="http://www.w3.org/2000/svg" viewBox="0 0 512 512">

3 Chapter 3: Assessing Student Strengths and Needs

Key Issues

  1. Students bring with them different backgrounds, which express themselves as skills, abilities, knowledge, family and community characteristics, and experiences.
  2. Student strengths and needs, including linguistic, content, educational, and cultural, have their roots in these backgrounds.
  3. Addressing students’ both strengths and needs can affect learning of language and content.
  4. Teachers can uncover their students’ strengths and needs so that they can build on them to help students achieve.

As you read the scenarios below, think about how your classroom context might be like the teachers’ classroom depicted in each. Reflect on how you might address the situations that these teachers face.

Scenario 1
Nathan Hamma teaches at an elementary school in a district with a 60% ELL population. His sixth-grade class is a mix of native speakers and non-native speakers at different levels. A conscientious teacher, Mr. Hamma tries to meet the needs of all his students by breaking them into groups by language ability and trying to work with the less fluent groups as much as possible. He is a bit frustrated that not all of the students work well in their groups and that some seem uninterested in the lessons. He has noticed that some of his ELLs have a better mastery of different aspects of the class content than others do, but he feels that their language needs are the most important issue to address and that homogeneous language grouping will help with this issue. He is concerned that his ELLs’ lack of content and language knowledge will keep them from passing the high-stakes test that all students must pass to go on to junior high.

Scenario 2
Andrew Chen teaches sixth grade at another school in the same district as Nathan Hamma does. His students are also a mix of native and non-native English-speaking students. At the beginning of the year, he spent two weeks gathering information about his students from their files (if they existed), parents, former teachers, and the students themselves. He collected reading and writing samples in both the first language (L1) and the second (L2); background information on students’ beliefs, interests, and experiences; and information about what students had studied previously and succeeded in mastering. He discovered that many of his non-native speakers have above-grade-level knowledge in math and science, and that some of the ELLs who seem to have mastered English need extra help working on academic and content-based language. Likewise, he found a range of language and content knowledge among his native English-speaking students. He prepares his instruction while keeping in mind what he has learned about his students. He changes groupings according to content and language knowledge and uses both heterogeneous and more homogeneous groups depending on the lesson topic, language, and tasks. Mr. Chen continues to use strategies such as Know/Want to Know/ Learned/Still Want to Know (KWLS) charts and personal journals for each lesson because he knows that the more he knows about his students, the better his lessons will fit their needs.


Before reading the chapter, what advice would you give the teachers in the scenarios above?


Many authors cite the need for teachers to understand not only the educational backgrounds of students but also the lives of students outside school, including the cultural and linguistic backgrounds of all students (see, for example, Echevarria, Vogt, & Short, 2016; Peregoy & Boyle, 2016), and to plan instruction around this information. As Saville-Troike (1978) notes in her classic but still very relevant monograph, home cultures[1] can play a distinct role in student school success:
Students may differ in their willingness to ask questions or volunteer information because of cultural differences in the appropriateness of these behaviors. Teachers should both use and allow a variety of procedures and be sensitive to which procedures are appropriate for which students, and to which differences in behaviors are due to cultural differences between groups and which to individual personality factors. Many students have been incorrectly stereotyped as “shy” because the teacher was requiring inappropriate behavior, “from the perspective of the student’s native culture” (p. 44).

Roseberry, McIntyre, and Gonzalez (2001) reinforce this notion, observing that “children may find that they do not know how to show the teacher what they know in ways she can recognize. They may be asked to engage in activities they do not fully understand. And they may find that the teacher talks in ways that are unfamiliar and confusing” (p. 3). For example, students from an oral culture may learn content and language better in a storytelling format than from a textbook. Students who are taught at home that it is inappropriate to compete against others might have a hard time participating in competitive tasks in class.

Effective, inclusive teaching includes understanding students’ cultures; it is also based on what learners bring with them to the classroom in terms of academic knowledge and knowledge about the world. These funds of knowledge (Moll, 2015) are cultural and cognitive resources that can be used in planning instruction in order to provide culturally responsive and meaningful lessons that work from a base of student strengths.

