Improvisational ESL

Recently, I was reminded of the power of theater in education.  Thinking about students who are new to English… but not completely new… I have been looking at improvisational theater exercises to get students talking.  This is not a strategy to teach new vocabulary but to build fluency, spontaneity and confidence while speaking.

Imagine having two students create a skit where someone is lost and the other has to help the first person find his or her way.  Imagine adding a third person who says that the first person is wrong.  What would you say?  What would you do?  Can they ask for an additional person to assist?

Make it a little bit harder and open ended: Imagine students creating a skit based off of three nouns- pencil, stove, rake.  Throw in a verb and shake things up a bit.

There are a million scenes that you can have students improvise based on anything that students need to practice.  Try it; see what happens!

WIDA- ACCESS 2.0 Speaking Test

In a conversation with a friend last month I learned that WIDA has a new way of assessing speaking for their ACCESS test. I have been certified as an ACCESS tester since 2010- 2011 when I was working in SPPS and I wondered how the test had changed. So, I logged in and learned about ACCESS 2.0.

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A few changes I noticed right away:

  • They changed the grade level clusters by adding 1st grade as its own cluster for the on-line test and 1st, 2nd and 3rd are each their own cluster for the paper–based test (on- line);
  • they reduced the number of tiers from 3 to 2;
  • they changed the names of the levels: Exemplary, Strong, Adequate, Attempted
  • they added Nina!

Nina is a wonderful addition because she gives students a model from which they can base their own language and she gives the test proctor an example of the expected academic language.  I also liked the clarity around what to do if students did not answer the question but still used English (Off topic= Adequate; Off task= Attempted).

I remember training teachers in St. Paul and we had some wonderful discussions as we worked toward inter-rater reliability on the speaking assessment. ACCESS 2.0 makes things more clear with the addition of Nina and the three bullet points for each level. Yes, there is still room for subjectivity but the guidelines and model make the rating easier, simpler and clearer. (They probably had some great conversations this year, too.)

What I like most about WIDA is the Can Do Descriptors. Yes, every student “can-do” something at every level and in every domain. Our job as teachers is to scaffold the instruction so they can grow in their use of language, language that is used for social and academic situations.

I am still wondering, though, where did the tall-hat people go?

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