Where to Start with Sofia
by Jana Bennett
Last month we began the Year of Sofia. We talked about how Sofia tested in all four domains—listening, speaking, reading, and writing. Even though Sofia isn't an actual student, her story mirrors the hundreds of thousands of students who use TELL to help build literacy skills. Her story is told through the eyes of her 2nd grade teacher, Susan Harris.
Feel free to tell your story in the comments below.
– Sue Ann Towle, Pearson
Where to Start with Sofia
If you didn't get a chance to read the first blog article, you can find it here. I introduced Sofia. She came to this country this past summer with her parents. Sofia was fluent only in Spanish. On her first day, well before we could get any results from the state tests, I decided to give her a diagnostic assessment that was new to me called TELL.
Getting new students over the first weeks is difficult for me and for my students. I always want to focus on the beginning of the school year to set the right tone for the rest of the year. I want my students to feel safe and excited, and looking forward to being 2nd graders. It’s hard enough for most when they’re not ready to hit the deck running at 8 AM, or look around nervously for their missing friends from first grade. I tried to imagine how hard it must be in October for Sofia who cannot understand most of what she is hearing. It is hard to get into a routine when the language is still unfamiliar. While all my native speakers have settled in, some of the ELLs still struggle.
Before class I looked at the TELL diagnostic report I did for Sofia last month and saw the graph that showed me where she started. The range went from limited (orange) to basic (yellow), to intermediate (green) to high (blue), one of my favorite colors. The proficiency levels are the ones used by TELL. She had a lot of work to do to move from limited to get closer to the color blue. Every time I retested her English skills, I was able to see exactly how much she improved, and compare the score to the state’s standard. It’s always rewarding to watch the scores go up. And with Sofia, there was no way to go but up.
Her scores, especially for writing and speaking, were in the low 200’s. That meant she was at the lowest end of the range that went as high as 300 for 2nd grade.
I must add that she was incredibly smart and quick, eager to learn and hardworking. And even though she was somewhat shy, everyone still really liked her. Where to start was the question. She will be sitting in my classroom every day. How can I be a good teacher to someone who cannot understand much of what I am saying? How can I make sure I am providing the best practices when I teach? Solid information will help and I planned to assess and progress monitor her at the beginning of next month and every 8–10 weeks until the end of the year.