These issues mandate the acknowledgment of and connections to students’ home cultures and knowledge bases in instruction. That is not to say that every assignment should be tailor-made for individual students, but as described in other chapters in this text, a variety of effective tasks can be used in order to give students access to content and language. Teachers can provide this access only if they understand their students’ strengths, needs, interests, and abilities.


What kinds of knowledge might students bring from home?

Although it is clear that teachers need to understand their students’ backgrounds, it is harder to find descriptions of how this information is to be collected and used. While some student information may be gathered immediately from students—such as their names, whether they have attended school previously, and what their typical pastimes are—other data must be learned more gradually. Some questions can be asked directly, while some facts can be observed only over time, including specific academic knowledge, preferred interaction patterns, and use of learning strategies. The important issue is that the teacher makes it an explicit aim to collect and integrate as much knowledge about each student as possible.

A teacher can collect information about students in a variety of ways. For example, many teachers use formal assessments[2] at the end of a lesson or unit to gather information about student outcomes in content and language and to provide a grade. However, the information gained through these assessments does not typically indicate where the students need help and why they succeed in certain areas. If teachers perform ongoing informal assessments[3] (checking student process and performance before, during, and after the lesson and between lessons), these assessments can reveal information about students and where and why they are succeeding or need help accessing content and language.

One issue in collecting and sorting such data is that of time—with packed curricula, teachers might feel like there is not enough of it. With student information at hand, however, instruction can be more effective, and time will be ultimately be saved by having more students succeed. Other concerns in understanding student needs are possible language barriers and privacy issues. However, many districts have interpreters or interpretation services, and there are other resources, some mentioned in this text, to help[4].


What are some ways that you can gather information from and about students?

Understanding Strengths and Needs

The first two chapters in this text focused on social and academic language and the relationships between language and content. This chapter focuses on discovering students’ language and content strengths and needs by understanding their backgrounds. The sections briefly highlight ways to gather (1) general, (2) linguistic, (3) academic, (4) content, and (5) cultural information about students. The other chapters in Part Two include ways to integrate this information into instruction.

Collecting General Information

As we have already noted, there are numerous techniques for collecting student data. One of the quickest ways to obtain general information about students, particularly about their general backgrounds and perceptions, is to give them a survey at the beginning of the school year. This can be done in the student’s L1 if necessary, or pictures and/or photos can be used. Questions, as appropriate, can include the following:

  • How many people live in your home? Who are they? Do any of them read and write in English? If so, who?
  • Have any of your close friends or relatives gone to school in the United States?
  • Did you go to school in your home country? For how long?
  • Have you studied English before? For how long?
  • Do you come from a big city or from the country?
  • What was a typical day at school like for you in your home country or in your previous residence? Did you have homework?
  • Who helps you with your homework? Where do you usually do homework?
  • What do you like about school?
  • What do you do when you are not in school?

The students’ responses will assist in understanding some of the home context that may affect students’ school performance, and vice versa. Follow-up surveys can be given throughout the year. Note that if the survey asks questions that require yes or no responses, not as much information will be gained as from more open-ended questions. Analysis of the data can be as simple as forming an overall impression of the class or using it to draw a more complete picture of the backgrounds and needs of individual students.

Another way to gather general information about students is through casual conversations with each student. During those times when the teacher is not at the front of the class, she can take notes on short conversations with each student about relevant issues. A paraeducator with the same first language as the student can also help with this technique. Brief student-to-student interviews, in which students write or explain what their partners are interested in or how the topic under study relates to their lives, can also be effective. This is especially helpful if the class has fluent speakers of both the L1 and L2 who are willing to participate.

A wall-write is another method for gathering general information. In this technique, the teacher hangs sheets of paper on the walls of the classroom. Each sheet has one question or statement ranging from the simple (e.g., “I like to travel” or “Do you have a pet?”) to the more complex (e.g., “I think that voting is an important responsibility” or “Where do the majority of your relatives live?”). Students answer the question or sign their names under the statements with which they agree. (No sensitive information should be requested or discussed in such a public forum, of course.) However, this technique can depend on the students’ ability to read the questions and answer in writing, something that many ELLs may not yet be prepared to do.

