One of the things we know about English Learners is they often lack the academic language to understand an assessment question. Students are frustrated by an inability to demonstrate what they know by answering questions, and teachers are frustrated by the low scores that do not reflect what they believe students know. Recognizing and knowing how to answer questions at different levels is a critical academic language skill. For example, comprehension cues (list define, discuss) require a different approach than evaluation cues (create, construct, what if).
Teachers at Sleepy Hollow High School are working with a QUESTION-ANSWER RELATIONSHIP framework. Students are given explicit instruction and scaffolding as they build skill in writing questions based on a reading passage. The explicit instruction and PRACTICE with different levels of questions (knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis and evaluation) as well as explicit instruction and PRACTICE with questions that can be answered by a passage or diagram and questions that cannot be answered by a passage or diagram is building confidence among the students and showing results in classroom assessments.
The ExcEL team at Sleepy Hollow Middle School developed a list of Accommodations for English Language Learners in General Classroom and Content Areas. For example, in math have students prepare a card file of number words. Write the word on one side and the symbol on the opposite side. In the science classroom be sure to use lots of ‘hands on’ experiential activities that do not rely exclusively on academic language to build understanding.