Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Interested in presenting at the WIDA conference?

The word is out!

WIDA announced last week that they will be holding a national conference from October 17 to October 19, 2013. I am so excited about so many aspects of this conference. It will be in Milwaukee, my second favorite city on Lake Michigan.  The conference will be open to all educators, regardless of their membership in the WIDA Consortium.  The conference theme is Language Learner Success: Building on Strengths.  I can’t wait to see what the sessions will be about! Speaking of which, guess who might be presenting at the conference? 

Saturday, December 1, 2012

First Look at the Early Language Development Standards

Have you heard?  WIDA is creating Early Language Development Standards for children who are 2.5 - 5.5 years old.  On November 29, 2012, practitioners from several states gathered in a Chicago suburb to preview these new standards.   Similar to the K-12 English Language Development Standards, the Early Language Standards will contain the following components:

•    Six Early Language Development Standards
•    Two language domains (receptive and productive)
•    Three early language development levels in English
•    Three age groups
•    Two features of developmentally appropriate academic language
•    Performance definitions that define each level in each age group
•    Model Performance Indicators (MPIs)

Early in the day each table was asked to create a visual that would represent the relationship between the various components.  Here are two examples:

The Puma table visualized a tree with two trunks.  One trunk represents the receptive language

Friday, November 16, 2012

Tips for Doing Transformations with the 2012 Amplification

Earlier this year I wrote about some of the new features in the 2012 Amplification of the ELD Standards.  I highlighted the new components, including the example context for language use, cognitive function and topic-related language sections. 

Since then I have conducted several workshops on transformations.  (For those of you new to the ELD Standards, check out these posts:  Transformations – Part 1, Transformation s – Part 2, Q&A on Transformations.)  I have been delighted to see that these same new features actually make it easier for my participants to do transformations.  So today I will be sharing some transformation tips. Some are my tips; some came from my workshop participants.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

It’s Our First Blog Birthday!

It’s hard to believe that it has been one year since we launched this blog!  Thanks to you, it has been a resounding success.  Over 38,000 people have visited the WIDA blog since November 7, 2011.  Just last month, we had over 8,000 page views. 

 Join us as we celebrate!  

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Using the ACCESS for ELLs Score Reports

Last week an administrator told me that he was surprised to learn that there were several different types of score reports available for the ACCESS for ELLs assessment.  He only knew about the data that was uploaded annually to his district’s online data management system.  Reflecting on that conversation led me to today’s post. 

Friday, October 19, 2012

Understanding Proficiency Levels Using an Ice Cream Cone Analogy


I suspect that proficiency levels are the “most talked about” of the scores provided by the ACCESS for ELLs score reports.  However, many of us have a hard time explaining the levels to people outside our field.  In today’s post, I will share with you my favorite analogy – the ice cream cone.  

During workshops, I have been known to actually draw this image free hand.  It isn’t very pretty! The “homemade” image of the ice cream cone diagram below is much nicer.  

Monday, October 15, 2012

Welcome, Colorado and Nevada!

Have you heard the news?  On October 1, 2012, Colorado became the 30th member of the WIDA Consortium.  On October 11th, Nevada joined and became the 31st member. 

Both states previously adopted the WIDA ELD Standards  for use in their schools.  Now that they are official Consortium members, Colorado and Nevada educators are preparing to administer the ACCESS for ELLs assessment.  

Here are a few blog posts that you might find useful if you are preparing to give the ACCESS for ELLs for the first time this year:

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Tips for Using the CAN DO Name Charts

Looking for a way to organize and share your students’ English language proficiency data?  For years I have suggested to my workshop participants that they use the CAN DO Descriptors to contextualize their students’ ACCESS for ELLs® data.  That is, I have suggested that they write their students’ names or initials on the appropriate grade level cluster CAN DO charts.  But now we have an even better option! 

Friday, September 7, 2012

Four New Features in the Strands of MPIs

Recently I pointed out some of the similarities and differences present in the 2012 amplification of the ELD Standards.  Today I would like to share a little more with you about some of the new features in the Model Performance Indicator strands.  For additional background information on MPIs, click here. 