One more technique to collect group data quickly is to use moving questions. As in a wall-write, teachers can use questions or statements. Students who agree or disagree with the statement that the teacher says out loud and/or writes on the board move to different sides of the room, or they move to the corner of the room that provides their response to the question. For example, if the teacher says, “I was born in a big city,” students who were born in a big city move to one side of the classroom and students who weren’t move to another. This provides the teacher with an easily observable classroom overview and also helps the students to understand some of their general similarities and differences. The teacher can support this activity with photos so that all students can participate.

A slower but possibly richer technique to collect general information about students is to use dialogue journals. In a notebook, students communicate back and forth with the teacher or another student. Students can draw pictures, use both their L1 and L2, and include photos or questions. Teachers write back, modeling the L2 and asking relevant questions. Dialogue journals can also be created on the computer through e-mail exchanges, private blogs, and other technologies. An advantage of using dialogue journals is that students can express themselves and reply in many ways, making it more likely that some information will be gathered in spite of language barriers. For more information about dialogue journals[5], see Gonzalez (2016).

Whatever strategies teachers decide to use, they need to be sure to provide an example of each strategy and to share information about themselves, too. This gives students a better chance of completing the activity successfully and also allows them to know their teachers. A useful resource for thinking about home/school planning is the North Central Regional Educational Laboratory’s (NCREL) (2004) Putting the Pieces Together: Comprehensive School-Linked Strategies for Children and Families, available from http://www.ncrel.org/sdrs/areas/issues/envrnmnt/css/ppt/putting.htm.

The strategies described above are summarized in Figure 3.1. There are many more techniques that follow these patterns. In addition to general information, they can also be used to collect more specific student information, as noted later in this chapter.

Technique Explanation
Survey General questions are asked in a questionnaire format.
Conversations Teachers or other communicants have casual conversations as time allows.
Wall-write Students answer questions or reply to statements by signing their name or responding on a piece of paper taped to the wall.
Moving questions Students answer a question by moving to one side or corner of the room.
Dialogue journals Students communicate with the teacher or another student on a regular basis, using a variety of modes for writing journal entries and responses in the form of journal entries.

Figure 3.1 Techniques for collecting general student information

Gathering Information on Learners’ Language Backgrounds

Most school districts have one or more standardized language tests such as the Language Assessment Scales (LAS; McGraw Hill) to measure and place students into English language learning (ELL) programs. Typically, however, such tests are used only to ascertain which students should receive special services at what level. Standardized tests typically do not show, for example, whether students understand commonly used language such as indirect instructions and commands (e.g., “I like the way Mary is sitting” that really means “Billy, get off the table!” or “Would you like to do your arithmetic now?” that really means “Do your arithmetic now!” [Saville-Troike, 1978]). While students are in the ELL program, classroom teachers can work with the ELL teacher to discover students’ language abilities and needs. Once students exit the ELL program (or if they did not receive services but still need language help), classroom teachers need to find out more about the language students know and can use. During this process, teachers need to keep in mind that social language ability (basic interpersonal communication skills [BICS]) and academic language ability (cognitive academic language proficiency [CALP]) develop at different rates, as we noted in Chapter 1. In other words, simply observing students talking with their friends on the playground using social language may not be a good indicator of their true ability to use and understand academic language.

Teachers can start the discovery process by asking basic questions about students’ language backgrounds. These questions can be developed from frameworks like the CAN DO Descriptors mentioned in Chapter 2 and can include the following:

  • What is your first language? Do you speak another language? If so, which?
  • What can you do in your first language that you can’t yet do in English?
  • What language do you usually speak with your friends?
  • What language do you usually speak with your family?
  • What language do you dream in?

Language process and progress can be evaluated in any number of ways, from casual observation to observation checklists, to formal testing. Because language can be understood and produced in many ways, teachers can provide different modes of input and allow students to show what they know in different ways. Activities to help assess student language can include those listed in Figure 3.2 and many others.[6]

       Activity Purpose
Story retelling: After reading, students describe what they understood.


