5 Tips for Test Preparation for English Language Learners

Do you have ELL students who are going to be sitting tests? It can be difficult for schools to equip ELLs with the right tools and experience in the run-up to formal tests, however there are a number of ways you can prepare and support them to ensure they stand the best chance of success. We’ve listed five top ways here, which will build your students’ confidence, as well as their knowledge base!

1. Focus on the strategies for test-taking 

Depending on where students have come from, some of them may not have had a great deal of experience of exams. They may, for example, have limited knowledge of using technology, which can obviously be an issue if formal assessments are taken on the computer. For students who are familiar with testing, you may not focus on test-taking strategies so much, but ELLs often need more practice, and can find it hard to speak up to voice their needs. Support them by building their confidence and focus on the way assessments are carried out. Take practice tests, go through the technology needed to do them, help them manage their time effectively and spend time teaching them to take the right notes to revise effectively.

2. Consider your formative assessment data

The formative assessments you do in your classroom are a great place to start when preparing for tests and supporting students’ progression. They can be delivered in so many different ways and are a great way of quickly checking for understanding. These can be more effective than measuring understanding through summative assessments as you can make use of oral and project-based methods, and just as with summative routes, the feedback and results from tests can still be used to identify gaps in understanding, which when addressed can help bolster performance in more formal tests.

3. Utilize technology

There are online solutions which, as well as providing curriculum-aligned teaching and learning materials, can directly help ELLs with test preparation. As a teacher using these, you will be able to see data in real time that will help you identify knowledge gaps and inform where to target your instruction. It’s important that you understand the reports these solutions provide and how they are structured so that you can get the most from them.

Solutions such as Edmentum International’s EducationCity and Exact Path are ideal for helping ELL students with test practice and preparation, as they are great for supporting personalized learning. In fact, Exact Path has been awarded a WIDA PRIME (Protocol for Review of Instructional Materials for ELLs (PRIME) V2 Correlation. This means we’re part of a distinguished group of online learning providers who have successfully been through the multicriteria analysis set for them. Read more about our partnership with WIDA here.

4. Practice “Academic English” 

There may be some ELLs who are fluent speakers of English but struggle with reading or writing. Compared to spoken English, academic English is much more formal and is essential for the workplace or success at school.

It’s a good idea to make sure you provide opportunities that help ELLs become familiar with academic English to build their confidence, especially in the run-up to tests. This could involve increasing their exposure to more formally written texts, or just practicing more test papers.

5. Encourage ELLs to understand the significance of tests

In some countries and cultures, assessment is more important than in others, so you may need to discuss the importance of tests with your ELLs. Explain to them and, if possible, their parents what the tests are for and why they are significant, so that they dedicate the necessary time and effort to their preparation.

At the end of the day, it’s really important to support your ELLs, as you do your other students, in the lead up to tests so they feel prepared and comfortable. The tips above may help in some instances, but what is certain is that the support you ELLs may look very different to what you offer your native English-speaking students.

Helping ELLs’ Success: Exact Path & WIDA Prime V2 Correlation

One of the biggest considerations with English language learning (ELL) is helping ELL students build their confidence in and outside the classroom. We talk to schools on a daily basis about the challenges they want to overcome regarding ELL.

We know supporting ELL students is a major priority for our schools. That’s why our core aim is to recognize a need for more educational materials to cater for a growing range of English language learners. Whether that’s to build their confidence, or support their progression with relevant tools. In order for us to support our schools we are proud to be associated with WIDA.

Proud Partners with WIDA

WIDA is a consortia who are committed to ensuring that there are educational materials that help students with their proficiency in English language. However, it also gives ELLs opportunities to be more successful academically and build confidence, as well as support their progression.

In the US, the WIDA Consortium now includes 39 US state education agencies. For them, they have commitments that lie in their vision of advancing academic language development for linguistically diverse students.

Above all, one of the key missions for the WIDA Consortium was to develop the Protocol for Review of Instructional Materials for ELLs (PRIME). This is a tool they have developed to assist educators in making decisions. Decisions about which educational materials they should select for language-education programs.

It’s this well-respected review protocol that judges certain solutions and their instructional merit. All this in line with the WIDA PRIME V2 inventory.

Edmentum International & WIDA

Exact Path & ELL

Our relationship with WIDA is important to us, and many of the schools we work with are affiliated to WIDA. So we believe in the quality of our solutions and their ability to serve the needs of your ELLs.

That’s why we’re pleased to say that Exact Path has been awarded a WIDA PRIME V2 Correlation. This means we’re part of a distinguished group of online learning providers who have successfully been through the multicriteria analysis set for them.

For instance, Exact Path is ideal for supporting the diverse needs of your ELLs through a flexible way of learning. Why?

