Nlps intermediate ell reading and Writing Assessment Handbook

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NLPS Intermediate ELL Reading and Writing Assessment Handbook


Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools (NLPS) have seen an increase in both new immigrant students and international students with limited English proficiency in our elementary schools. This tool was developed to give teachers an appropriate assessment to help determine initial language proficiency. The data can help teachers develop and plan instructional strategies and in-class adaptations.

The BC Ministry of Education ensures that our new immigrant students are given initial language assessment before they are included on our designation list for funding. This is one of our compliance pieces required for a referral for ELL services. International students, however, do not have the same assessments because they do not qualify for Ministry funding. The needs of our ELL (funded) students and our international (un-funded) students are similar, if not the same. Our site-based ELL specialists often include International students in their groups and in-class support, even though they are not case managers for these students. In order to understand what our students are capable of, it only makes sense to have some language testing on our International students as well.

Why Initial Language Proficiency Testing?

At the core of the assessment process for all ELL students is the need to make informed decisions. We must gather and analyze information from multiple sources over time so that the results are meaningful to teaching and learning. We use our assessment information to assess English language proficiency to identify students who require additional services as well as to plan and adjust instruction.

Initial language proficiency testing is a summative form of assessment that gives teachers and specialists a snapshot in time of a student’s language proficiency. It is an essential jumping off point to determine our plan of instruction. This assessment is informal (A Level) and not meant to be high-stakes; only a tool to better inform our instruction practice and determine a level of proficiency. Initial assessment results should, consequently, not be viewed as comprehensive or definitive. This tool will provide a “ballpark” level, similar to a classroom teacher’s use of a Quick Scale assessment rubric. It can be administered by ELL specialists, classroom teachers, or other staff who have taken a training session with Loa Richardson (ELL Resource Teacher). The main goal of the assessment is to measures the skills and knowledge necessary for students to work successfully in a mainstream elementary classroom. With support, ELL students who have a developing grasp of English fare best if given an opportunity to participate in mainstream classes with non-ELL peers. Generally speaking, research suggests that holding students back until they have better mastery of language is seldom appropriate.

This assessment tool will:

  • assess student’s reading and writing proficiency

  • be simple and quick to administer, either individually or in larger groups

  • give staff information to inform programming and instructional support

  • assess the student’s knowledge of academic content as well as developmental levels of language acquisition

  • determine if a student requires adaptations or modifications to mainstream content

  • determine the level of intervention required to meet student needs

  • determine instructional starting points

  • identify initial language proficiency levels on the BC English Language Learning Continua (Reading/Writing)

Overview of Reading and Writing Tasks

Reading Tasks

This tool uses selected response and short answer for the reading component. Students will select the correct or best response from a list provided, including multiple choice, short answer, and fill-in questions. Scores are figured as the number or proportion of the questions answered correctly.

  • A. (unscored): Alphabet, lower and upper case letters, numbers 1-30

  • B. Vocabulary: 10 items that assess comprehension of intermediate vocabulary: nouns, verbs (present, past, progressive), adjectives, and academic content

  • C. Reading for Information: presents a short informational text and 6 items to elicit short answer responses. Evaluates understanding details, application of information, and text interpretation

  • D. Language Usage: 20 items that assess student’s understanding of language usage and grammatical structures: articles, verb form, prepositions, conjunctions, pronouns, plurals, questions, determiners, and quantifiers

  • E. Interpreting Information from a Diagram: This is a text type that is found in many content areas. It assesses comprehension of informative text within a visual and application of information. 5 multiple choice items

Writing Tasks

The written portion of the assessment includes two extended written responses. Students will construct a written response to a task prompt. Criteria for scoring is in the form of a rubric and gives points for specific information presented. Criterion-referenced tasks are useful to determine whether students have mastered specific skills and to compare a student’s performance to the desired curricular goal rather than the performance of other students. Before marking the written portion of the assessment it is important to work together to establish inter-rater reliability because the rubrics will necessitate some judgement calls/ interpretation by the rater. This training should occur prior to using the assessment and can be arranged for staff members by contacting Loa Richardson.

  • 1. Picture Sequence Story: has a choice between two picture series, each with three sequenced pictures. Students write a short account of what is going on in the picture. It is scored holistically on a four-point scale. A sample story is provided.