Get a general idea of what the student focused on (main ideas? details? isolated vocabulary?) and what the student understood from the story.
Role playing: Students act out what they know or what they understood about a topic or reading. Provides students with an alternative way to show what they have comprehended (and thus what they still need to understand).
Oral reporting: Students produce a short extemporaneous or formal oral report about a topic. Pronunciation, vocabulary use, productive grammar, and presentation skills can be evaluated while the teacher listens.
Brainstorming: Students generate ideas informally either in groups or alone.


Vocabulary and other language use can be assessed as students participate in brainstorming both orally and in writing.
Playing games:  Students participate in games involving language reception and production. While students are relaxed and engaged, their language use and understanding can be observed.

Figure 3.2 Activities for assessing language needs.

Understanding Educational/Academic Background

In addition to language background, each student’s educational background is important for teachers to investigate. One of the first places to look for academic information about students is in their school files. If a student has been in the district for a while, this file may contain test scores, previous grades, teacher comments, data on previous educational experiences, an individualized education plan (IEP), notes on academic strengths and weaknesses, and information about family context. Questions that might help teachers understand students’ educational backgrounds include the following:

  • How many years has the student been in school? How many of those years were spent in the United States?
  • What is the last grade level the student attended?
  • Can the student read and write in the native language? How well?
  • What help does the student have to study?
  • Where does the student need the most help?

Although some of this information may be available from school records, sometimes such records do not exist, and knowing how many years and where students attended school is not always enough to know what they have experienced or continue to experience. Other questions about their educational background that can be important are whether they are accustomed to collaboration or independence and/or rote or creative learning, types of testing they are familiar with, their and their parents’ expectations for student and teacher behavior, and what grades mean to them and their families (Peregoy & Boyle, 2008). Surveys and discussion can be useful techniques for gathering this information; for additional information about collecting student information, see Breiseth (2019). Answers to these questions can help teachers understand which school-based strategies they might need to teach, not in order to replace students’ home traditions and expectations but rather as another tool to help them succeed. For example, Saville-Troike (1978) notes that “students should be taught, at least by the secondary level, that asking questions and volunteering information is not considered inappropriate or overly aggressive in school, but rather is valued, and often rewarded with a higher grade. Teaching this, and guiding students to behave accordingly, is part of teaching the second culture” (p. 44). Some ELLs may even need to be shown that it is okay to raise their hand to ask to go to the bathroom or get a drink.

Discovering Content Background and Knowledge

Understanding students’ language and academic background is important, but equally essential is discovering students’ levels of content knowledge. Sometimes teachers can use student files, the curriculum for the previous year, previous teachers’ input, and academic testing to discover some of the content that students should or do know and what they need to learn. Using surveys, discussion, and other techniques mentioned in this chapter, teachers can collect additional data. Most important is to separate content knowledge and language knowledge. Just because a student cannot express something in writing in English does not mean that the student does not know it. Allowing students to express their content knowledge and their needs through drawing, acting, singing, playing, and other modes can provide the teacher with a well-rounded picture of students’ understandings (and misunderstandings).

One useful technique for understanding and activating student content knowledge is the use of a KWL or KWLS chart[7] or one of its many modifications. At the top of the chart, column headings are (1) Know, (2) Want to Know, (3) Learned, (4) Still Want to Learn. The first column along the left side of the chart is filled in with upcoming content. For example, if the students will be studying weather, this column might contain “the water cycle,” “tornado,” “hurricane,” “sleet,” or other ideas and concepts from the upcoming lesson. Before the lesson or unit, students fill in the “Know” column (in a group or individually) with information that they already know about the topic. Teachers can encourage students to write, draw, or use other modes. They can then complete the “Want to Know” column, asking questions or describing what they hope to understand from their study. After the unit or lesson, students finish the last two columns. Using this technique, teachers can discover student knowledge, interests, and progress and build on this information in an ongoing way.

