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

Student B is a junior in my United States History class.  Since Student B did not spend his sophomore year in the United States and this year’s results have yet to be published, we do not have ACCESS for ELLs® scores on which to evaluate his current progress. ….After reviewing the WIDA ELD standards with the school’s ELL coordinator, we concluded that Student B is now most likely at Level 2 in Listening, Level 3 in Speaking, Level 2 in Reading, and Level 4 in Writing.  I am somewhat unsure of his reading level, because his use of written English seems somewhat advanced so I suspect his reading level is higher.
·         At Level 2 in Listening, Student B should be able to “match or classify oral descriptions to real-life experiences or visually represented, content related examples.”  Photo cards, flashcards, or other visuals or manipulatives could be used to allow him to demonstrate his knowledge in a hands-on way.  During a unit on the American Revolution, I could ask Student B to create a timeline of the events leading up to war by listening to my short description and placing a picture of the event at the correct location on a timeline.
·         At Level 3 in Speaking, Student B should be able to “suggest ways to resolve issues or pose solutions.”   As a follow-up to the Constitution unit’s focus on the role of citizens, Student B could be presented with the issue of low voter-turnout in the United States and asked to discuss his suggestions for solving this problem. 
·         At Level 2 or above in Reading, Student B should be able to at minimum “classify or organize information presented in visuals or graphs.”  These representations would entail minimal reading, but still strengthen his abilities to interpret print sources, analyze data, or draw conclusions.  When studying the Civil War, I would provide Student B with a series of photographs, vocabulary cards and object cards and ask him to classify each as relating to the Union or the Confederacy.  The cards might contain such words/objects as:  slave, Abraham Lincoln or factories.
·         At Level 4 in Writing, Student B should be able to “compose narrative and expository text for a variety of purposes.”  Since this is his area of greatest strength I would expect him to be able to provide a more detailed assessment response.  As part of the American Revolution unit, I would present information on the reasons the Colonists broke from England through lecture and notes and possibly showing short visuals like “The Declaration of Independence” video by School House Rock.  I would then ask Student B to write a summary of the reasons the colonists felt justified in declaring independence.
Melinda, thank you for you for these great ideas!

For more ideas on using the CAN DO Descriptors, click here, here and here.

Written by: Tammy King


  1. Melinda I loved the way you made your lessons "come alive " for student B by incorporating "hands on activities and playing to his strength which you believed to be writing based on your collaboration with your ELL specialist in your school . Your incorporation of flashcards and the descriptive ways you used to accentuate the various levels for writing , reading and comprehension truly enhanced student B's learning environment .

  2. I like the ideas of providing photographs a/o vocab cards, b/c I think that could assist any student (ELL or not) in not only learning the material, but also understanding its importance.

  3. I also like the idea of providing visuals. It helps so many students not just ELLs Using graphs or any organizational charts is also helpful to students
    Lynn Vicente