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In this lesson, teachers will learn about the concept of using authentic assessments with English language learners (ELLs) in the classroom as opposed to traditional standardized tests. This lesson will include examples of authentic assessments for language arts, math, science, and social studies.

Purpose of Authentic Assessments

Authentic assessments model real-world topics and skills that students will be exposed to outside of the classroom. Rather than assigning multiple-choice questions to test a student’s content knowledge, teachers allow students to demonstrate their learning in a meaningful way.

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With authentic assessments, students might write a letter to the editor in response to a newspaper editorial about a local issue, discuss and analyze a current event, or write a journal entry after reading a thought-provoking story. These assignments are considered authentic because they emphasize critical thinking and real-world skills rather than rote memorization.English Language Learners (ELLs) are often unable to demonstrate their learning using traditional assessment methods. For a variety of reasons, including a language barrier, the assessments end up testing their language proficiency rather than their actual knowledge. This makes authentic assessments a reliable alternative for these students.Let’s take a look at some examples of authentic assessments in each of the four academic content areas.

Language Arts

The following are some ideas on how to incorporate authentic assessments into your language arts work with ELLs:

  • After reading excerpts from famous autobiographies, students write and illustrate their own autobiographical memoirs.

  • Students work in pairs. One student assumes the role of a character from a story read in class, while the other student interviews the character to learn more about his or her life.
  • During a class discussion, students debate a character’s actions and motives.

  • Students dramatize and perform a short story.
  • Students write and perform poetry to demonstrate understanding of figurative language.
  • Students create a comic strip adaptation of a short story.

Science

The language arts are not the only subject area that can benefit from authentic assessments. There are plenty of ideas to be found in the sciences, too. For instance, you might have:

  • Students create a brochure to highlight the flora and fauna of the surrounding natural environment.

  • Students create a local field guide to introduce readers to plants and animals that can be found in the area.
  • Students write a description and draw a picture of a new invention that will solve a problem in their community.
  • Students record a public service announcement to alert the public about an environmental concern.
  • Students create a poster of safety rules for the science laboratory.

Math

Mathematics also hold possibilities for ELLs to practice their English skills, though finding the right vocabulary may be challenging. For those students that are up to it, you might incorporate some of the following ideas:

  • Students calculate the area and perimeter of tables in the classroom to determine how many students will fit at each one.
  • Students write a song about fractions.
  • Students create a rule book for solving mathematical equations.
  • Students collect leaves and analyze patterns and symmetry.

  • Students plan for the installation of a new piece of playground equipment. They measure existing equipment to determine how big their proposed design should be.
  • Students develop and administer a survey to classmates, and then summarize the results with a graph.

Social Studies

Activity ideas that perhaps connect most closely to real-world applications can be found in social studies. For instance, you can have:

  • Students write letters to a local state representative to discuss a local issue.

  • Students exchange e-mails with members of a local community organization to inquire about volunteer opportunities.
  • Students draw a map to show the route of the Lewis and Clark expedition.
  • Students write a journal entry from the perspective of a historical figure.
  • Students create a classroom Bill of Rights.

Lesson Summary

Authentic assessments are performance-based assessments that have a more real-world emphasis than traditional multiple-choice and standardized tests. These assessments are ideal for ELL students, who are often unable to demonstrate their learning using traditional methods.

We went over just a few options for incorporating authentic assessments into the content areas of language arts, science, math, and social studies.

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