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JoAnne, Robyn, Shen, Kristen Discussion 2

Please post your second blog discussion here.


Hi everyone, hope you are all having a good week so far.
I wanted to comment on the article we read last week by Donato. I appreciated the idea that we should assess students biased on what they do know and not trying to find where they are deficient. I feel like in the past that is what I have ended up doing in tests, finding out what they can't do.
The article suggested some other ways of assessing, but did not go into detail about how to implement such methods. I have done journals and demonstrations before, but never a portfolio. Has anyone had success with such types of assessment, and what have you done?

Was anyone else assigned the Cummins, J 2000 article for next Monday? I can't find it on the course site. Any ideas?

Hi all,

I have not done a portfolio assessment with students before, but have been curious about how it might work. I think it is a great idea, but I think it's kind of overwhelming. It would be nice to see an example of exactly how other teachers have implemented a portfolio assessment in their class to be able to use it as a guideline. It probably isn't that hard to do once you get started, but getting started is the hard part!


I have done a portfolio for a class in Concordia University. It is graded by all the required papers, projects, and everything in between. It was a course worth 5" thick binder upon finishing. It was assessed by the work, I should say each section of work. It was not hard but lengthy and detail.

I read "Acquiring a Second Language for School" by Collier this week. It was a very interesting article because it talked about four components of second language education. These components were sociocultural, linguistic, academic, and cognitive processes. All needed to be present in order to have a successful second language learner.

I thought the most interesting piece was on the cognitive processes. I agree that this is often ignored or forgotten and the student's cognitive level suffers.

Collier argued that one of the best ways to build the student's cognitive level was to encourage the parents to speak the native language at home with the children. This way they are all still functioning at their current cognitive level instead of a level much lower, as it would be if they spoke the second language at home.

I think it is important to get the message across to parents that they can help their child keep up academically by continuing to speak the native language with them. I think there are many times where parents (and some educators) think that they need to only speak the second language at home. Do you think this is common?

After reading Richard Donato’s Assessing Foreign Language Abilities of the Early Language Learner, the most relevant issue, to me, is what assessment procedures are best suited for young learners. We are currently working to create an assessment for the first-year Chinese language students in our district. The students are in grades 1, 2 and 3. These students lack knowledge about testing and couldn’t effectively demonstrate what they have learned using traditional testing. I think we should assess by using multiple methods to measure progress in three aspects of learning.

The first aspect is basic language knowledge. We can use some traditional methods to assess students in this area. For example, we can examine their paper work, note their responses to questions in class, and/or use computer-generated quizzes, tests and word game to discover if the students have mastered words, sentences, grammar, etc.

The second aspect we need to measure is the area of active communication – listening, understanding and speaking. We should measure this aspect through observation of students (their reactions, etc.) during various class activities. For example, it is easy to know if a student can understand and follow a direct instruction, given in the L2, to the student. Another way to assess learning that is more advanced is to observe if the students are able to use the L2 in new or unexpected ways, beyond the usual literal responses.

The third aspect we want to measure is understanding of culture and related cultural content. Students could demonstrate their learning in this area by creating a make believe diary entry, acting in a drama, retelling a story in L2, drawing a picture or creating some other type of artwork.

Hi Robyn, I am sorry it's a little late to tell you that I got the Cummins' article yesterday from Bethel University library. They have the book at their library.

Hi everyone,

I did a little research about portfolio assessment. The basic information, taken from a source on the Internet, is that Portfolio Assessment is:

* "the use of records of a student's work over time and in a variety of modes to show the depth, breadth, and development of the student's abilities;"
* "the purposeful and systematic collection of student work that reflects accomplishment relative to specific instructional goals or objectives;"
* "can be used as an approach for combining the information from both alternative and standardized assessments; and has as key elements student reflection and self-monitoring."

Also, one of my husband's colleagues wrote a book that includes a chapter on using portfolio assessment. I will get a copy of this book soon and share the information.
I think this is a great idea for assessment of language learners!

Hi Everyone,
Interesting stuff! First, Shen, thank you for the info on the article. I won’t have time to get to the Bethel library before class tomorrow however, so I don’t know what I will do about the homework….
I think it would be great to see the book with info on portfolio assignments - bring it in when you can!

Kristen, I thought what you wrote about the Collier reading was really interesting. It made me think about my own situation. My first language is English. I am trying to speak Spanish to my Son the majority of the time. I wonder if I should not be doing that, as it is not my native language?
You mentioned teachers and parents often feeling like only the majority language should be spoken at home and the native language should not be used. I think this is fairly common because we live in a country that has a long tradition of asking immigrants to assimilate as quickly as possible to the dominant culture. I believe, and am hoping this is changing.

In an article we read a few weeks ago ( I can’t think of the name right now) we learned about subtractive bilingualism. As teachers if we encourage our students to only focus on English then we are aiding this process.

Regarding portfolios - I have also done them as a student in a class. What I loved about it was having the finished product after to show for all my work. I think high school kids would love this. But I am also curious about how a portfolio in a high school language class would look, be graded, ect...

I understand your concerns, Fei, about how to assess such young learners. Traditional tests would definitely not show what they really know. I like the idea of using word games and observation during communication activities. It is a dilemma when assessing very young learners in any area.

I often think that traditional tests fail at showing what even older learners have learned. I think some people are really good at taking traditional tests and easily score well on them. Other students might know the material but don't show it well on traditional tests. Another reason I don't like NCLB!