The World-Class Instructional Design and Assessment, or WIDA, consortium today released sample questions for the nation’s most popular English-language-proficiency test, ACCESS for ELLs. Virtually all of the questions have illustrations (which are printed in full color!) to help students understand English vocabulary. After browsing the questions, I had a better understanding of how visuals can be used to help ELLs, both in testing and instruction.
Here’s a sample WIDA writing question for grades 6-8:
A local charity donated $10,000 to your school. The principal has asked the students for ideas on how to spend the money. These are the most popular ideas: [All of the ideas are illustrated.] Some students want to spend the money to buy new books and materials for the library. Some students want to spend the money on new and better computers for the computer lab. Some students want to paint, repair, and redecorate the school hallways. Some students want to spend the money to buy new equipment for the sports teams. Now it's your turn to write! Write about your idea on how the school should spend the money. You can write about one of the four most popular ideas or you can write about your own new idea. Try to give 3 good reasons to explain why your way to spend the money is the best.
The test question continues with some suggestions for questions that a student might consider answering in his or her writing piece.
I invite any educators or state education officials of the 19 states that are members of WIDA and use ACCESS for ELLs to tell us in the Comment section how this test is working out.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.