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Assessment Case Study of an ELL student

Susanne Beydoun

Spring Arbor University


Measures to Assess Students Abilities

My student, Farah, is in fifth grade and is a native Arabic speaker. She came to America

from Jordan in January. I conducted five assessments with her for my case study. The first

assessment was a listening assessment to assess phonemic pairs and consonant verse vowel

recognition. Next, I conducted a speaking assessment that allowed for open ended responses. I

did a very informal running record to asses her reading. For her writing assessment, I printed off

pictures I knew she would be familiar with in English and asked her to write them out. Last, I

assessed her verbiage usage through a multiple choice task.

Listening Assessment: Phonemic pair, consonants and vowels

The assessment instrument used for the listening assessment was based off of the

assessment offered in the text book on page 165. I used the format of the phonemic pair,

consonants and vowels. I included my own creations of consonant and vowel sounds. I had

printed off a sheet of the assessment that just included the items the test takers read. I read off

what needed to be heard while she read and circled the corresponding sentence. I typed up

the assessment I gave to my student and highlighted her responses. To understand the outline

of the test, below is the assessment and the results.

Listening Assessment

1. Test-takers hear: Hes from New York. Is he living?

Test-takers read: Hes from New York. 3. Test-takers hear: This is mine.

Shes from New York. Test-takers read: This is mine.

2. Test-takers hear: Is he living? These is mine.

Test-takers read: Is he leaving? 4. Test-takers hear: I am sad.


Test-takers read: I am said. She is heaving.

I am sad. 7. Test-takers hear: Share your food.

5. Test-takers hear: Walk to the park. Test-takers read: Chare your food.

Test-takers read: Walk to the park. Share your food.

Walk to the bark. 8. Test-takers hear: Shes nice.

6. Test-takers hear: She is heaving. Test-takers read: Hes nice.

Test-takers read: She is hiving. Shes nice.

It appears that Farah struggles with phoneme vowel sounds. With the items that assess

consonant sounds she was able to appropriately identify them. For example, she is able to hear

and identify the sh sound. Her vowel recognition is a little off. She hears I and e

differently. This might be due to even spelling practice.

Speaking Assessment: Questions eliciting open-ended responses

The speaking assessment for Farah was designed as questions that would entail open

ended responses. The reason behind doing this is because I know that Farah prefers to respond

in her native language whenever she can. She understands when I give the class directives in

English, however, she does not initiate talking in English unless I specifically ask her to. I wanted

the assessment to be conversational. Normally, when I meet with her during reading groups, I

always converse with her and if she does not know how to respond, I tell her to respond in

Arabic. Afterwards, I translate into English and have her repeat. For this assessment, I recorded

her responses. If I had translate the question I did, and made note of it. The intent was to assess

her speaking so I did not mind if I translated in order for her to understand the meaning. I asked

several general questions and recorded her responses.

Speaking Assesment

Test takers hear:

1. Hello, how are you today?

Hi, good.

2. Do like to learn English? Why? (Had to translate into native language)

Yes, I want to read (response in native language)

3. What is your favorite subject? (Had to translate into native language)


4. What do you do to help you learn English? (Had to translate into native language)

Read (response in native language)

5. Have you ever been to the United States before? (Had to translate into native language)

*nods head no*

6. What country did you come from? (Had to translate into native language)

Jordan (response in native language)

7. What did you like about your country? (Had to translate into native language)

*smiles and shrugs*

8. If you could go back, what would you like to do? (Had to translate into native language)

Visit my grandma (response in native language)

9. What country would you like to visit next, and why? (Had to translate into native


*smiles and shrugs*

Farah was only able to answer the greeting question in English. Her speaking skills are

very weak. She is limited on her ability to understand meaning of words. I had to translate the

questions. After translating, she would give very short simple responses.

Reading Assessment: Running Record

To assess reading, I designed an informal running records. My school uses NWEA and

DRA scores to assess reading. Farah is not required to take the NWEA because she has not been

in school for a whole year. DRA tests are given three times, in the fall, winter, and spring. In

between those times, I informally do DRAs through running records. I typed out the script for

the book, Maria Goes to School, and noted what Farah could not pronounce or struggled with.

Running Record Assessment

Book: Maria Goes to School

I get my backpack. (Cannot pronounce backpack, read as bck-bck)

I get my pencils. (Does not pronounce the s in pencils)

I get my ruler. (Ruler is read as role)

I get my eraser. (Eraser is read as E-ras)

I get my crayons. (Crayons is left unread)

I get my sweater. (Sweater is read as swatter)

I get my brother. (Brother is read as broth)

I get my lunch.

I get my hug.

I get my ride. (Ride is read as rid)


Looking over the results, Farah seems to have a habit of not reading the ending sound.

The words: I, get, and my, are all sight words she is familiar with. She does a good job

identifying the root words.

Writing Assessment: Picture Cued word writing

The writing assessment was designed as a picture cued word writing. I selected pictures

that I knew Farah would be familiar with in English. I printed them off on a paper and had her

identify what they were in writing. This would allow me to see what she could spell correctly.