  • It’s proven in driving growth for ELLs and has been built to support and develop students’ vocabulary and language skills, to aid their confidence.
  • It offers audio, models, and visual supports to help differentiate content for all targeted proficiency levels and learning styles.

With Exact Path, students complete an adaptive diagnostic assessment whereby they have their own learning paths to help them in their academic growth. This includes scaffolded instruction and practice, and is ideal for monitoring and supporting students’ progression.

For a teacher, the diagnostic assessment is ideal as it helps ELL…

  • It means you can determine the exact areas where a student needs remediation.
  • Lets you determine where a student may be working ahead of grade level.
  • Allows Exact Path to automatically assign personalized learning for each student, to meet them where they are at.

In addition, it provides you with a data view that allows you to monitor progress skill by skill, which is really valuable in identifying intervention and remediation opportunities. Also, it records data to support you with real-time progress monitoring for your students. The user-friendly interface and engaging activities allow students to navigate learning paths independently. All this whilst supporting them with developing critical language skills.

Want to find out more about how WIDA and Edmentum International have linked to aid with supporting ELLs’ academic success and proficiency in the English language? Take a look at our whitepaper or just get in touch with the team by emailing international@edmentum.com.

Six Insights for Parents of English Language Learners

Being a parent of an English Language Learner (ELL) can be challenging, especially if that parent is trying to learn a new language and understand new cultural situations too.

Teachers have a vital role to play in helping their students transition into an English-speaking school environment as smoothly as possible, as do their parents who can help them develop English and academic literacy at home. The strategies outlined below detail how and where parental assistance can be instrumental to help the students develop behaviors that will pave the way to academic success in not only one language, but several.

Don’t be afraid to use the student’s native tongue

This tip may be the most important since it is the bridge between the student’s learning situations – that is, the connection between his or her primary language and culture, and new language and culture. Parents (and teachers if relevant!) should be encouraged to converse in their mother tongue and explain unfamiliar words and concepts to the child in the language they are familiar with, so that they can continue to build his or her literacy skills in the primary language while practicing and developing their English and academic skills.

Establish a homework routine

Encouraging parents to establish a good study routine at home can make a significant difference to the child’s learning. All the child needs is a quiet environment, created by removing or minimizing any potential distractions, along with a good selection of stationary supplies, such as pencils, books, and paper. It’s important too that they are there, and take the time to answer any questions their child may have too. If parents don’t know the answers, reassure them that they can help their child find resources to support them with answering, or simply write their questions down so that you can talk through the answer in school. Even if the parents do not have a good level of English themselves, they can still promote a good work ethic at home by ensuring their child’s homework assignments are completed on time.

Study the same thing in new ways

Home study is vital for ELL students: it really helps them to absorb the new language more quickly, and if their parents are learning too, provides a really good role model to the children. What’s more, it doesn’t need be dull. Encourage parents to pick a fairy tale that the child is familiar with, or one of their child’s favorite stories to read together. Although your student may not understand all of the words at first, he or she should be able to follow the plot of the story and will pick up new vocabulary and grammar along the way. Encourage the adult to ask questions about the story’s plot, characters, etc., to test the child’s understanding. They could also try watching films together in the new language or even play games that involve language, such as Scrabble, Boggle or Bananagrams, to practice and learn language at home.

Use creative outlets to practice and learn language

A fun way for parents and children to practice and learn language together is to engage in joint creative activities. The family could make a scrapbook together, for example, featuring things that have taken place in your new home, city, and/or country and write all the captions and titles in their new language. Does your student like to paint or write? Their parent could get them to draw a picture or write a story about it. The possibilities are limitless!

Encourage involvement in extra-curricular activities

Extra-curricular activities, such as being a member of the school’s newspaper or sports team, provide additional meaningful opportunities to develop language skills and the chance to socialize, so parents and teachers should encourage the children to get involved where possible. Such activities can help students link the ideas, strategies, roles, and responsibilities they experience in the classroom with those beyond the classroom. Understanding and using language and practical skills across settings is important in learning and achievement.

Engagement with teachers and the school

Encouraging parents to positively engage with their child’s teachers, and volunteer in class where possible, will give them more opportunities to keep up to date with their child’s linguistic, academic, and social progress in school. Seeing first-hand what is going on in school will give them a better idea of how they can support their child at home. Showing a keen interest in what happens at school and developing a partnership approach with the school will help the student to succeed in his or her new learning environment.

We hope these tips have helped. If you have any additional suggestions that could help others, we’d love to hear them! Just email us on international@edmentum.com.

Using Station Rotation for Teamwork & Individualized Learning with English Language Learners

Did you know blended learning is a great option for English language learners (ELL)?

As you may already be aware, blended learning offers a platform to provide a mixture ­of offline and online learning. This enables educators to support their students as individuals. Whether that be in a small group, as a whole class or on a one-to-one basis. This is exactly why blended learning is a great solution to support the requirements for English language learners.

