Performance Definitions tool for productive language,
a teacher could analyze the academic language skills of
an English language learner and be prepared to provide
specific feedback according to each of the three language dimensions.
Look at WIDA’s Performance Definitions for
Speaking and Writing
chart, shown in Figure 1
on page 58, and examine
each column. How do the
expectations for language
change according to proficiency level? How would
you describe the difference
between Level 1 and Level 4
proficiency in the sentence dimension? How might the
expectation of a “variety of grammatical structures”
change according to grade level? These are excellent
questions for a professional learning community to
explore as educators look at student work.
Step by Step
You can start with formative language assessment by
taking the following steps (see Alvarez et al., 2014;
Heritage & Stigler, 2010; and WIDA Consortium, 2009):
1. Establish a language learning goal. What kind of
language skills do students need to be successful on
the assignment? Do they need to justify an idea? To
compare two items? What are the language features?
2. Determine success criteria. What does using the
language as expected look like and sound like?
3. Elicit language samples from the assignment. Work
with both written and oral samples. To collect student
oral samples, use applications such as flipgrid.com;
You Tube’s webcam capture feature (www.youtube
.com/my_webcam); or smartphone voice recorders.
4. Evaluate the language using the Performance Definitions speaking and writing rubric. Students may demonstrate different ability levels according to the three
academic language dimensions of discourse, sentence/
phrase, and vocabulary.
5. Determine areas for growth, and give feedback to
students. For example, if a student uses repetitive grammatical structures, the teacher could identify ways to
combine the sentences and then discuss this move with
When you engage in regular cycles of formative
language assessment with your students, you’ll
see language growth throughout the year.