Tuesday, January 8, 2013


With students of varying levels of English proficiency in most classrooms of the US, teachers are regularly looking for alternate ways for students to demonstrate understanding of subject matter.  Often times, traditional routes are taken such as posters, projects, writing, etc. which don't always fully reveal what ELLs especially know and how well.  Since group work is the usual venue for such activities, teachers are not often completely sure on how much the ELL actually knows since he is working within a more proficient group in English.  In such class settings, group "leaders" assign a simpler task to the ELL such as "artist."  Though talking does occur, the ELL does not often get much practice in developing academic skills in  reading, writing, and conducting research.  So, what is another option available for such students to provide proof positive to the teacher that they do fully grasp the key concepts of the lesson?

PINTEREST IN EDUCATION is a very creative and thoughtful tool to meet the bill.  The home site-PINTEREST-provides hundreds of visuals in over 30 categories, but this full version might overwhelm students.  In addition, materials may be added to boards ("pinned" or "repinned" if taken from another's board).  In the first  link, Tina Wahlert (an educational consultant), has compiled some helpful hints on how to properly work within the site (including how to spot spam).   Teachers may wish to spend some time studying the site on their own first.  With this approach, they will be able to see the ease how BOARDS are created and how to sort images (pictures, text, charts, articles, etc.) according topic. With each of the boards Ma. Wahlert has posted  links to the subject matter of the visual.  As with anything being tried for the first time, teachers must spend some time exploring the site and going through the same process they might eventually put their students through.

Teachers could then try building a board as a class (modeling).  The next step would be to have ELLs work with partners to create another one on a topic of interest to them (sports, books, movies, etc.).  Once teacher confidence in student ability to create a board is established, a teacher could have students (ELLs and others) develop subject boards as formal assessments on assigned subject matter.  So if a student is studying the water cycle, s/he could demonstrate his knowledge of the topic through pictures in the correct sequence along with URLs that add additional insight.  Though this would not be a lengthy report,  it would nonetheless confirm for the teacher that the ELL understands key concepts and content vocabulary.   ELLs would then have the grades for their work based on content and not on knowledge of English grammar (though important, it should not be the sole basis of the grade).

This is just one of many non-traditional assessment ideas available for teachers.  Students will definitely enjoy it since it taps creativity in a fun way.



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