Assess for progress: Writing and assessing content vocabulary
by Amanda Dunaway, MSDE, CED, LSLS Cert. AVEd
When it comes to teaching content classes such as math, science or social studies, teachers of the deaf teach students how to think about ideas. Students must learn how to think through and visualize advanced academic concepts such as friction acting on gravity or the impact of technology on agricultural economics. The comprehension of concepts adds a definitive layer of complexity to a listening and spoken language curriculum. While rote learning can be a good starting ground, students should not be allowed to solely memorize language and vocabulary. Students must use listening and spoken language to describe math processes, explain science concepts and retell history.
Content-driven language lesson plans combine language, vocabulary and academics at students’ language and academic level. It is critical that new concepts and/or new vocabulary are taught at the student’s expressive language level. For example, Billy’s expressive language consists of simple sentences of 4-6 words. To teach Billy about the water cycle, consider these 2 options:
- Heat from the sun causes water in lakes and oceans to evaporate. Liquid water turns into a gas called water vapor.
- Heat from the sun evaporates water. Liquid water turns into water vapor. Water vapor is a gas.
Both options teach the same content, but option 2 is a better target for Billy because it is within his expressive language level: simple sentences of 4- 6 words.
Some children who are deaf or hard of hearing become skilled in reciting memorized definitions in response to familiar questions. If you are unsure if a child has comprehension try rephrasing a familiar question to see if the student can still provide a grammatically correct answer. Some other comprehension strategies include letting the student play “teacher” by teaching the class about the topic, giving a presentation without notes, making a video of a science experiment or creating a comic strip describing a historical event.
Because it is important to ensure the students are learning the content and not just memorizing it, take extra care to assess their comprehension through talking, writing, and creating. But it can be challenging to assess if students comprehend a concept. Using the chart below, teachers can assess and describe how a student uses the targeted language and vocabulary.
In the small boxes next to each target or in the comments section, you’ll want to note if each vocabulary target is emerging or mastered. Download your blank copy of this form on our website to use with one student. Create a similar one using this example to use with more than one student.