See appendix for for instrument used to assess writing.

After assessing her I could clearly see that she is able to correctly spell the short three

letter words with one vowel sound. She only needed me to remind her what a star was. Again, I

am noticing that vowel recognition and endings of the words are weaknesses.

Grammar and Vocabulary Assessment: Multiple Choice Tasks

To assess grammar and vocabulary, I designed a multiple choice task test. I read aloud a

sentence. Farah was able to see in front of her and select the corresponding sentence that

grammatically matched. I highlighted her responses below and outlined the assessment. The

focus was on verb usage.

Grammar and Vocabulary Assessment

1. Test taker hears: I am happy. I felled down.

Test taker sees: I is happy. 3. Test taker hears: I see the sky.

I am happy. Test taker sees: I see sky.

2. Test taker hears: I fell down. I see the sky.

Test taker sees: I fell down. 4. Test taker hears: He is mad.


Test taker sees: He mad. He love her.

He is mad. 6. Test taker hears: I saw him.

5. Test taker hears: He loves her. Test taker sees: I seen him.

Test taker sees: He loves her. I saw him.

I noticed that Farah is applying the verb rules in her native language as she listens and

reads through the answer choices. Singular, plural, and possessives are mixed up for her. This is

understandable because in Arabic, the grammar rules are very different than in English.

Profile Students Abilities in the Four Skill Areas

According to the assessment items I tested Farah in, she is at a different level in each

skill area. Also, each skill area I tested her in was designed differently and had different

objectives. I cannot say that she does better in writing than in reading, for example. However,

each assessment allows me to profile Farah in her ability to perform at each specific skill area.

When it comes to listening, Farah is able to identify consonant phonemes. She can hear

consonant sounds such as Sh or h and be able to decipher between the two. Not only can

she hear the difference, but she can also see the difference. She can attach meaning sound

recognition to written recognition.

Farah is able to speak and respond to simple everyday questions such as: good morning,

how are you, etc. When the questions ask of her opinion or include a heightened vocabulary

that is not part of simple greeting talk, she needs translation, visuals, etc. When the visuals and

translation is offered, she sometimes can respond in English. For example, when I asked her

what her favorite subject was, she knew how to say math. However, her responses were

really brief.

When reading, Farah can fluently read sight words. Three letter words with one vowel

sound are her strengths when it comes to reading. She can fluently read words that contain

short vowels. She struggles with accuracy and pronunciation of ending sounds.

Farahs writing level is pretty aligned to her reading level. She can easily write those

short three letter words with short vowel sounds. She struggles when there is more than one

vowel sound. She can write on the line and observes lower case letters properly. What would

help her next is to form simple subject-verb-object sentences. She is now ready for that.

Based on the assessment delivered to Farah on grammar and vocabulary, Farah can

match the verb correctly to the object in some cases. It seems she is unclear about how to

appropriately place the noun verb agreement.

Implications of Results for Instruction

Due to the fact that Farah can attach sound recognition to written recognition, it would

be a good idea to assess whether she can attach written to the sounds. Of course, this

assessment will no longer be a listening assessment, but it will really help me see if she could

attach phoneme sounds to their meanings. Another directions I would take to help Farah get

better is to focus on vowel recognition. I would try including words with short and long vowels

and correlate them to reading books in order to increase her recognition of vowel phonemes.

Farahs results during the speaking assessment show me I need to expose her to

vocabulary. A lot of word work can be done to help her expand her vocabulary. I need to make

sure I provide visuals for words. What can really help, is if she can get on a chrome book and

listen to readings that I select. The readings can be listened to and provide visuals at the same


Since Farah can fluently read sight words, the next step is for her to fluently read all

words. I will begin moving her up to the first grade Dolce list. From there, I will align books that

match the list, incorporate them into her spelling packet and word work for the day.

For writing, I would challenge Farah to take her sight words that she is so familiar with

and form complete thoughts. What would help her next is to form simple subject-verb-object

sentences. She is now ready for that. This will help me introduce her to becoming aware of

capitalization and punctuation.

In grammar and vocabulary, it would be helpful to provide Farah with sentence stems.

Sentence stems will provide models and show her how to set up a sentence. She can receive

practice with verbs by using word cards to build sentences based on the sentence stems as


Next Step

Based on my findings, I see that there is a reoccurring weakness. Farah needs instruction

on vowel phonemes and ending sounds. The way she speaks also affects her writing. She is very

comfortable responding in her native language. When it came to grammar and vocabulary, it is

clear she uses the grammar rules of her native language. She is very strong in recognizing sight

words when reading. She is also comfortable with consonant phonemes.

My plan for instruction based on these results is to focus on exposing her to new

vocabulary. She has the basic sight words down, but now she is ready for larger words. Using

task cards and word cards with endings will help her visually and kinesthetically become

familiar with ending sounds. I will pull books that include more dialogue so that she get

exposed to conversational speaking. Getting her on a chrome book to listen to read alouds will

help her with her fluency and accuracy. For writing, my hope is to transition her into writing

simple complete sentences.

