Alternative Assessments for English Language Learners

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  • 0:04 Equitable Access
  • 0:56 Portfolios
  • 1:36 Pictures
  • 2:52 Role-Playing
  • 3:26 Paper-Based Assessment…
  • 4:08 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Sarah Mills

Sarah is an educational freelance writer and has taught English and ESL in grades k-12 and college. She has a master's degree in both Literacy and TESOL.

Alternative assessments allow English language learner (ELL) students to demonstrate their learning. In this lesson, teachers of ELL students will learn some strategies for offering alternative assessments in their classroom.

Equitable Access

As a teacher, you probably know that it's essential to keep track of your students' progress. When you assess ELL students, or English language learner students, on content that's been taught in your classroom, what are you actually assessing? Unless you're an ELL or language acquisition teacher, you're probably not assessing your students' ability to read, speak, and understand the English language. However, lack of English proficiency makes it difficult for these students to demonstrate their content knowledge.

Alternative assessments are extremely important for ELL students, as they help provide equitable access to education. While native English speakers are typically able to complete reading and writing exams due to their English proficiency, ELL students should be allowed to demonstrate their learning in other ways. Let's take a look at some common types of alternative assessments for ELL students.


Portfolios are one way of collecting student work samples to monitor progress throughout the year. You'll likely marvel at how much your students' language skills advance in just a short period of time. You can keep paper-based portfolios in a folder or binder, or you can keep electronic documents in a digital portfolio that can be accessed by parents to keep track of their children's work. Examples of artifacts you can collect in a student portfolio to demonstrate progress include:

  • Writing samples
  • Drawings that display content knowledge
  • Photographs
  • Recordings of oral presentations
  • Your own written observations and checklists of students' learning

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