This doesn’t replace the teacher, but gives more control to students in terms of their pace of learning and path. This is great for building ELLs’ confidence. This also means students take ownership over their learning, increasing their motivation to learn and progress.

However, did you also know that blended learning models can provide opportunities for teamwork too? Although there are various models of blended learning, let’s explore one of these, the Station Rotation model. This is fantastic for ELLs and is the most popular model we’ve seen in international schools.

Learning with the Station Rotation model

The Station Rotation model is a blended learning strategy that is relatively easy to implement, and it only requires a little movement across the classroom to make it work. It also means that students can work at their level, so there should be higher retention of information, and instruction can be differentiated easily.

The example below shows how we’ve seen some of our schools implement blended learning to support ELL, where they split their ELL students up into three mixed-ability groups. Each group moves from one station to the next, rotating around the classroom until all three stations have been completed.

Station 1: Collaborative group work

The first area involved the school focusing predominantly on collaborative group work (use our Identifying Body Parts for this), to support team building and boost student confidence. Within this group the students were given activities related to the objective “respond to a spoken phrase or sentence with a gesture or an action”. Students worked together, taking it in turns to read aloud phrases to the group with their team, responding with gestures. To make this easier or harder depending on the group ability, the educator gave differing phrases for the groups to work on.

Station 2: Online learning

The next station involves support with visual and audio learning through online learning. This is more for individualized learning, which is great for those ELLs who prefer to learn in that way, but students could work in teams on computers. However, students worked in an online program with lesson material the teacher had set for them – this could be material from a solution such as EducationCity or Exact Path. This was set based on their ability. It was great as it allowed the students to take ownership over their learning. They could also practice vital language skills through audio and visual cues.

Station 3: Group work with the teacher

The final station the students worked through involved group work with the teacher, face to face. The students had been grouped based on their similar needs. So when these students came to the face-to-face instruction, the teacher could focus on certain groups of students, which could incorporate team building. This helped to bring them up to speed and set extension activities with the teacher’s support. This was great as we could see that the students did not need that 1:1 instruction. They could still work together with the teacher to achieve academic success for the lesson. In turn, this promoted both teamwork and individualized learning.

This is just one example of how the Station Rotation model can work in the classroom. However its flexibility means you can adapt it to suit your classroom and students. You could change the ideas here to different methods of learning or tweak certain processes – it’s up to you!

Best practices to help ELLs to stay on track

Once you establish any of these models, you may want to use these best practices to ensure ELLs stay on track:

  1. Remain focused (ensure all content, be it online or offline, supports each other and adheres to expectations and outcomes).
  2. You’ll want to provide expectations and outcomes that are clear (English language learners need step-by-step instructions).
  3. Search for engaging material to use.
  4. Give your students effective feedback on a regular basis (students will stay updated with all they need to know).

Although we’ve focused on Station Rotation here, there are various blended learning methods you could use for ELL (make sure you look at our top tips for supporting ELLs blog if you haven’t already). Some of them will be better for you than others for teamwork or individualized learning – you know best! Overall though, just make sure you clearly define expectations and outcomes to your students. Also, provide that information to them to make sure it runs successfully! But have fun with it. There is no right or wrong way to implement blended learning. What’s more, no two students are the same.

You can find more information on supporting ELLs on our pages here:

EducationCityExact Path

5 Tips to Support Your English Language Learners (ELL)

Providing effective, differentiated instruction in a multi-ability, multilingual classroom can be a juggling act, and may seem overwhelming at times. You can, however, adopt some simple strategies which will can have a huge impact on your English language learners (ELLs). Read on to find out more!

1. Create a structured environment with regular routines and expectations

A predictable routine and consistent classroom procedures can be very helpful to English language learners because they provide a safe foundation from which ELLs can build confidence. Simple things like a daily morning routine, defined procedures for putting away classroom supplies, and designated times for handing in homework help to make for an organized classroom where ELL students can focus on practicing their skills, instead of being worried about simply grasping what is going on around them.

2. Provide short, clear, actionable instructions

When instructing ELL students, it is important to keep their level of proficiency and language background in mind. Keep your instructions brief and concise, and try to open with action verbs that will help your students understand what it is you want them to do. Avoid idiomatic or slang expressions, as their figurative meanings can often be confusing to ELLs. Similarly, bear in mind that your ELL students may not have the same cultural background or historic and geographic knowledge as you, so may not easily understand some references.

3. Frequently check for understanding

Providing effective feedback is a crucial part of ELL instruction, so it is important to check for understanding on a regular basis. Avoid simple “yes or no” questions, and instead, ask questions about the content that will provide a more accurate gauge of what your ELL students understand and what they are struggling with. Use this information to offer constructive feedback and encouragement.