Since Farah is comfortable speaking in her native language, I need to use her comfort to

ease her into English usage. I will have to take what she knows and expand it. What she knows

will be my foundation. According to Learning from ELL Kids: How to Teach Writing by, Jeffrey D

Wilhelm (2004), he supports and advocates using an ELLs first language as a tool to expand word

vocabulary. Even though every assessment in this case study assesses a different skill, over all Farah

needs more exposure to culture and names so that she can identify and speak comfortably. Wilhelm

says: The most immediate way to improve ELL composing skills is to increase word knowledge, and the

best way to do that is to use their "primary discourse" (i.e., their first language, cultural knowledge, and

sense of identity) as a resource to learn the "secondary discourse" of English This is very beneficial

information for me in my next step because it is evident in Farah. She already uses her primary

discourse, so I will try to bridge the gap to her secondary discourse.

I felt that Farah needs more motivation to speak in English. I came across an article that

gave me an idea for my next step for Farah in building her vocabulary to help her speak in

English more. The article talks about how an ESL student emailed their teacher throughout the

year and was used as way to assess writing and vocabulary over time. The article, "My heart

want to say something": exploring ELL vocabulary use through e-mail by Sung-On Hwang (2004)

suggests: E-mailing offered real purposes for vocabulary use and thus offered engagement and

motivation. Every student in my district has a google email and account. Every teacher is

required to keep a blog. I encourage my students to leave me messages and comments because

it builds community and writing skills. Through email or leaving me messages, Farah can begin

to increase her grammar, vocabulary, and writing.

Critical Evaluation of Testing Instruments

All accept the reading assessment instrument formats came from Language Assessment

by Douglas H. Brown and Priyanvada Abeywickrama (2010). When conducting the listening

assessment, I implemented an intensive listening test (Brown 166). The spoken stimulus was

either a phoneme consonant or vowel sound. Farah had to choose the corresponding answer

choice by reading. Even though it has no context for her to refer to, she still has the entirety of

the sentence. This assessment narrows in on what Farah really knows in terms of specific

sounds. What could have hindered her from preforming well is her ability to read. When she

read the word leaving as living that tells me her vowel sounds are attached to wrong

symbol. I would conduct another test in different form to check to make sure her vowel

recognition results remain the same.

Using almost nothing but her words, the speaking test instrument fell mostly upon me. I

was recording her responses to the questions I read off to her. I felt that this was a very easy

going assessment for Farah compared to all the others. It was very conversational. I was typing

her responses because it is faster for me to type. For next time, I would suggest recording the

speaking test. That way I could really analyze her word choice, parts of speech, and sentence

structures. Her English is very limited, I had a hard time figuring out what testing instrument to

use. I decided the open ended questions would best meet her needs because she is able to

respond to short greetings. Even though I did have to translate a little, she was able to respond

in English. She struggled, but managed to do a good job. The casualty made her feel at ease.

The running record assessment is a great instrument because it based on levels and

really tells you where the student is at in terms of accuracy, fluency, and comprehension. With

Farah, I was not so concerned with comprehension. I wanted to assess more for accuracy and

fluency. The instrument of having the script in front of me while she read made it very simple

for me to keep track as she read. I checked off what she knew and made notes on any words

she struggled to read or missed. I conducted a very informal running record. For next time, I

would suggest timing her reading as well so that I could track her progress.

Again, because her English is so limited, I had a hard time trying to assess Farahs

writing. After reading through the assessment types in the text book, I decided that the picture-

queued writing items would be the best (Brown 269). I thought of included a word bank, but I

really wanted to see just how much she could do. That is what led me to try choosing pictures I

knew she would be familiar with in English. What went well was I was able to see how she

spells and identifies the picture. She is not at the point where she could write complete

sentences and thoughts. She can verbalize them, but cannot put words to them. This

assessment tool is open ended. There are so many cues I can give and assessing what she

knows is subject to what she has been exposed to.

When choosing an instrument for grammar and vocabulary, I needed to make sure that

is was basic. Farah has only been exposed to so much in the English language that it was hard to

really find an instrument that would work. I know that verb noun agreement is very different in

Arabic than in English, so I decided to use a tool that will help me identify where Farah stands

when placing verbs and nouns in English. The fact that the instrument was a multiple choice

assessment allows her options (Brown 295). The only thing that got me weary of the results was

because it was multiple choice. Her answers were mixed. Sometimes she would hear and

identify the appropriate verb correctly, while other times she would not. It made me wonder

whether or not the correct item choices were guesses.



Brown, H. D., & Abeywickrama, P. (2010). Language assessment: Principles and classroom

practices. White Plains, NY: Pearson Education.

Sung-on Hwang, Piazza, C. L., Pierce, M. J., & Bryce, S. M. (2011). "My heart want to say

something": Exploring ELL vocabulary use through e-mail. Multicultural Education &

Technology Journal, 5(1), 19-38.


Wilhelm, J. D. (2004). Learning from ELL kids: How to teach writing. Voices from the Middle,

11(4), 43. Retrieved from



This is the assessment tool of the picture cued writing assessment.