Vocabulary Assessments for ELL Students

Instructor: Matthew Hamel

Matt has degrees in Journalism and Business and has taught a variety of courses at high schools and universities around the world.

For English Language Learners (ELLs), vocabulary is the basis for learning English. In this lesson, teachers will learn about how to use a variety of vocabulary assessments specifically designed for ELLs.

Vocabulary and ELLs

When learning a new language, people often focus primarily on vocabulary. While not sufficient on its own, a strong vocabulary is a necessary foundation for successful acquisition of a new language. Assessing a student's vocabulary level can be accomplished in a number of practical and effective ways. As you review the vocabulary assessment suggestions in this lesson, be sure to choose the ones that will most likely benefit your students and encourage them to continue making progress.

As the teacher, you can decide whether to use these vocabulary assessments to determine official scores and grades or as a way to informally check and review student comprehension. All of these assessments can be given either orally or on paper, depending on your preference. Also, don't forget to adjust the difficulty level to fit the needs of your ELLs.

Synonym Quiz

A strong knowledge of synonyms is vital to increase fluency. Many ELLs may know how to ask where the toilet is, but the person they ask may reply with a word like 'bathroom', 'WC', 'loo', 'washroom', etc. The use of synonyms in conversation can be confusing for an ELL, but a solid understanding of synonyms can mitigate this concern.

For this assessment, you will need to prepare a list of common words and an accompanying list of possible synonyms. For example,

  • Street
    • Road, avenue, way, boulevard, highway, freeway, lane, drive, etc.
  • Automobile
    • Auto, car, truck, van, semi, motorcycle, scooter, etc.
  • Party
    • Get-together, shindig, ball, event, celebration, bash, gathering

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