3 Classroom Strategies to Support English Language Learners for Test Preparation

Mar 21, 2024
Test prep for ELL students Edmentum International article

High-stakes testing presents a significant challenge for educators, particularly when it comes to supporting English Language Learners (ELLs). When the actual test day rolls around, there may not be a lot of flexibility to assist these students through the exam process. As these students navigate assessments that heavily rely on language proficiency, it's essential to equip them with effective strategies to mitigate anxiety and enhance their performance. In this article, we'll explore three key approaches that educators can utilize to support ELLs during high-stakes testing.

Spend More Time on Test-Taking Strategies

Some ELL students come from places with very different education and accountability systems in place. Others may have limited experience with technology, which can be a barrier for computerized testing schemes. As educators, it's essential to consider how we can integrate technology effectively to support ELLs during high-stakes testing. A study by Johanna Prince (2018) explored how one-to-one mobile devices, such as iPads, offer a range of possibilities for accommodating diverse learning needs and promoting language development. However, it's important to note that technology alone is not sufficient to drive student learning; rather, it must be integrated thoughtfully into pedagogical practices aligned with content goals.

You may gloss over the procedures of testing for veteran students who have been tested throughout their entire academic career, but ELL students may need practice and can sometimes find it difficult to speak up for themselves. Spend extra time focusing on the logistics of testing with these students to build their confidence. Run through practice tests, make sure they’re familiar with relevant technology, and help them with strategies such as time management and note-taking well ahead of the testing day.

Focus on Questioning Skills

In most areas, one of the accommodations available to ELLs may be the option to ask questions and receive answers about test directions and prompts in their native language. Usually, this does not extend as far as being allowed help to translate reading passages in English/language arts tests. But, students can still receive critical information within these accommodations if they become comfortable asking for help in a permissible way.

For example, proctors tend to be able to translate individual words for a tester. Help students to identify keywords and phrases in English that appear often in testing directions and prompts, such as “describe” or “What does the author mean…?”. That will allow them to seek help with more specific words, saving time and possible frustration.

Remember Math and Science Tests

Some areas specify that ELL accommodations are only available for reading and writing portions of the test, thinking that math and science exams, with their greater focus on numbers, are more universal. Whatever your opinion about that rule, it’s important to dedicate plenty of prep time to these tests as well. Make sure your ELLs are just as familiar with the necessary vocabulary, question formats, and test navigation for math and science tests as they are for language arts tests.

Looking for more ways to support ELLs in the classroom? Learn more about the importance of visual aids for English Language Learners.

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