If you have flipped through the 2012 Amplification, you have likely noticed that the strands of MPIs look different.  There are more components and there is more information included with each strand.  Specifically, I am talking about:

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

What’s New in the 2012 Amplification of the ELD Standards?

In my last post, I pointed out the elements of the 2012 Amplification that are remaining the same.  If you haven’t done so already, check out that post and label the pages I mentioned.  It will make it easier to find what I am mentioning in this post.  Speaking of which, let’s take a look at some of what has changed or been made explicit in the 2012 amplification of the ELD Standards.  

Friday, August 3, 2012

What’s the Same in the 2012 Amplification of the ELD Standards?

Have you heard?  The 2012 amplification of the English language development standards is now available.  I downloaded a copy for myself and took some time to compare and contrast the 2007 edition and the new 2012 amplification of the ELD Standards.  But first things first, find some small sticky notes or tabs and flag the following pages.  These are the ones you’ll be referencing the most as you begin to use this document. 

Friday, July 27, 2012

Quick Summer Read on Young ELLs

If you are looking for a quick and easy summer read about young English language learners (ELLs), then you may want to take a look at this book.  Like many of you, summer is my chance to catch up on personal and professional reading.  Earlier this week, the book Basics of Supporting Dual Language Learners: An Introduction for Educators of Children from Birth through Age 8 found its way onto my desk.   It is written by Karen N. Nemeth and published by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC).  

First let me briefly clarify that the term dual language learners (DLL) is used by some preschool and early childhood programs instead of ELL.  In fact, DLL is the official term used by NAEYC, the Office of Head Start and the Council for Exceptional Children Divison for Early Childhood.  In a nutshell, DLL is used to describe a young child who is growing up with exposure to, and simultaneously learning,

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Welcome, Northern Mariana Islands!

Earlier this week, WIDA welcomed its 29th Consortium member, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.  Similar to Massachusetts, which joined in June, the Northern Mariana Islands educators will be using the WIDA ELD Standards and will be administering the ACCESS for ELLs assessment.   

The Northern Mariana Islands are a chain of islands west of Hawaii and north of Australia.  Their public school system consists of twelve elementary schools, four junior high schools and five high schools.  During the 2011-2012 school year, a total of 11,011 students were enrolled in these schools.  Chamorro, English, Chinese and Philippine languages are commonly spoken among the residents of these beautiful islands.   

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Where Do Those ACCESS for ELLs Tests Go?

Have you ever wondered what happens to the ACCESS for ELLs boxes that you carefully pack up and ship back each year?  How do they score them?  Does some machine have to turn each page in those booklets?  If a picture is worth a thousand words, then you will love this!

Friday, June 29, 2012

Welcome, Massachusetts!

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Earlier this month, Massachusetts announced that it had joined the WIDA Consortium.  This means that beginning in 2012-2013, Massachusetts educators will use the WIDA ELD Standards and administer the ACCESS for ELLs assessment.  For those of you keeping count, that brings the total to 28 states.  Here is the full map.  

Here is a snippet of what Mitchell D. Chester, Ed.D. the Massachusetts Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education had to say about the WIDA Consortium. 

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Check Out the 2012 WIDA Video Contest Winners

Several months ago I told you about the WIDA video contest and encouraged you to submit a video. Over sixty of you grabbed your video cameras and answered the call.   

Everyone who entered will be receiving a copy of the 2012 edition of the English language development standards.  The top four entries (which included a tie) will receive cash prizes and a scholarship for the awardee and a colleague to attend a 2012 WIDA Professional Development Academy

Watch all of the winning videos here.

This year’s winners are:

Thursday, June 14, 2012

CoCoMo Institute

A few months ago, I told you about the Common Core and More (CoCoMo) Institute. Thank you for your overwhelming response from across the Consortium! 

 I am happy to report that the institute is taking place from June 11-15, 2012 in Santa Fe, New Mexico. More than 85 educators from 14 Consortium states are hard at work learning about the Common Core State Standards and WIDA’s English Language Development (ELD) Standards

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Tips on Creating Content Area Word Walls

Do you have a word wall in your classroom?  Is it dedicated to high frequency words?  What about content area words and phrases?  What challenges have you had with supporting your students’ language growth visually in your room? 

