Using the assessment tools
The teacher will assess children's language development on both a short-term and a long-term basis. By using an appropriate range of assessment tools he/she can monitor individual children's progress and so plan the contexts, strategies and content that will contribute most effectively to their learning.
This form of assessment will be used more often and more consistently than any other. It is an integral part of the teaching process. In using it the teacher continually monitors the minutiae of children's reactions, successes, failures, difficulties and progress in relation to their language experience in school and adjusts his/her teaching strategies accordingly. From time to time it can be useful to make brief notes about individual children or groups of children in order to facilitate longerterm planning.
Teacher-designed tasks and tests
These will form part of many teaching contexts and strategies. The success or otherwise with which a child performs a writing task, engages in a reading assignment or makes an oral presentation to the class can provide valuable information about a child's progress and his/her particular learning needs.
Work samples, portfolios and projects
These are very useful in helping to assess a child's progress in English. They can give a longer-term summative picture of his/her ability, level of work, application and interest. This can also highlight some of the more persistent difficulties he/she may be experiencing.
These can give a norm-referenced or criterion-referenced, structured dimension to teacher observation. Curriculum profiles in English have been constructed and standardised for Irish children. It is possible also for a school to construct indicators of its own that could go some way towards measuring children's progress in language learning and in learning through language. Their value could be enhanced by moderating them through comparison with similar models in other schools and through extensive teacher discussion.
When a child exhibits difficulty in particular facets of language learning it is important that diagnostic testing be used to identify the detailed learning needs involved. This is useful in quantifying and confirming teachers' evaluation of reading and comprehension ability. In the area of reading, care should be exercised in the use of many of the commercially-produced diagnostic tests. These focus on discrete language skills and may indicate areas in which the child is having difficulties -- reproducing the sounds of digraphs, for example. However, language learning difficulties such as these will not be eradicated by trying to teach the skills in isolation.
The most effective way of approaching such needs is in the context of the child's actual reading experience. The careful observation and recording of the miscues a child makes when reading a suitable text can tell the teacher much of what he/she needs to know about the particular reading difficulties a child is having.
These are widely used. Tests are available that are standardised for the Irish context and that can provide a norm-referenced or criterion-referenced observation of pupils. They can quantify the extent to which a child is performing in relation to particular language skills and confirm less precise judgements the teacher makes using the more informal assessment tools. They are also valuable in helping to establish the extent to which particular children need remedial support.
Manageable and practical assessment
A consideration of the issue of manageability is central to the question of assessment. The issues just mentioned along with the frequency of testing and a concern that children be accustomed to and at ease with assessment procedures should inform the planning of assessment in the school.