KWLS can assist teachers in understanding some things about students’ interests, but in order to choose content that will engage learners, a more in-depth exploration of their interests might be warranted. Interest inventories, or surveys of student interests, are useful tools for finding out this kind of information. Teachers can create their own interest inventories or they can find ready-made inventories on the World Wide Web or through other teachers. These can be addressed to students or parents, and they can focus on general information; provide pictures that students respond to; or ask topical interest questions with specific science, math, or social studies content. Some resources for KWLS and interest inventories are listed in Figure 3.3.[8] Teachers can also discover students’ interests through conversation and many of the other techniques outlined in this chapter. Of course, any technique must fit the ages and abilities of the students or it will not be as successful as it could be.

Technique Purpose/Examples
KWLS: A chart in which students note what they know, what they want to know, what they have learned, and what they still want to learn. To discover specific knowledge and interests that students have before and after lessons or units.
KWL template from Teach-nology:
KWL generator:
KWHL Chart:
Interest inventories: General and specific surveys that describe students’ interests. To understand the different interests among students in the class.
Student Interest Inventory (elementary)

The Learner—Interests (elementary and secondary): http://www.saskschools.ca/curr_content/adapthandbook/learner/interest.html

Questions addressed to parents:
Parent Inventory

How to Implement a Student Interest Survey:

Figure 3.3 Techniques for understanding content knowledge and interests.

Exploring Cultural Background

STOP AND DO: Cultural Knowledge

Examine the list in Figure 3.4 and mark with an X the common behaviors that might be misunderstood by students from different cultures. For the list items you mark, if you can, note the cultural group of the students who might misunderstand. (Answers can be found in the Appendix A.)

Behavior Might Be Misunderstood Cultural Group That Might Misunderstand
Sitting with legs crossed and your shoe pointed or shoe sole turned toward your students.
Making the “okay” sign with your thumb and first finger.
Telling your class to take a “bathroom” break.
Shaking hands with a parent.
Waving with your whole hand.
Touching a student on the head, giving a high-five, or patting a student on the back.
Signaling to a student by using one finger.
Taking a student’s photograph.

Figure 3.4 Common teacher behaviors.

The most crucial information to gather for some students is cultural background. Peregoy and Boyle (2016) note that understanding some of students’ religious beliefs, cultural preferences and prohibitions, and home responsibilities can help bridge the divide between home and school by helping teachers choose how to organize their instruction and understand students’ reactions to it. Saville-Troike (1978) adds that it is very important to know who in the family is an appropriate person to reach. Teachers can also find out students’ and their families’ values, beliefs, roles associated with gender and age, expectations of schooling and teachers, and attitudes toward English language and cultures. Saville-Troike notes that the point of gathering cultural knowledge is to accept and accommodate “the student’s native culture to the extent possible; the teacher, indeed the whole educational system, should seek to expand and enrich the existing repertoire of teaching styles, instructional activities, and even administrative procedures to provide for the cultural diversity of students” (p. 43).

To understand students’ cultural backgrounds, Robertson (2007) suggests that teachers “start by researching your students’ native countries, cultures, and educational systems. You may even want to study the historical figures, musical and artistic traditions, geography, and biodiversity of these countries so that you can connect your lessons to something that the students already know” (n. p.). The brief overviews of every country in the world provided in The World Factbook (https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/) includes free texts, maps, photos, and other information about every country in the world that both teachers and students can use.

As noted previously, however, there can be many cultures within a country, and people are individuals within those cultures, so surface information is not enough. For deeper questions about culture, Saville-Troike’s (1978) A Guide to Culture in the Classroom provides 20 categories with sample questions and explanations of why the answers might be important to know. Categories include Natural Phenomena, Time and Space, History and Traditions, and Decorum and Discipline; they provide a general framework for understanding their significance. In “Getting the Answers,” Saville-Troike describes how teachers might go about obtaining the information they need. This resource is essential reading for all teachers and a great place to start understanding how culture can affect learning in classrooms. Another useful text is Egbert and Ernst-Slavit’s (2017) text, written by teams of L1 and L2 speakers about various nations and cultures.