When I was teaching, I struggled with the best way to use the wall space in my classroom. I had a “traditional” word wall on the back wall which held many of the high frequency words in English in alphabetical order. Other walls were dedicated to various content areas or particular projects we were working on in class.  My bulletin boards held student work samples and information about upcoming events.  While the various content area posters and visual aids were helpful for students, I always felt like I was missing something.  It wasn’t until I started providing professional development full time that I stumbled across the idea of a content area word wall.  Today I’ll share with you some of my favorite tips, tricks and links for word walls dedicated to learning the language of the content areas.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Using the CAN DO Descriptors in Grades 3-5

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

This month, teachers have been sharing ways that they differentiate classroom instruction and assessments for their ELLs.  In each post, they have highlighted the levels of a particular student and listed a corresponding CAN DO Descriptor before sharing their instructional and assessment ideas.  So far we have heard from preschool and high school teachers who work in ESL, bilingual and mainstream content area settings. As the school year winds down, consider how you can use these blog posts as a way to start conversations among teachers who teach the same group of ELLs.  How do we pass on what we know about our students’ strengths to next year’s teachers?  How can the CAN DO Descriptors help us contextualize our students' ACCESS for ELLs scores?   

For more information on the CAN DO Descriptors for PreK-12th grade, click here.

This week we wrap up our series with some ideas from Soledad Rios.  Sol is a dual language teacher who works with students at various grade levels.  Here are some of her ideas for providing instruction in English that are matched to what each student can do at their level in each language domain. 

Friday, May 25, 2012

Using the CAN DO Descriptors in PreK Classrooms

The WIDA CAN DO Descriptors are a wonderful tool for understanding what our students can do and express in English.  This week Martha Weisman and Hertha Ramirez share their ideas on how to use the PreK-K CAN DO Descriptors to plan instruction for two of their preschoolers.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Using the CAN DOs in a High School American History Class

As a continuation in our series, Melinda shares her ideas on how to use the CAN DO Descriptors for grades 9-12.  Typically it makes sense to start the year by matching instruction and assessment to the students’ current ELP levels.  Then, as the year progresses, teachers can challenge students to work towards descriptors at the next level of language proficiency. 

Melinda Perkins, High School Social Studies Teacher

Monday, May 7, 2012

Our Top Six Posts So Far

Thank you for making this blog such a success!  Today, May 7, 2012 is our six month anniversary.  So far we have had over 8,900 people come to the blog and read a post.  In order to celebrate, let me share the top six blog posts:

Transformations – Part 1 - Over 600 pageviews

Me Washa la Mano - Over 400 pageviews

I’ve got a question about ACCESS for ELLs… - Almost 300 pageviews

Written by: Tammy King


Thursday, May 3, 2012

Using the CAN DO Descriptors in a High School Math Class

WIDA’s CAN DO Descriptors are one of my all-time favorite documents to share – especially with mainstream teachers.   They are a wonderful resource for understanding the language acquisition process and brainstorming ideas for differentiating classroom instruction and assessment.  Some of you know that I teach a graduate course on assessment of ELLs.  Recently I asked my students (in-service teachers pursuing their ESL or bilingual endorsements in Illinois) to choose one ELL that they currently teach.  Then I asked them to list the CAN DO Descriptors that correlate to that student’s current English language proficiency (ELP) level.  Lastly, I asked them to list ways they could differentiate their instruction and classroom assessments to better align with that student’s level of ELP. 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Help Desk Helpers - Part Two

Ever wondered who is on the other end of the line when you contact the WIDA Help Desk?  In last week's post, you met Michelle.  This week, meet the rest of the WIDA Help Desk staff. You'll  learn about some of the common questions that the Help Desk receives and the WIDA states they would most like to visit.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Introducing the Help Desk Staff

