[Test Preparation] 3 Classroom Strategies to Support English Language Learners

[Test Preparation] 3 Classroom Strategies to Support English Language Learners

There are very few students who are waived from participating in their state’s annual high-stakes testing. This includes students classified as English Language Learners (ELLs), who are eligible for an often-confusing set of accommodations that varies from state to state.

When the actual test day rolls around, there may not be a lot of flexibility to assist these students through the exam process. However, there are plenty of strategies and tools you can equip your ELLs with in the weeks leading up to testing that can lessen anxiety and help them put their best foot forward on high-stakes exams. Here are three of our favorite approaches.

Spend much more time on test-taking strategies

Although our high-stakes testing system is not unique in the world, many ELL students do come from places with very different—and in some cases, unreliable—education and accountability systems in place. Some of these students may have limited experience with technology, which can be a barrier in states with computerized testing schemes. You may gloss over the procedures of testing for veteran students who have been tested throughout their entire academic career, but ELL students need practice and often struggle to speak up for themselves. Spend extra time focusing on the logistics of testing with these students to build their confidence. Run through practice tests, make sure they’re familiar with relevant technology, and help them with strategies such as time management and note taking well ahead of testing day.

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Focus on questioning skills

In most states, one of the accommodations available to ELLs is the option to ask questions and receive answers about test directions and prompts in their native language. Usually this does not extend as far as being allowed help to translate reading passages in English/language arts tests. But, students can still receive critical information within these accommodations if they become comfortable asking for help in a permissible way.

For example, proctors tend to be able to translate individual words for a tester. Help students identify key words and phrases in English that appear often in testing directions and prompts, such as “describe” or “What does the author mean…?”. That will allow them to seek help about more specific words, saving time and possible frustration.

Don’t forget about math and science tests

Many states and districts specify that ELL accommodations are only available for reading and writing portions of the test, thinking that math and science exams, with their greater focus on numbers, are more universal. Whatever your opinion about that rule, it’s important to dedicate plenty of prep time to these tests as well. Make sure your ELLs are just as familiar with the necessary vocabulary, question formats, and test navigation for math and science tests as they are for language arts tests.

Looking for more strategies to help your English Language Learners achieve success this testing season? Check out these 7 Tips to Help ELLs Prepare for High-Stakes Testing!