Language Acquisition Considerations when Assessing ELL’s Reading Proficiency

DRA, LRP, Benchmark Books…whatever name they go by, the bottom line of each of these reading assessments is to hopefully allow teachers to get a better understanding of students’ reading proficiency.

ELL students have extra steps when they read.  Not only do they have to think about the code of the language and actually reading and pronouncing words (phonics and phonemics) but, they also have to negotiate the language structures in text, and use them to create meaning and understanding (semantics, syntax, and comprehension).  And do all this in a language that isn’t their first!  Phew!  That is a lot for them to think about!

With that in mind, then, there are a few considerations to keep in mind when doing and examining these assessments with ELLs.

First, look carefully at the students’ oral reading proficiency assessment.  If they are making errors, what do those errors tell you?  Are they language errors like dropped endings, mispronunciation, or trouble with certain language structures?  Or are they skill-based errors like phonics miscues or trouble with sight words?  What do those errors tell you about the student’s English language proficiency?  How can you use that knowledge to continue to address both language-based and skill-based instruction in their guided reading groups?

Second, what does the comprehension piece of the reading assessment tell you?  Did they pass the reading accuracy and fluency portion of the assessment but struggle on the comprehension?  If so, then they will require explicit instruction on how to slow down, read for meaning, and check themselves to make sure they are understanding text.  Did they pass the comprehension portion but had a low fluency rate (reading rate)?  What is the reason behind that?  Were they reading word-by-word and struggling with decoding?  Or were they simply reading slowly because they were going through a meaning-making process and working hard to make sense of text?  We want to make sure that we are placing ELLs in guided reading groups where they are comprehending text.  This may mean that their instructional reading level is higher than their fluency level (reading rate) might dictate.  We want them to be reading at this instructional level, as we continue to work on reading fluency through guided reading and other portions of their days.

If you’d like to talk more about looking at reading assessments through an ELL lens, please contact your building’s ELL Coach!  We can share the language acquisition perspective and talk about how to use those assessments to guide reading instruction with ELL in mind.

To get a closer “how to” look at giving a DRA, LRP, or Benchmark Book to an ELL student check out the ISELL post A How-Two Guide to Assessing Reading Proficiency with ELLs which tells you all about it!


This entry was posted in Assessment, Instruction, Reading by Holly Tracy. Bookmark the permalink.
Holly Tracy

About Holly Tracy

Holly Tracy is an ELL Instructional Coach for Lincoln Public Schools. She works with the staff and administration at Adams, Arnold, Calvert, Cavett, Clinton, Hill, Humann, Kloefkorn, Maxey, Roper, Rousseau, and Zeman. Holly has had the chance to develop valuable partnerships with many teachers across these buildings as they support their ELL students and looks forward to continuing this work.

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