Right now we are testing our English Language Learners. They have four tests to take.
- A Listening test
- A Reading test
- A Speaking test
- A Writing test
Wednesday I had a small group of new comers to the country – many having lived in refuge camps for many years – having arrived here a year ago or maybe less. They were a mixed group of 4th and 5th graders. They had been involved in a fight during lunch and now I was asking them to sit down to a computer – listen to directions and writing in a booklet.
I know you are teachers and can image what this might have looked and sounded like. Most of their comments were not in English so I am not sure what was said but I do know how they felt about it. I can’t blame them. I can’t image what I would do if asked to sit down and write in another language.
We struggle to settle, listen to directions but I pushed through. I told them I knew they could do this and they needed to show me their best. Amazing, as all children are, with time they settled and began the task in front of them. I would say they all tried. They all wrote something and we got through it.
It ran against everything I know as I writing teacher and as a writer but it was an assessment I keep telling myself. It was a chance to see what they know and can do. The problem is the classroom teacher will never see this writing. They will see a score.
I saw students who were afraid, who didn’t know the language or how to spell work hard, push through when they couldn’t follow the directions of a computer. I saw students write three separate pieces on different topics. I saw struggling students work super hard to write in a new language. I know their score will not show what I saw or what these students felt.
I wonder what I would have done if I was sitting in their place at that age?? I wonder if their ELL teacher will process with them what this test felt like and what they can learn from it. I hope this will not just be a score that sits on someones spreadsheet someplace. Because for all their behavior issues and learning issues they tried really hard.
P.S. The second grade group came in ready to write and write they did. They were amazing writers. They also have been in the country longer and are younger. They transition faster the younger they are it seems.
Something to think about during this month of writing. What would it be like to have to write in a language you don’t know?