Hi, dear readers! Thanks for stopping by the WIDA Blog. I’m Michelle and what’s on tap for this and some future blog entries is an introduction to the Help Desk at WIDA. The Help Desk addresses your concerns and questions, provides you with log in information, and talks you through testing procedures. If you’ve never contacted us, you’re missing out—we’re awesome!  A common misconception we hear is that we’re housed in a giant corporate office full of cubicles with dozens of people (picture the AT&T call center), but we’re really just six people who

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Using Rubrics and Checklists for Language Proficiency Assessments

Teachers often tell me that one of the trickiest aspects of designing classroom-based assessments is to identify what we want to assess and then how to document it. 
Recently I blogged about common assessments and ELLs.  In that post, I mentioned that there are two main types of assessments for ELLs –assessments that measure academic content knowledge and assessments that document language proficiency.  So as we design our assessments we need to ask ourselves “Am I assessing my students’ knowledge of the content or their ability to speak/read/write about this topic?”  

Most school districts have multiple assessments for academic content knowledge.  Typically there is a district assessment plan or schedule that details when and how often to give various content assessments.  End of the unit assessments, quarterly or semester assessments and yearly assessments of content knowledge are set. 
But what about assessing our students’ language proficiency? 

Monday, April 2, 2012

Spanish teachers – check out the new Continuos del Desarrollo Lingüístico (SLD Standards)

Two years of hard work are paying off and everyone (consortium and non-consortium members) will be able to reap the benefits soon.   

So what is SALSA? It is a collaborative project between the Illinois State Board of Education, WIDA and the Center for Applied Linguistics.   It stands for Spanish Academic Language Standards and Assessment.  As the name implies, there are two parts to the project.  The first part has

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Common Assessments and ELLs

T. King, 2012

Last week I had the chance to work with a small group of local high school teachers.  Their district has been doing some extensive curriculum work, and they have now reached the assessment stage.  They wanted to know what they needed to do to appropriately assess their ELLs across several classrooms.  They hoped to learn about different types of assessment tasks that are appropriate for students at different levels of English language proficiency. Some even wondered if it was enough to just assess content area knowledge. (Hint: we also need to assess student’s academic language proficiency).  Ultimately the teachers will be working to create a balanced system of assessments that allows students to show what they know about content area knowledge and academic language over time.  With this information, the teachers can make decisions about future instruction, student placement and

Friday, March 23, 2012

Get those videos in by April 15, 2012!

Image: Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

What would you do with $1,000 or $500 or even $250 in prize money?    Which WIDA Professional Development Academy would you go to -if it were free?  If you win, you could be faced with those very questions.  All you have to do is submit your entry for the WIDA video contest.  

WIDA is looking for short videos (5-10 minutes) of instruction or assessment of ELLs.  I wrote about a possible approach to this contest in a recent post.  The best news is that the deadline has been extended to April 15, 2012.  Now you can wait until your spring break to put the finishing touches on that video before you mail it.  Click here for more details.
If you have additional questions about the video contest, please e-mail Connie North (cenorth@wisc.edu).
Happy filming!

Written by: Tammy King

Friday, March 16, 2012

The Language of Math... and National π Day

For those of us that teach elementary school, we might have missed the celebration this week.  No, I’m not talking about the NCAA play –in games in Dayton Tuesday night.  I’m talking about the festivities on March 14th – otherwise known as National π (Pi) Day.  You may remember from algebra that pi is the ratio between a circle’s circumference and its diameter.  It is also a crucial part of many math equations.  For example, the area of a

We want to hear from you!

Image: jscreationzs / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Update to email address on 11/22/13

Written by: Tammy King


Due to feedback from our readers, I have recently adjusted the settings on the comments section on this blog. It should be easier now because you don’t need to log in to leave a comment.  Please give it a try. 

If you run into a problem, email the Help Desk at help@wida.us so we can resolve the issue. Thanks!

Friday, March 9, 2012

“Off To Class” Book Review

Recently a colleague introduced me to a beautiful book called Off to Class: Incredible and Unusual Schools Around the World written by Susan Hughes.  The book was written for children between the ages of 9-13.  But because of the splendid layout, the intriguing scenarios and gorgeous photographs, this book would be interesting to much older students (and adults).  It certainly kept my attention!

