have used some external motivation to tell them they couldn't leave until finished.

However, the scope of this class is beyond me. This is an area I need to improve on. I know in particular that we don't do a lot of authentic writing in our class--just note-taking. Reviewing vocabulary words sounds nice too. Additionally, I like how she chose to only focus on one or two students each day in particular. That makes the load of teaching much easier. 



Nicole Bowman's picture

Performance Goal:

Given visuals of house/apartment in disrepair, report problem, and request repairs.

Students will be given the visuals of house/apartment in disrepair. Each form will be the same, except each student will get partial information for each vocabulary word discussed in this unit. Students will need to interview each other to get the information they need using phrases like, “What do you call this in English?” “Can you say that again?” “How do you spell that in English?”

Each student should completely fill out the chart and be able to pronounce all the words when the teacher comes to check their work. No formal grading required—just checking to see if students have completed the worksheet.

The second formative assessment is that students will be given a different picture sequence stories with thought bubbles to fill in. The teacher will model some example phrases one can use in calling for repairs. (e.g. My ________ is broken.) Each student will get different pictures of the items in disrepair from the original activity. More advanced students will be given all blank bubbles.

Teacher will go around and help students modify their writing if necessary. Then students will pair up and read the dialogue with a partner. They will take turns reading each other’s dialogue. Again, no formal grading here but monitoring comprehension, clarity, and communicability is the task of the teacher.

Nicole Bowman

Nicole Bowman's picture

I think I tend to use all three correction styles depending on the situation. If a student who does not speak up very often is participating more, I hope, I think, that I would be likelier to use implicit correction such as recasting the student's sentence. If I am looking for a student to communicate with more fluency and I am afraid that explicit correction will cause the student to be less likely to participate in class, I will also use implicit correction.

For explicit correction, I probably would remind the student explicitly if I have already taught the concept, just to bring the student's attention to the fact that they have used the form incorrectly. If the student cannot remember why the form is correct or if I am seeing a mistake being made consistently across the classroom, I will go into a metacognitive correction, which I think is very helpful for the Adult ESL classroom.


Nicole Bowman

Nicole Bowman's picture

At beginning levels of ESL, I am going to look for content familiarity both to build on and supplement. I would also look to see, at all levels, whether or not the student has strategies to repair communication when misunderstandings have come about.

As for language complexity, I am going to look to see if students can use full sentences when necessary or if they avoid using long sentences or have mixed up word orders. I really simply want the bare idea to be able to be expressed at that level, and at the advanced level I want to see complexity of verb tenses, adjectival and adverbial phrasing, independent and dependent clauses. I want to see what a student is comfortable with. What mistakes they commonly make. If they avoid using a certain form because they aren’t comfortable with it.

At a beginning level, I want to look for how easily I understand him or her. For example, I have a more “advanced” student in some ways, but she is very difficult to understand when she tries to form sentences because of her pronunciation and word order. At the advanced level, I probably want a student to be able give a circumlocution in order to explain her thoughts if its not clear. Basically, at the advanced level, I want students to be comfortable in almost any topic.  


Nicole Bowman

Nicole Bowman's picture

I have used some informal formative assessment such as having students give me feedback on whether or not they liked an activity. I have also been pretty successful in monitoring and respecting to the feedback loop while in class. However, I think I could definitely do a better job of doing a needs assessment to ensure that my planning was authentic to the needs of my students. Additionally, I believe I could do a  better job of creating more interactive tasks in the future.


Nicole Bowman, signing out.

Mary Viehweg's picture

I think this training session painted a really clear picture of how assessing my students more regularly can increase the quality of my lessons. I loved the idea of a "needs questionnaire" at the beginning of the session, and I also loved the idea of performing informal assessments on one or two students each and every day. I am anxious to get back in my classroom with this knowledge.

Esdras De La Torre's picture

Informal assessments (also called authentic or alternative) allow teachers to track the ongoing progress of their students regularly and often. While standardized tests measure students at a particular point in the year, ongoing assessments provide continual snapshots of where students are throughout the school year.

John Staley's picture

I really enjoyed the online component of the course.  I am especially looking forward to incorporating Hot Seat into my classroom.

Betsy Renfrew's picture

The methods of formative assessment outlined in this course have given me some great resources for developing learning goals that plug into a health and nutrition unit I am currently designing. 



Brandie Pavon's picture

I really enjoyed learning about ways to provide feedback to students. I hope to incorporate these into my lessons. I also appreciate some of the ideas for activities, like Hot Spot. I will definitely be using these in my classes. 