4. Identify ways to build student confidence in a group setting

Group work can be very beneficial to ELL students by promoting peer-to-peer interaction that helps in developing language skills and learning new concepts. However, it is important to make sure that ELL students feel comfortable and confident that they are contributing in these settings. Assign these students tasks and roles within the group that are appropriate for their proficiency level. As their proficiency increases, they can take on different roles and tasks in order to develop different skills. It may be helpful to have one-on-one conversations with your ELL students in advance to give them the opportunity to ask any questions and make sure they fully understand their part in the group. The key here is to give ELLs work that is appropriate for their ability, to increase their confidence, and to make them feel like a contributor.

5. Don’t underestimate the power of pictures

Pictures are worth a thousand words, but it’s sometimes easy to forget that images are also the most basic way to engage your students in what they are learning. Supplement your instruction with visuals like illustrations, photos, and infographics to help your ELL students decipher words and concepts that are new to them. Although this may require some extra effort and creativity, images can be a powerful tool to build understanding, and they will help support students’ different learning styles.

Interested in learning more about Edmentum International’s online programs for English language learners? Ask our International Team about our solution, Exact Path, and how it can help by calling us on +44 (0)1572 492576.

 

Exam Stress: Seven Tips to Help Your Students Cope

Despite an increased emphasis on approaches like personalized learning and inquiry-based learning, tests remain an important fixture in the academic calendar. However, for some students, the pressure of tests looming on the horizon stops them from trying their best and leads to exam stress.

Of course, no teacher or parent wants to see a student stressed out over any single test. So, what can educators do to help their students manage test anxiety and take the fear out of testing day? Here are seven of our favorite tips:

1. Schedule revision time into your class time

Having a good understanding of the material to be tested and preparing beforehand are two things that students can control when it comes to being tested, and both can bring a lot of confidence and peace of mind to students. Make sure your students go into their exams having a well-thought-out revision plan so they have had plenty of chances to brush up on knowledge and skills they’ll be assessed on.

Consider offering extra revision sessions outside class as well. After-school drop-in sessions and revision clubs are all low-pressure options that anxious students, looking for some additional practice, will appreciate.

2. Teach effective test-taking strategies

Test taking is a skill in itself. Help calm anxious students’ nerves by making sure they are familiar with and have confidence in their test-taking skills, as well as the actual content they’re being tested on. Some best practices include reading questions completely before answering them (especially for tricky technology-enhanced item types), skipping over questions that students don’t know in order to manage time, and reviewing answers if they have time at the end of the test.

It’s also really helpful to familiarize your students with the type of test environment they’ll experience. If tests will be taken online, for example, make sure your students are comfortable with the kind of devices they’ll use and any technology-enhanced item types they’ll encounter.

3. Help students create a revision timetable

Some students who struggle with exam stress spend countless hours studying and revising in a frantic effort to get ready for exams. While preparation is certainly key, it’s important to be focused about how to go about it and not to ‘cram’. Try helping your students create a revision timetable to follow at home. Encourage them to block out reasonable blocks of time during their week, taking into account other homework, extra-curricular activities, and time for relaxation. Having a schedule to follow can help students manage their stress levels, feel confident about their preparation, and make more productive use of their study time.

4. Teach practical anxiety-reduction exercises

For many students who suffer from exam stress, the worst moments occur when they’re in the exam itself. Basic anxiety-reducing techniques can be a big help for these students. Encourage your learners to practice simple deep breathing exercises, use positive self-talk and mantras, or do seated stretches to release tension once the test is under way.

5. Keep tests in perspective

In the grand scheme of things, no single test is going to define a student’s academic career, or have that significant an impact on their future. After all, it’s just one test. As an adult, it’s probably much easier for you to understand this perspective than it is for your students -you’ve had more experience with both failure and success, realize they both happen, and know that no matter what, the world keeps turning. Share this perspective with your students regularly, offering gentle reminders that every test is just a test, and no test defines how smart, successful or worthy they are.

6. Ask students where their fear is coming from

Having a better understanding of why a student is anxious can be hugely helpful in figuring out the best way to manage it. Some students will be able to articulate their feelings better than others, but asking the question will provide valuable clues as to what will help calm a student down.

7. Focus on positive experiences

Students struggling with exam stress are wrapped up in patterns of negative thinking when it comes to tests. They’re focusing on all of the mistakes they could make, everything that could go wrong, and how catastrophic a bad score could be. Shift their focus by helping them reflect on some positive past experiences. Ask them to tell you or write about a test that they did well on. What did they do leading up to that test? How did they feel about it before and after? Getting a student to stop and remember how able they are can go a long way toward breaking the negativity cycle – and calm their nerves in the process.

As teachers yourselves, you’ve undoubtedly come across students suffering from test anxiety. If you have any additional suggestions that could help others, we’d love to hear them! Just email us on international@edmentum.com.