Literacy Assessment of Second Language Learners
Josefina Villamil Tinajero & Sandra Rollins Hurley, Eds. (2001)
Boston: Allyn and Bacon
Pp. iv + 190
ISBN 0-205-27443-9 (paper)
Literacy assessment in the ESL/bilingual classroom is often a difficult task for the beginning teacher. Literacy Assessment of Second Language Learners emphasizes the importance of connecting teaching, learning, and assessment in meaningful ways in the classroom. The book is divided into ten chapters. Each chapter begins with a teaching scenario and then gives a research overview of the chapter's thesis Finally, each chapter offers implications for practice and practical applications.
Lapp, Fisher, Flood, and Cabello of San Diego State begin the first chapter, "An Integrated Approach to the Teaching of Assessment of Language Arts", with a discussion as to whether public schools must adapt to meet the needs of the multicultural students or whether the students should adapt to the school. Given the changing U.S. demographics, meeting the needs of all students, including English language learners (ELL), is an important issue for administrators and teachers to consider. The highlight of this chapter is a table outlining the development of reading and writing for ESL students. Likewise, there are several assessment rubrics located at the end of the chapter that beginning teachers would find useful.
Chapter Two, written by the editors, Tinajero and Rollins Hurley, gives a well-written overview of progress assessment in the second language classroom. The background on teaching and assessment in early literacy is addressed in this chapter. In particular, the authors give a helpful chart that describes the stages of language acquisition, and student behaviors/strategies are given. Beginning teachers, or regular education teachers who are unfamiliar with ELLs, would find this chart helpful since the chapter gives a very basic background on early literacy and assessment.
Escamilla and Coady of the University of Colorado, Denver wrote Chapter Three "Assessing the Writing of Spanish-Speaking Students: Issues and Suggestions". This chapter presents an overview of the similarities/differences in writing in English and Spanish. Interestingly, the authors discuss the issue of writing rubrics and the need for rubrics to be evaluated in both languages. For those teachers who teach in areas with a high population of hispanophone students, this chapter would be helpful in connecting the many similarities and differences of Spanish and English. However, this chapter, and the rest of the text, is negligent in discussing second languages other than Spanish.
Pierce of George Mason University writes Chapter Four, "Assessment of Reading Comprehension Strategies for Intermediate Bilingual Learners". Pierce presents a very practical overview of how teachers view reading assessment. The chapter begins with two teachers' viewpoints on the issue, and then describes the teachers' views about reading assessment. In particular, the two teacher viewpoints are especially important for novice teachers. This dialogue allows teachers with little experience to read and understand the perspectives of experienced language teachers. [-1-]
Rollins Hurley and Blake from the University of Texas at El Paso discuss "Assessment in the Content Area for Students Acquiring English" in Chapter Five. The authors present an overview of learning in English in the content areas. They offer six practical principles of good practice in assessment to follow, and a Content Reading and Study Skills Inventory is given. In particular, this chapter is helpful for those teachers who teach at the middle school and high school levels since there is an emphasis on teaching within the content areas.. Lastly, for those teachers who teach in areas where Spanish is a predominant language spoken, the Spanish/English charts are practical and helpful.
Chapter Six is written by Fisher, Lapp, and Flood of San Diego State University and by Suarez of the San Diego Unified School District. One of the main highlights of this chapter is a chart that explains assessment accommodations for English Language Learners. This chart would be particularly helpful for regular education teachers who may need to make accommodations for the ELL in his or her class.
Jim Cummins of the University of Ontario presents an overview of assessment and intervention for culturally and linguistically diverse learners in Chapter Seven. The chapter begins with a scenario about Ms. Sampson, an ESL teacher, and her concern for her student, Phan Nguyen. The problem addressed in this teaching scenario is how teachers and administrators can distinguish the differences between language learning difficulties and language disorders. Guidelines for teachers are given for teachers to determine if a child actually is learning English at a normal rate versus a child who may have a language disorder. Four options for assessment of bilingual students' cognitive and academic abilities are discussed. Like the other chapters, the strengths of this chapter are the numerous practical applications. With the current emphasis on high stakes testing, this chapter is especially relevant to the needs of teachers since teachers are under even greater pressure for accountability.
Fradd and Lee from the University of Miami present a framework for integrating standardized and informal assessment for ELLs in Chapter Eight. The authors present a scenario between a teacher and her class. This scenario describes the complaints of students who are required to write using a prompt in preparation for a standardized test. To combat this problem, the authors describe writing rubrics which teachers can use throughout the content areas, so that content area instruction can be addressed in writing.
Kerper Mora of San Diego State presents an overview of effective instructional practices relating to literacy assessment in Chapter Nine. Kerper Mora presents the colorful classroom of a bilingual teacher, Rosa Sandoval. The chapter describes how biliteracy is developed in such a classroom and offers a wonderful checklist that teachers can refer to when monitoring children's biliteracy development. The practical application in this chapter is especially helpful to new teachers, or to preservice teachers, who may have limited classroom experience.
The text ends with Chapter Ten, "Assessing Our Work with Parents on Behalf of Children's Literacy". The authors of this chapter, Flor Ada of the University of San Francisco and Campoy of Transformative Educational Services discuss the importance of building a collaborative relationship with parents, and they examine six categories of collaboration with parents. [-2-]
Overall, the text's organization is clear and logical, and it is appropriate for both preservice and inservice teachers at all levels of instruction. One of the most valuable features of the text are the scenarios that begin each chapter and the practical application that is woven throughout each chapter. These scenarios are realistic, and I applaud the authors for their well-written overview of the research and application to the classroom. In my own classroom, I use this book as a supplemental text in literacy/ESL classes that I teach, and it has been well received by my students. In particular, this text is more appropriate for states that have students who primarily speak Spanish. The title of the book is a little deceiving since the book's focus is on second language learners and literacy assessment; however, only Spanish/English is addressed.
As a former Texas public school ESL teacher, I found this book incredibly helpful in giving me a plethora of ideas on various forms of assessment, particularly in the content areas. Rollins Hurley and Tinajero's text is a valuable resource for teachers especially during today's times of high stakes testing and accountability.
Jan Guidry Lacina
Stephen F. Austin State University
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