  • 2. Write Your Own Story: Students chose one of two pictures to base their own story. Instructions are minimal, only asking for details to make the story interesting as well as complete sentences. The story is scored holistically on a four-point scale.

Information about the Reading and Writing Assessment Tests




(all PDFs available on NLPS Portal)

Handbook for assessors

Test booklet

Answer Key and Scoring Rubric

Handbook for assessors

Test booklet

Holistic Scoring Rubric


Group administered to an entire classroom or a smaller group of students. Can be used individually.


For each part of the test students may need help understanding the samples and directions. Asking if there are any questions, watching for confusion and repeating and rephrasing directions may be necessary.

Do not provide help answering test items. If students ask for help tell them just to try their best and go on to the next question. Do not help with spelling. Students may skip items and come back to different sections of the test if they are stuck, but should attempt every portion of the test.

It is important to be sensitive to the situation. If the students are overly frustrated or distressed they should be excused from the test and a decision to try again later or hold off on assessment can be made.


Both the Reading and Writing Assessment is untimed and do not have to be done together in one session. The reading test can be stopped at the end of any part and picked up later.

Approx. 30-45 minutes for the Reading Assessment

Approx. 20-40 minutes for the Writing Assessment

Administration Considerations

Even though this is an informal test, it is important to remember that a new student’s initial assessment may be influenced by feelings of stress and dislocation. In some cases students may underperform due to anxiety or a lack of confidence. In these cases the student will often show a significant improvement in English language proficiency in four to six weeks as the student has become more comfortable, confident and familiar with their environment.


Scoring the Reading Test

1. On the last page of the student test booklet, add the number of correct items in each part of the test. Write the total for each test part in the corresponding “Student’s Score” box at the end of the test booklet.

Student’s Score

B: Vocabulary (10)

C: Reading for Information (6)

D: Language Usage (20)

E: Interpreting Information from a Diagram (5)

Total (41)

2. Add the scores from each of the four parts. If the student is in Grade 4, put the total number correct in the Grade 4 student box. For other intermediate students put the total in the Grade 5-6 student box.


Student’s Score












3. Compare the student’s score with the required number of correct test items for the “Starting”, “Developing”, and “Bridging” designations. Highlight or circle the corresponding level. For the ELL specialist, these levels can be loosely matched to our BC English Language Learning Continua for Reading (Grades 4-6).

Student’s Level of Functioning for Reading Checklist for Classroom Teachers

The “Starting” student…

  • has little to no letter recognition

  • has little to no letter-sound correspondence

  • has little to no sight-word knowledge

  • is hesitant or reluctant to read aloud

  • has limited awareness of reading strategies

  • needs support to make a simple prediction or connection

  • responds to reading using pictures, labels, single words, phrases and sometimes first language

  • may need to learn text direction (left to right)

The “Developing” Student…

  • has a developing bank of sight-word vocabulary

  • needs reminders to use word attack skills consistently

  • requires direct support in reading strategies

  • reads aloud without expression and may be hesitant

  • shares reactions about texts, sometimes with examples

  • begins to use text features and context clues to understand main ideas and specialized vocabulary

  • needs support in making connections, predictions, inferences

  • restates main idea and details in own words, but may not notice or understand implied information

  • is able to state some of the big ideas with support

The “Bridging” Student…

  • may need some support in understanding specific academic vocabulary

  • needs minor adaptations to reading materials and instructions

  • is fairly fluent and expressive when reading aloud

  • usually uses word attack skills independently

  • often uses reading strategies independently

  • shares reactions and opinions, with examples

  • makes thoughtful connections, giving some reasons and examples

  • makes logical predictions and/or inferences with some support

  • asks relevant questions about the text

  • summarizes the main ideas and details in own words, but may not notice or understand implied information

Answer Key for Reading Assessment

Part B: Vocabulary

Part C: Reading for Information

Part D: Language Usage

  1. lake

1. humans

1. an apple

11. of cookies

  1. family

2. cry

2. on the wall

12. man

  1. reading

3. frown

3. sitting

13. Whose

  1. subtract

4. same as humans

4. from India

14. Where

  1. stormy

5. adult male

5. and thirsty

15. Many

  1. measuring

6. in a tree

6. his book

16. Some

  1. orbit

7. themselves

17. My

  1. direction

8. boys

18. to him

  1. relaxed

9. mice

19. hers

  1. medicine

10. is he?

