Improving Content and Language Integrated Tests

It is really hard to write a great test for students, but those of us who teach language through content have double the trouble.

Our task- balancing the content and language assessment in one test.

For many teachers, their tests probably either lean toward the language side or the content side. For me, I was  guilty of learning heavily toward the content side.

So how can we move toward a more balanced approach?

Johanna Leal may have a solution.

Leal conducted a study in Columbia with third grade science teachers who taught through English. She had the teachers use an assessment grid she created and tracked their test questions over a school year.

The assessment grid has the following categories for test questions:

  1. Quadrant 1: high content / low language
  2. Quadrant 2: high content / high language
  3. Quadrant 3: low content / low language
  4. Quadrant 4: low content / high language

At the beginning of the year, the teachers leaned in favor of content, much like I used to. But at the end of the year, after using the grid, their tests were more balanced.

Interested in learning more about the grid and the test making process? Check out the article here:

Do you have any test making tips? Let’s continue the conversation in the comments section!

Making Science Easy for ELLs

***This post is a re-post of my article on the ESL Best Practices Blog.***
If I asked you what is the hardest subject to teach to English language learners (ELLs), what would you say?
Most teachers would definitely say science!
But what makes science so difficult for ELLs? Lee and Buxton (2013) have an answer:
“ELLs frequently confront the demands of academic learning through a yet unmastered language without the instructional support they need” (pp. 37-38).
In this post, I will discuss strategies that can help address each of these difficulties.
Continue reading “Making Science Easy for ELLs”

AAAS Project 2061

Do you teach science to middle school or high school English language learners?
If so, you probably have to create assessments from time to time.
We all know how hard making good quality assessments can be. And research suggests teachers are really bad at creating reliable tests.
Fortunately, Project 2061 is here to help.
Project 2061 is a long-term research and development initiative focused on improving science education so that all Americans can become literate in science, mathematics, and technology.
Project 2061 has a website where educators have free access to more than 600 assessment items that…

  • Are appropriate for middle and early high school students.
  • Test student understanding in the earth, life, physical sciences, and the nature of science.
  • Test for common misconceptions as well as correct ideas.

Check out their assessment website at