Other techniques for gathering cultural and family data include some already mentioned in this chapter, for example:

  • Interviews with parents and community members. These can take place at school, in the home, or in a safe community setting. The home visit guide found in the Appendix B can help facilitate such events. You can also read an expanded version of this guide by Ernst-Slavit and Mason (2012) at ¡Colorín Colorado! (https://www.colorincolorado.org).
  • Dialogue journals. For students who prefer to communicate orally, technologies like Voicethread (http://voicethread.com) an oral and text-based discussion board, are excellent tools.
  • Personal narratives and stories in the L1 or English. These can be supported by technologies such as PowerPoint so that students can make them as clear and comprehensible as possible.

Still more techniques include having students create graphical representations of important life events or experiences in quilt squares, cartoons, or picture-book formats; encouraging visits from parents who are willing to share parts of their culture, whether native or non-native; cultural journals in which students note how their lives are or are not like those in the books they read, the people they meet, and the school life in which they participate. Saville-Troike (1978) recommends an approach that is relativistic and flexible for all teachers. No matter which strategies are used, it is crucial that teachers do not expect that all students from one country or even one culture share the same traditions and taboos, and they must be sure that students are treated like the individuals they are.


What barriers to communication might teachers find when attempting to understand more about students’ cultures? Think of ways to overcome these barriers.

Guidelines for Understanding Student Strengths and Needs

In addition to the techniques offered previously in this chapter, three important guidelines can assist teachers in collecting information and thinking about the diverse learners in their classrooms.

Guideline 1: Model the techniques
It is quite possible that the techniques and strategies suggested in this chapter might be strange or inexplicable to some students, regardless of their background. In these cases, the teacher can model how, for example, to use a dialogue journal or KWLS chart and suggest why survey data and other information is necessary. Sharing appropriate personal stories and then relating them to learning helps students understand this connection.

Guideline 2: Try not to assume
In one fourth-grade classroom with which we are familiar, a new student from China wet his pants in class three days in a row. The teacher assumed that he had a medical or psychological problem and contacted both the school administrators and the parents. When the teacher was finally able to speak with a parent, the parent explained that the student was unsure of the rules; he was embarrassed to ask whether using the facilities during class was permitted and what the procedure was for leaving the room during class. There are many other stories (for example, teachers believing that students who did not look them in the eye did not know the answer, or students being punished for not participating in practices forbidden by their home culture) that show how important it is for teachers to find out rather than assume.

Guideline 3: Embrace variety
Saville-Troike notes that “[t]eachers are models; what they value and respect is often valued and respected by their students as well” (p. 44). She suggests that these values, and those of the cultures of all students in the classroom, should be explored and, as necessary, be the subject of explicit instruction. Because there is such diversity in the backgrounds and interests of any group of students, teachers may use a variety of methods, strategies, techniques, and modes to help all students access content and language, and, according to Saville-Troike, never assume there is one best way to teach anything.

Figure 3.5 summarizes these three basic guidelines for language instruction. Additional guidelines are presented throughout this book.

Guideline Process
Model the techniques and strategies that you want learners to use. Explain the purpose of data collection and how the technique works. Share personal information on culture, interests, and other topics to pique student interest and create community.
Never assume there is one best way to teach anything. Ask students about their behavior before judging it.
Embrace variety in planning and instruction to accommodate the diverse needs and backgrounds of all learners. Use a variety of methods, strategies, and modes to help students access content.

Figure 3.5 Guidelines for understanding student needs.


After reading Chapter 3, what advice would you give to the teachers in the chapter-opening scenarios?


Students learn more and better when they can use their individual funds of knowledge to support their learning. Understanding student strengths and needs means that teachers are more aware of what helps learners succeed and in what areas. There is a lot more to say about the hows and whys of understanding students’ backgrounds and experiences, and additional activities and techniques can be discovered through Web searches, in conversations with teacher peers, and in books about teaching. The most important aspect is teacher awareness about the need to keep eyes and ears open to understand students. The importance of teacher awareness will be reviewed in Chapters 4, 5, and 6. These chapters discuss planning instruction based on an understanding of student strengths and needs.


For Reflection

  1. Assessing student needs. What other ways can you think of for assessing student strengths and needs? Think about the ways you and your students do or will communicate. How can you use such communication to find out more about your students?
  2. Reflecting on barriers. In what ways might students’ home cultures conflict with the culture of schooling in the United States? Think of some examples of student behavior that you have seen in classrooms and that provoked a specific reaction in you. Might there have been an explanation for that behavior other than the one that occurred to you?