Mary Plenzler's picture

To use formative assessment when teaching directions on a map, I would first show them a simple map and review the directions of east, west, north and south. I would then ask the class where a few locations are on the map. Then we would review cross streets and what that means. I would give a couple examples on the map and then ask students to give me some more examples. Then I would point out two locations and ask how students would get from one location to another.

Mary Plenzler's picture

I feel as if I am already doing well at getting feedback from my students as to whether or not they're understanding the lesson and class directions. One thing that I am missing is long term objectives and having students reflect on their work and progress.

finnmiller's picture

Hi Mary, It's great to hear that you are doing well at providing feedback to learners. Finding ways to explore long term objectives with learners is a more challenging task --as is ongoing reflection on progress toward those longer term goals. It's great that you understand that setting time aside to do so is important.

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, English Language Acquisition

Kim Adcox's picture

1.  First, select a performance learning goal:  1.4.1 Identify different kinds of housing, areas of the home, and common household items 

2.  Design two assessment activities, identify specific tasks, and determine how you will measure success:  a.  Using a cardboard boxes and magazine pics, students create and label models of types of homes and their areas.  Success will be measured by students' use of vocab in writing labels and pics  b.  Students will present their projects to class, and success will be measured in their spoken use of vocab in telling labels.

Valeh Abbasi's picture

I like that Liz asked students to choose the topics for their learning in class. In the past, I have used the student's test results to develop lesson plans on any theme I thought suitable. Liz took into account her students interests in the topics that they are most interested in right from the start. This can boost students interest and their class participation, I will do this at the start of a new class in 2018.

Walter Moore's picture

Generally, when I'm working with students, I need to get to know them before I begin correcting errors they make when speaking.

One aspect of errors when speaking is the affective response - that is, students may implicitly or explicitly shy away from contributing if they are anxious about their productive abilities. To avoid this, what I do is wait until everyone has spoken (or everyone has read - sometimes we do read alouds for fluency checks), and then I'll address an error that I detected to the whole class. Never in a way to shame a student, but always as a celebration - a chance for all of us to improve our pronunciation or knowledge of correct form.

Walter Moore's picture

Given the three areas of oral language proficiency, what might the instructor look for and provide feedback for students at the beginning levels of ESL? Advanced levels of ESL?

For both levels, it is necessary to be aware of the degree that the comprehend what they are listening to. I have found this to be more complicated than it seems with my intermediate students. I've found that, for instance, after giving them oral instructions about completing a task, they may not understand what they need to do, or they may have missed key components of the instructions. The best feedback is actually what they give me - I try to remind them at the beginning of each class - if I am speaking too quickly, they can signal to me to slow down. In student-centered activities, it is easier for me to see if the students understand what they are saying to each other, as I circulate and observe groups working.

Regarding language complexity, in spoken and written texts that they have produced, I certainly pay attention to the following aspects (for my intermediate students):

  1. Detail and elaboration they provide
  2. How precise their vocabulary is - many of my students are Spanish speakers. I pay close attention to see if they are using cognates appropriately, or if they are using false cognates to try to convey the sense that the word in Spanish is used for. I try to be mindful of appropriation (putting words in their mouths), but I also try to provide them with general vocabulary that I think they can retain and transfer to other contexts.
  3. Sentence structure - I generally look for syntax and word order. I pay more attention to this than to correct verb form (which is also important, but can be treated in a pop-up type grammar lesson when there is enough student interest. Explicit grammar instruction is generally fun for the instructor and maybe one other student.)
  4. How coherently their thoughts are organized (this may be a bit subjective). - If I understand what they are saying, I am happy. This also involves self-questioning - do I really understand, or just think I understand? If that's the case, I repeat to them what I understood them to say.

Finally, how well has meaning been communicated in a comprehensible way? As per standard procedure, I focus on pronunciation, intonation, and word choice. Other aspects relate back to some questions asked when considering language complexity. If I feel that I'm guessing at what my student is trying to communicate to me, then that's a good opportunity to teach practical circumlocution skills, that is, to find another way to express what it is they're trying to say.


(part 2, dealing with the Student Interaction Log, will be addressed in a future post)

Walter Moore's picture

Please see the two learning goals, followed by tasks (in bold) and assessment strategies (underlined).

Students will be able to describe something that is wrong in their house so that they can talk to the landlord about it. They will demonstrate this ability through a role-play.