The content of the book is not light and fluffy.  The author, Susan Hughes, begins by stating that the United Nations considers education to be a basic human right.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Tips for Reaching Out to Parents of ELLs

Many of you are struggling with how to best reach out to the parents of your ELLs.  You pick the date, book a fabulous speaker, set up interpreters and send home flyers announcing the event.  But when the time rolls around for the meeting, it looks a lot like the photo above.  So what can you do differently?   Today I’ll share six tips that I have learned over the years. 

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Native Language Resources for Parents

I was recently asked by a district administrator for resources to share with parents of English language learners.   In his email, he stated that some parents of ELLs in his district need reassurance that it is ok to use their native language with their children.   In very practical terms, it is critical that parents and children share a common language that they can use to discuss everyday occurrences and key family topics and issues.  Pedagogically, we know that children do better in school when they are immersed in a language-rich environment in the home.  During workshops I explain it like this: parents should

Friday, February 17, 2012

What Do We Do With All of These Standards?

 It comes as no surprise to you that good instruction is grounded in standards.  But when it comes to educating ELLs, we are often talking about three or more sets of standards.  There are state content standards, Common Core Standards, and English language development standards.  If you also provide instruction in Spanish, you have the Spanish language development standards and Spanish language arts standards.  Often we are left wondering how these sets of standards relate to each other and how we could best use them to guide our instruction and classroom assessments.  For those of us living in states that have adopted the Common Core Standards, we need to set aside some time to understand these standards and begin to integrate them into our teaching practices.

Judy Sauri, principal of Edwards School in Chicago, recently expressed

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Favorite Lessons

Image: farconville / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Since so many of the WIDA states are in the midst of testing right now, I wanted to provide you with a little break and share a lesson I was reminded of recently.

As you know, last week was Groundhog Day. Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow, so six more weeks of winter are on their way.   What a strange and uniquely American day! As I heard the reports of our favorite national rodent seeing his shadow, I was reminded of my days as an ESL/ bilingual teacher.  I was teaching in a suburban district in a building where the overwhelming majority of the students spoke a language other than English at home.  Collectively, our students spoke over fifty different primary languages.  Most of our students were born and raised in the United States.  But every year we had some students in fourth, fifth and sixth grade who were new to the country.  Every

Friday, February 3, 2012

Become a Certified WIDA trainer

 2011 Certification Institute Participants and WIDA Staff

It’s hard to believe that it has been almost two years since I became a certified trainer for WIDA.  (Though, my family would be happy to tell you that I am also certifiable nuts!)  For me, the journey

Friday, January 27, 2012

Tips for Scheduling the ACCESS

Preparing to administer the ACCESS for ELLs can be a time-consuming process for test administrators and district level test coordinators alike.  Recently I had the chance to interview Rosemarie Meyer, Assistant Superintendent for Bilingual/ESL Programs in Community Consolidated School District 21 in Wheeling, Illinois.  Just over 37% of CCSD 21 students are English language learners.  She shared some tips that have helped

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Video Contest for Educators of ELLs

I am excited to let you know about a video contest that WIDA is sponsoring for teachers of ELLs. Not only are there some great prizes for participants, but you also have the chance to showcase the wonderful activities and assessments that you use with your ELLs.   The contest is open to all

Monday, January 9, 2012

Wanted: Local ELL-related blogs

Does your state have a blog that WIDA should know about? 

Maybe it is a blog run by a teacher (ESL, bilingual or mainstream), a district administrator or someone at your state department of education. 

If it deals with ELLs, let me know about it by posting a link to the blog in a comment below.  Thanks!

Written by: Tammy King

Friday, January 6, 2012

I’ve got a question about ACCESS for ELLs…

Over the years, I have turned to the WIDA Help Desk with various questions.  Often they are able to give me an answer, and I am on my merry way.  Once I even called them on the lunch break during a workshop to get an answer to one of my attendee’s questions.  Every now and again, I have found out that my question would be answered better