For Action

  1. Learn about culture. Review one country’s information from The World Factbook https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/. List facts and ideas that might cause conflict or misunderstanding for students from this country and culture in U.S. classrooms. List ways in which you might build on knowledge of this culture.
  2. Create a culture survey. Read Saville-Troike’s (1978) work (see the References at the end of this text). Use some of her questions to create a culture survey for your current or future class. Explain why you chose those questions.
  3. References

    Breiseth, L. (2019). Getting to know your ELLs: Six steps for success. ¡Colorín colorado! Available at https://www.colorincolorado.org/article/getting-know-your-ells-six-steps-success.

    Echevarria, J., Vogt, M., & Short, D. (2016). Making content comprehensible for English learners (5th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson/Allyn & Bacon.

    Egbert, J., & Ernst-Slavit, G. (2017). Views from inside: Languages, cultures, and schooling for K-12 educators. Charlotte, NC: IAP.

    Gonzalez, J. (2016, August 21). How dialogue journals build teacher-student relationships. Cult of Pedagogy. Available at https://www.cultofpedagogy.com/dialogue-journals/.

    Moll, L. (2015). Tapping into the “hidden” home and community resources of students. Kappa Delta Pi Record, 15(3), 114-117.

    Peregoy, S., & Boyle, O. (2016). Reading, writing and learning in ESL: A resource book for K–12 Teachers (7th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson/Allyn & Bacon.

    Robertson, K. (2007). Connect students’ background knowledge to content in the ELL classroom. Available at http://www.colorincolorado.org/article/20827.

    Roseberry, A., McIntyre, E., & Gonzalez, N. (2001). Connecting students’ cultures to instruction (Chapter 1). In McIntyre, E., Roseberry, A., and Gonzalez, N. (Eds.), Classroom diversity: connecting curriculum to students’ lives. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

    Saville-Troike, M. (1978). A guide to culture in the classroom. Rosslyn, VA: National Clearinghouse for Bilingual Education. Available at https://ncela.ed.gov/files/rcd/BE000443/Culture.pdf.

    1. Culture is often defined as a student’s country of origin. While researching a student’s home country is often a good place to start to understand a student, countries can have more than one culture and often have several. A more accurate definition of culture is the experiences, beliefs, and values that the learner’s community shares, regardless of its size or location. Understanding the student’s community is essential to understanding how a student’s culture might affect that student’s learning.
    2. Formal assessments are standardized across a set of students and typically result in evaluation of some type (e.g., a grade or other mark). They are also known as summative assessments and often include end-of-chapter tests, quizzes, and presentations.
    3. Informal assessments are used to gather information to inform instructional planning. Also called formative assessments, they include teacher observation, checklists, and discussion and interview. These and other strategies are discussed in Chapter 7 in this text.
    4. See texts such as School Letters in English and Spanish from Ammie Books (http://www.ammieenterprises.com/) to assist with home–school communication.
    5. For additional information on dialogue journals, see these seminal articles: J. Peyton (1993), Dialogue journals: Interactive writing to develop language and literacy, available from the Center for Applied Linguistics (http://www.cal.org/resources/Digest/peyton01.html), or J. Staton (1987), Dialog journals, available from the ERIC database (ED284276).
    6. Examples of informal language assessments can be found at the website for Informal Language Assessment: http://jeffcoweb.jeffco.k12.co.us/is/web/docs/MAST/Informal_Language_Sample_for_use_with_Interpreter_1-31-05.doc.; and from Colorin Colorado (2007), Using Informal Assessments for English Language Learners (http://www.colorincolorado.org/article/14318).
    7. Find a KWLS template at ReadWriteThink (http://www.readwritethink.org/lesson_images/lesson398/kwls2.pdf).
    8. To get started developing an inventory, go see http://faculty.citadel.edu/hewett/web_files/interestweb.html.


Creative Commons License
Chapter 3: Assessing Student Strengths and Needs by Gisela Ernst-Slavit and Joy Egbert is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

Share This Book