  • Show visuals of housing problems – have students id/match
  • Create a small poster or slideshow describing two problems that can happen in the house
  • Present this to the class
  • Read a short story about someone’s housing problem and how it was resolved; leave out the ending – students must use inference skills to guess how it ended
  • Respond to this reading in a writing journal
  • Students fill out complaint form?
  • Brainstorm socioculturally appropriate responses to a phone conversation with the landlord
  • Teacher observes, looking at comprehension, or language structure, or non-linguistic outcomes, or a combination of these.
  • We can re-visit this activity in a later class – students can, for instance, type out their journal entry, then exchange it with a partner (or email it to a partner). The partner can ask questions about the student’s journal entry.


 Ask for/give advice about good health habits, nutrition, and home remedies

  • Hook – class reading about someone’s visit to the doctor or the hospital (from our corpus of English-language materials)
  • This would be a good opportunity for students to collaboratively learn through the Language Experience Approach. The lesson would be targeted towards Intermediate level students, but could be differentiated for different placement levels.
    • Fortunately, this area lends itself to a selective process of the students: they can choose to talk about either good health habits, nutrition, or home remedies as a class.
    • This type lends itself to a product-based assessment. We can put together a videotaped PSA.
    • This is the experience: Students will work in pairs or groups of three. We will first discuss the topic, brainstorming examples and ideas.
    • Following this, students will pair up and develop a script for their PSA. Examples of PSAs will be shown to them. They will do this over the course of at least two classes. In the first class, they will determine what they will say and how they will present their topic. The instructor will help, giving ideas and pointing out effective contributions that they have made. They will determine any materials, props, or costumes that they will be needing for the following class.
    • In the second class, they will film their PSAs. For students who cannot do so on their phones, the instructor will obtain a camera for them from the IT department.
    • They will upload their film online. We will view each other’s PSA.  The instructor may have a viewing guide for the students to fill out, but more likely, we’ll have a small discussion following each viewing.
    • Following this, either in this class, or in the next, we’ll have a class discussion about the experience. All students will contribute their perspective.
    • The class will then work together to develop a written account of what was done or discussed. The students may engage in some pre-writing and pre-speaking brainstorming or mental mapping. The instructor will write out what is said during the discussion, and it will be projected onto the board for all students to see.
    • Once completed, we will read it aloud as a class (to practice fluency).
  • This is the product. The experience can be extended:
    • Students can write a response/critique of this text as a journal, to which the instructor or another classmate can respond in writing
    • Other texts can be introduced to the students regarding film-making or PSAs
    • The instructor, with or without the students’ help, can come up with comprehension questions
Walter Moore's picture

This was a genuinely challenging course, in that throughout the entire experience, I was prompted to actively reflect on my own role as the classroom instructor. I can see some areas that I am supporting my students, such as in having them reflect on their learning and working on strategies to express themselves effectively in situations where communication may be difficult. I also work to differentiate for my students according to interest and level of preparedness. I am fortunate in that my class is leveled (I work with Intermediate students). There are also numerous areas where I need to hone my preparation and classroom presence. Here are some areas where I need improvement, with a bit of commentary:

  • backwards design - "begin with the end in mind" - this has long been my mantra, as I was hired on by my supervisor to work on HSE curriculum development, but, even so, the ELP standards have taken a bit for me to grasp and use in my instructional design. Since we are mandated to have standards-based lesson plans, I took some time to familiarize myself with the standards, including the guiding principles, and how to use them as a point of departure when designing lessons. They are the kernal around which assessments are generally built
  • project-based and problem-based teaching - to me, this can be the epitome of a well-functioning class - students, working with guidelines that they themselves helped generate and improve in a number of skills (the four domains of language acquisition, as well as the cognitive and metacognitive skills necessary for critical thinking and problem solving), some of which are specified, others (hopefully) may emerge through serendipity;
  • a third area where I would like to improve in my assessment of learning is the design of learning activities and tasks that break out of my toolkit of tried-and-true resources. I know that I can start with the Hot Seat activity, and expand from there.
finnmiller's picture

Hello Walter, It's clear that you are taking away a great deal from the Formative Assessment course. You've identified some important and practical steps to enhance the effectiveness of your teaching. In your postings, you indicated that you pay attention to students as they are speaking and then present a quick mini lesson to the whole class on aspects of pronunciation. You referred to this type of teachable moment as a pop up lesson when it comes to grammar. I want to affirm that this kind of quick mini lesson can be quite effective. I noticed that you are also integrating communication strategies quite naturally into your teaching by encouraging students to tell you when they would like you to speak more slowly -- clearly a useful strategy that can be applied outside the classroom, too!

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, English Language Acquisition CoP

Diana Rangl's picture

It has been very interesting to learn about this topic and I look forward to implementating everything I have learned..

finnmiller's picture

Good for you, Diana!