Tracking Strategies

The downloadable tracking sheets can be used for recording proficiency levels at different points throughout the school year e.g., when students enter the school system, at different report periods, and on an ongoing basis. There is a set of tracking sheets (Listening, Speaking, Reading and Writing) for each division: grades 1-3, 4-6, 7-9 and 10-12. Kindergarten tracking sheets are for Listening and Speaking only.

Consider the following strategies for tracking students’ language proficiency:

  • Select one student per day to focus on.
  • Select one competence in one strand and assess all English language learners during a period or class.
  • Use group discussion, oral presentations or group work as opportunities to assess Listening and Speaking.
  • Select a writing assignment and use it as a sample to assess the benchmarks for Writing.
  • As part of an informal or formal reading assessment, complete the benchmarks for Reading.

Use the information from the tracking sheets to plan instruction and choose appropriate materials and resources for each English language learner Consider the description of student performance one level above where the student currently functions, and use this information to plan instruction and activities. For example:

The next Speaking indicator in vocabulary for a student may be, “Expresses ideas using some utility, descriptive and subject-specific vocabulary.”  To help a student move to this proficiency level the teacher may:

  • identify a subject area to us as a context for supporting this specific skill; e.g., science
  • review the language of the upcoming unit and identify subject-specific words that the student would need to use in a project, inquiry  or presentation
  • indentify utility, descriptive and other important academic words
  • provide instruction on these words, their meaning and use in the context of the unit
  • reinforce the words by displaying them where students can see them throughout the unit; e.g., word wall, concept map, or anchor chart
  • provide opportunities for the student to record words in a learning journal or personal dictionary.

As you track the student’s overall progress, consider that English language learners progress at different rates. For example:

  • Some students may be progressing quickly.
  • Some students may be progressing slowly despite significant explicit instruction and supports.
  • Other students may be “stuck” at a particular level for 18 or more months and require explicit instruction, differentiated materials and instruction, increased support, or an in-depth assessment to further assess their learning needs.

It may take five to seven years for students to become proficient in an additional language. The rate of progress of an English language learner may be influenced by:

  • prior English language exposure, experience and instruction (both the quantity of time and the quality of the experience are important)
  • home language and literacy level of the student
  • home language and literacy level of the parents
  • language in the home environment (e.g., a home that is bilingual presents many opportunities for the learner to make connections in both languages)
  • language learning skills and strategies acquired in the home language that can be transferred to learning English.

A learner’s progress may vary from strand to strand (Listening, Speaking, Reading and Writing). Each learner follows an individual pattern; e.g., quickly progresses in listening, but requires support in speaking, reading and writing. For example some learners may progress most quickly:

  • in the receptive areas of listening and reading
  • in the productive areas of speaking and writing
  • in the oral areas of listening and speaking
  • in the literacy areas of reading and writing

A learner’s progress may vary between the different communicative competencies. For example some learners may:

  • be very strategic and may be at Level 4 in strategic competencies and Level 2 or 3 in other competencies
  • have more socio-linguistic awareness and may be at a higher level in socio-linguistic competencies than in other areas
  • require additional support and experience to gain an understanding of the nuances of English with respect to discourse competencies

Learners may sometimes appear to regress when acquiring English. This can happen due to a number of factors, such as:

  • challenges adjusting to academic language expectations between grade levels
  • experimenting with new vocabulary and sentence structures, for example, an English language learner may revert back to simple sentence structures when using new vocabulary, especially when trying to be accurate
  • adjusting to life or school changes
  • returning from a break in their learning and/or an extended absence from school 

A learner’s progression through the ESL Benchmarks from division to division may not be linear. For example:

  • A student transitioning between divisions may be assessed at a lower benchmark. This does not indicate regression. As the benchmarks move between divisions, what is expected at each division increases in terms of linguistic complexity. The student assessed at Level 5 in one division may be assessed at Level 4 in the next division as developmental and linguistic expectations increase.
  • Language development and understanding of curriculum concepts may progress at different rates. For example, a student may understand a complex concept such as biodiversity yet have limited English with which to share his or her understanding.
  • A student with Level 1 proficiency may appear different at each division. The expectations for Level 1 at each division increases. Older students with literacy in their first language have the foundation of learning, concepts and skills to “do more” with less language at the beginner level.
  • Students who have had some basic English instruction previously may spend a shorter amount of time in Level 1 or 2.
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