20. oldest

Part E: Interpreting Information from a Diagram

1. a helmet

2. quilted pads

3. back pad and catch glove

4. a throat protector

5. blades

Scoring the Writing Test

Both parts 1 and 2 of the writing test are scored holistically. A rating of 0 (Starting), 1 (Emerging), 2 (Developing), or 3 (Bridging) is given to each writing sample. A rubric (criteria) is used to rate the writing samples. These levels loosely match our BC English Language Learning Continua for Writing (Grades 4-6).

When marking the sample the rater should accept any logical interpretation by the student of the picture prompts. For a student to reach the 3 (Bridging) level they must meet all of the criteria. For grade-level writing samples to help guide scoring based on proficiency level go to the Learn Alberta site:

The Writing Rubric and score box can be found on the last page of the student test booklet. Highlight or circle the student’s choice and the score for each portion of the test.

Writing Rubric


The student response:

0 (Starting)

  • cannot be understood

  • is not in English

  • does not address topic

1 (Emerging)

  • is somewhat understood

  • inadequately addresses the topic

  • includes minimal detail

  • has few or no complete sentences

  • contains limited vocabulary and poor syntax

  • includes many mechanical errors (punctuation, spelling, capitalization)

  • has spelling that interferes with understanding

2 (Developing)

  • is mostly understood

  • generally addresses the topic

  • includes some supporting details

  • has complete sentences and developing paragraphs

  • includes some appropriate vocabulary and some correct syntax

  • uses capitalization, punctuation and spelling that is partially correct

  • ideas are appropriate to grade level

3 (Bridging)

must meet ALL criteria

  • is fully understood

  • clearly addresses the topic completely

  • uses complete sentences and paragraphs

  • logically organized

  • includes supportive details

  • uses high level, precise vocabulary and correct grammar

  • uses capitalization, punctuation and spelling with almost no errors that interfere with meaning


Student Choice





Picture Sequence Story

Story 1





Story 2

Write Your Own Story

Story A





Student’s Level of Functioning for Writing Checklist for Classroom Teachers

The “Starting/Emerging” Student…

  • brainstorms basic ideas with support

  • copies single words and phrases

  • labels familiar images and objects

  • uses initial letters of words or inventive spelling to communicate ideas

  • combines sentences using “and”, “but” with support

  • uses dictionaries or translator to find vocabulary

  • needs more time to complete work or assignments

The “Developing” Student…

  • organizes ideas with direct support

  • needs support in using transition words to connect ideas (e.g., however, then, next, but, etc.)

  • chooses the correct word often but will need support to expand vocabulary

  • needs support with writing in different genres as well as editing skills

  • makes grammatical or syntax errors that sometimes impede meaning

  • needs some support with choosing correct word forms and verb tense

  • has growing sight vocabulary but still needs support with spelling

  • uses punctuation conventions often correctly

The “Bridging” Student…

  • organizes ideas with some support

  • with limited guidance, connects ideas using appropriate transition words (e.g., meanwhile, however, finally, etc.)

  • usually chooses the correct word but may lack a wide range of synonyms

  • needs support with style and writing in different genres as well as editing skills

  • makes minor grammatical or syntax errors that do not impede meaning

  • uses appropriate word forms and verb tenses correctly more often

  • uses most punctuation conventions correctly

  • makes occasional errors with spelling

  • use dictionaries, thesaurus, glossaries and online tools


Alberta Education. (2011). Alberta K-12 ESL proficiency benchmarks with

examples: grades 4-6.

Ballard & Tighe Publishers. (2008) Examiner’s manual, IPT 2 reading & writing.

Grades 4 -6. (2008). Brea, CA.

British Columbia Ministry of Education. (1999). English as a second language

learners: A guide for ESL specialists.

British Columbia Ministry of Education. (1999). English as a second language

learners: A guide for classroom teachers.

British Columbia Ministry of Education. (2001), English as a second language


Green, A. (2013). Exploring language assessment and testing: Language in

action. New York, NY: Routledge.

Schou Education Centre (1996). Supporting ESL learners resource book K-12,

Burnaby, BC: School District #41.

Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (2006). PreK-12 English

Language Proficiency Standards. Mattoon, IL.

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