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  • Writer's pictureAmalia Ibarra

Step 2: Gauging Prior Knowledge in Reading conferences with ELs

Updated: Dec 18, 2023





Can background knowledge affect the reliability of your assessments?


Reading conferences offer a unique opportunity to delve into the skills, strengths, and areas of improvement for English learners. Before diving into formative assessments that measure the more nuanced abilities of the students, it is crucial to gauge their prior knowledge. This crucial step sets the stage for a more targeted approach in understanding students better and sketching a tailored roadmap for their educational journey.


The Importance of Prior Knowledge in Reading Conferences

Understanding a student's prior knowledge in a reading conference is akin to setting the GPS before embarking on a journey. You can't chart a course if you don’t know your starting point. For English learners, this is even more critical, as their language proficiency levels can vary wildly. By having a clear understanding of what students already know, educators can make informed decisions about what needs to be taught, thus bridging the gap between current skills and desired outcomes.


Formative Assessment: The Next Logical Step

Once a teacher has a comprehensive view of a student's prior knowledge, the next logical step is formative assessment. This type of assessment allows teachers to monitor student learning in real-time, offering instant feedback that can be used to adjust ongoing teaching and learning strategies. It is not just a measure of learning but a pathway to future learning. Formative assessment identifies the strengths and weaknesses in language proficiency, reading comprehension, vocabulary, and other key skills. In the next blog post, we will discuss different look-fors in the formative assessment that happens in a one-on-one reading conference.


Prospects for Growth and Understanding

The combination of gauging prior knowledge and formative assessments in reading conferences is an essential strategy for personalizing education for English learners. It offers rich insights into the students' capabilities and preferences, facilitating tailored instruction that can resonate with each learner. The prospects for growth are tremendous, as these assessments offer a real-time roadmap for student achievement, ensuring that each child receives the attention and resources they need to excel.


A reading conference that includes an assessment of prior knowledge and seamlessly transitions into formative assessments can significantly impact the educational trajectory of English learners. It helps educators understand students better and creates a tailored approach that fosters both growth and a love for learning.


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