WIDA Can Do Descriptors for Grades 3-5

Instructor: Jessica Keys
WIDA's Can Do Descriptors serve as guidelines for English proficiency by age group and grade; these help educators develop appropriate lessons, assessments and goals for their English Language Learning (ELL) students. Check out this article for an overview of the grade 3-5 Can Do Descriptors.

WIDA Can Do Descriptors

WIDA's Can Do Descriptors act as developmental signposts for English abilities. These Can Do Descriptors are meant to be used as a classroom tool to help students progress from one proficiency level to the next, in four major English skill areas: Listening, Speaking, Reading and Writing.

In each skill area, the Can Do Descriptors are divided into five progressive performance levels:

  • 1. Entering
  • 2. Beginning
  • 3. Developing
  • 4. Expanding
  • 5. Bridging

And culminate with Level 6: Reaching.

Can Do Descriptors - Charts by Performance Level

The following charts contain what a third, fourth or fifth grade ELL student Can Do at each of the five performance levels. These levels provide a general assessment of English proficiency in the given skill area (for their grade cluster), regarding expectations for complexity of vocabulary and structure, grammar and control.

Level 1: Entering

Listening Speaking
Point to mentioned pictures or words/phrases Convey basic needs
Follow oral directions (single step) Identify objects/people/pictures, pre-taught
Recognize objects/people from spoken instructions Use pictures to recite words and phrases
Match spoken language to daily routines Respond to yes or no/choice questions

Reading Writing
Match images with words/concepts Use a word bank to label objects/diagrams
Recognize first language cognates Draw to communicate ideas
Make connection between words, sounds and symbols Copy words and phrases
Match words and phrases in different contexts Respond to oral questions (single-word)

Level 2: Beginning

Listening Speaking
Categorize content based on oral description Ask simple questions
Arrange content based on oral information Restate facts
Follow oral directions (two-step) Describe pictures, people, etc. in short phrases/sentences
Orally-prompted drawing Share basic information with classmates
Evaluate given oral information

Reading Writing
Use illustrated text to identify facts Make lists from labels/with classmates
Identify changes in root words (from context) Complete sentences (with word banks)
Identify story elements Fill in charts, tables and other organizers
Follow written directions (with visual support) Use materials to make comparisons

Level 3: Developing

Listening Speaking
Follow oral directions (multiple steps) Answer simple questions
Identify (illustrated) main idea from oral paragraph Tell or retell short stories and events
Match literal oral descriptions to illustrations Make predictions and hypothesize
Sequence oral stories/processes (using pictures) Basic problem solving/conflict solution
Give a content-based informative presentation

Reading Writing
Interpret data from charts and graphs Create basic narratives/expository text
Identify the main idea and details Piece together related sentences
Sequence the events in a story Compare and contrast information
Determine word meanings from contextual clues Give an account of events, places, people and processes

Level 4: Expanding

Listening Speaking
Explain and apply verbal information Answer and support opinion questions
Identify (illustrated) main idea from spoken dialogue Discuss issues, stories and other concepts
Use oral information to infer and act Give own content-based reports
Role play based on oral readings, video, etc. Form creative solutions to problems
Compare and contrast relationships and functions

Reading Writing
Identify features of genres (e.g. Once upon a time...) Use graphic organizers to take notes
Compare types of texts to types of charts Summarize content
Locate details that support the main idea Use models to write different types of text
Determine facts and opinions in different texts Explain methods used when solving a problem

Level 5: Bridging

Listening Speaking
Follow oral instructions with grade-level language Defend a position, using evidence
Use modeling to solve oral discourse-based problems Use technical vocabulary in a presentation
Identify differences in figurative and literal oral language Problem-solving by sequencing steps
Listen to oral scenarios and form opinions on content Describe the results of an inquiry

Reading Writing
Use multiple sources to summarize information Create responses of extended, original text
Respond to analytical questions (on grade-level material) Apply information to different contexts
Understand/employ figures of speech Form connections between content and personal experiences
Form conclusions from grade-level (or near grade-level) text Produce stories and reports at grade level

Students may possess skills that span all performance levels, regardless of their grade or age; these descriptors are intended to be a reflection of what a student Can Do, which in turn will help the instructor develop beneficial lessons and goals for that student. For example:

Ami entered the United States as a third grader. Now that she's a fifth grader, she can:

  • Follow multi-step oral directions (Listening: Level 3)
  • Answer simple questions, based on content (Speaking: Level 3)
  • Read an expository text and distinguish fact from opinion (Reading: Level 4)
  • Write simple narratives (Writing: Level 3)

Now that we know some of the things Ami can do, we can determine which classroom and homework activities will be most beneficial for her English learning progress.

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