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.

Martha Weisman – Preschool Teacher

Based on language samples, work samples, and classroom observations, Student C is at the following English Proficiency Levels:
  • LISTENING: Level 4 Expanding
    • Example CAN DO Descriptor: Distinguish between what happens first and next in oral activities or readings.
  • SPEAKING: Level 4 Expanding
    • Example CAN DO Descriptor: Retell short narrative stories through pictures.
  • READING: Level 3 Developing
    • Example CAN DO Descriptor: Use pictures to identify words.
  • WRITING: Level 2 Beginning
    • Example CAN DO Descriptor: Reproduce letters, symbols, and icons from models in context.
The Big Idea that we have been working on for the past two weeks is: ALL VEHICLES HAVE PARTS.

Lessons were presented in each language domain and at each of the learning centers. Here is one example in each language domain that Student C successfully completed.
  • LISTENING: The vocabulary words were orally, physically (TPR), and visually presented (with pictures) and posted in the classroom. For example, during transitions Student C was asked to find the word that means________, and then wash your hands for snack time”
  • SPEAKING: Using a sentence frame, “A vehicle has a_______”, Student C could look at the vocabulary words presented visually, and orally fill in the blank with a vocabulary word from the word (picture) bank.
  • READING: The dramatic play center was a “Repair Shop”. The vocabulary words/pictures were presented on a “repair ticket”. Student  C had to look at the word/picture on the ticket, bring it to the counter and say, “Please fix my____”
  • WRITING: The vocabulary word/pictures were on the table. Student C was asked to draw /write in her journal about what a vehicle has.

Hertha Ramirez – Bilingual Preschool Teacher

Below is a chart with Student D’s current levels of English language proficiency and ideas for differentiating instruction and assessment for a unit in English on the “Three Little Pigs.”

Domain and Level
Example PreK-K CAN DO Descriptor
Ideas for Differentiated Instruction
Ideas for Differentiated Assessment Activities
ELP Level:4
Role play in response to stories read aloud.
Provide the houses that the children made out of milk cartons in the block area (Realia: Block, sticks, and hay houses) for play with the three little pigs and bad wolf.
Read the book in English and formally introduce the characters and houses in English using the same TPR strategy (gestures) used during Spanish Reading.
ELP Level:3
Answer explicit questions from stories read aloud (e.g. who, what, or where)
Readers Theater strategy while reading repeat actions taken: “First little pig ran to his brother’s house…” mimic running while they repeat the text.
Ask student series of questions: (e.g. “Tell me what the first pig did after the bad wolf blew the house down?”

ELP Level:3
Use pictures to identify words
Name cards with pictures of the characters and actions. TPR strategy.  Spanish and English.
Ask child to name the cards in English using the TPR strategy.
ELP Level:4
Draw pictures and use words to tell a story.
Journal writing. After reading book in English ask to illustrate it and dictate the story.  Use book for support.
The journal sample.

Special thanks to Martha and Hertha for sharing these wonderful ideas!

For another resource on working with preschool-aged ELLs, click here.
For more ideas on using the CAN DO Descriptors, click here, here and here.

Written by: Tammy King


  1. good use of visuals, preview, review, relating to stories, multimedia

  2. Truly impressive... Providing meaningful and engaging activities... well thought out - visuals, gestures, speaking and writing activities
    Definitely providing support and opportunity for the English Language Learner to progress