Open Ended Question Prep for ESL!

Hello! I hope everyone has been having a good week so far!

I realized that I talk a lot about my younger students, but I haven't really talked about my 8th graders on the blog, so I'm going to share a little bit about what I do with them.  Since we got back from Christmas Break, I picked up writing in a huge way, and we've completed two really big writing pieces that I'm pretty proud of.  There are only three students in my 8th grade class, (I know!) so we can get a lot done in just a few weeks' time.  However, if just one student is absent, it makes a marked difference and I feel like I'm pulling teeth to get anything done.

First we covered narrative writing, then moved on to speculative, and now we are moving on to Open Ended Questions. (More on that in a minute.) I do something pretty fun for their Do-Now- we do 5 Minute Writing from a Scholastic e-book I have.  I project a prompt on the board, something like "A magic fairy gave you $1,000.  Write a story about what you would do with it." Then, they have 5 minutes to write a paragraph with a topic sentence, three details, and a concluding sentence.  We read our paragraphs aloud (I write one too) and we check each other's for the necessary components and mark them up with pens or highlighters.  My students have a love/hate relationship with 5 Minute Writing, but we have had some great stories!
5-Minute Daily Practice: Writing

Moving on to Open Ended Questions.  If you teach in NJ, you know all about OEQ's.  They are the bane of an ELL existence, because they require very little imagination and a lot of background knowledge.  I broke out a book of non-fiction reading comprehension passages and we began working.  The passage we worked on was about earthquakes, and boy did we have our work cut out for us. We talked about the word "shift", we experimented with an earthquake on our desks, we stared at checked out this SUPER COOL earthquake website, we looked at this fault line map, and then we talked about Pangea (one of my top 10 favorite science topics!).

  Realizing how much material (from a book written on a 3rd grade level) that they do not know only makes me want to work faster to cram everything in.  Clearly, that's not realistic.  But what many people do not understand about ELL's, especially SIFE's, is their lack of background knowledge about the things we take for granted.  What are SIFE's? Click here.

Finally, we moved on to the Open Ended Question at the end of the passage. I created an anchor chart to help them organize their ideas, and I'm sharing it with you.  Because after all the trouble we had with reading, they shone in their writing! We aren't done yet, but I wanted to share my freebie with you in case any of you are working on OEQ's soon. 

Click on either picture to download the freebie. Not only do we have the state test, but we have the ACCESS by WIDA test coming up in April, which measures ELL's on Reading, Writing, Listening, and Speaking.  I want my students to be prepared, but I don't want to drown them in test prep- I think guided reading and writing is a good way to do that.

Let me know what you think about test prep for ESL students, and does your state take the ACCESS test? How do you prepare your kids?



  1. In Ohio we have the OTELA for our ELL's. I don't know a whole lot about it, but it sounds similar to the ACCESS. With my intervention groups, which occasionally include ELL's, I like to pull old Scholastic articles and Highlights magazine short stories. I write 2-3 short answer questions similar to ones that would be found on the state test. Then they are less overwhelmed by the sheer amount of work and we can go deep. Would showing a short video from teachertube help develop some quick background knowledge? Don't lose faith. It seems like you are doing a great job. :)

    Eclectic Educating

  2. Just read a great article that made me think of this post. It has a lot to do with scaffolding background knowledge and mentions ELL's a lot. If you would like a copy, just let me know your email! :)

    Eclectic Educating

  3. I read your article. thanks for sharing your experience with 8th graders. GMAT prep for esl | GMAT Classes Atlanta


Thanks for the comment! I really appreciate it.

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