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Week 7: What's new in EL reading assessments

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Last updated by Breda Matthews

Hi everyone,

   Another quiet week although in my ‘other life’ I am aware of teachers busily planning for 2020!


As part of that I thought I might dig down into one of the new unit standards - what changes will these changes mean for you and your students?


Right up front I‘d like to say that course planning should not start with the standards you are going to assess. Course plans should be based on what students need to learn in terms of language acquisition in everyday and academic contexts. Once this is established you can then determine what you will teach and only then think about appropriate forms of assessment. That said many teachers are likely to assess an aspect of reading next year. 


You are probably all aware that there are now wide reading standards at EL levels 1, 2 and 3. This is a great support for the wide reading programmes that ESOL Departments include as part of their programmes. I have attached the Extensive Reading Foundation’s Guide to Extensive reading for those who are less familiar with wide (extensive) reading. 


For close reading there are also two strands of unit standards assessments for Levels 1 to 3. These are reading familiar topics, and reading texts for practical purposes. I’d like to look at the Level 3 unit standards 30997. 


  • Firstly this standard continues to be graded and can be awarded with Achieved, Merit or Excellence. It is therefore important to read the outcome and performance criteria AND the Merit and Excellence requirements on page 1 of the standard.


  • Students will still be asked to link main ideas and supporting details.


  • When you read the standard, you will see that ‘identifying overall meaning or purpose’ is now an ‘Excellence’ criteria, previously it was an ‘Achieved’ criteria. Many teachers will welcome this as it can be challenging for students to identify overall meaning.


  • Another key change involves the performance criteria “Connections …. within and across sentences’. It will be important that students are able to use these lexical and grammatical clues to answer questions on the text. The standard refers to the function of cohesive devices causal, sequential, comparative  additive, exemplification although other cohesive devices can be assessed. For example for students to understand what spina bifida is requires students to understand the function of ‘This’ to connect ideas. This is an example of reference to connect ideas.  

  • She was born with spina bifida. This is a birth defect that affects the spine and muscles so that they are not strong enough. 

  • Question What birth defect makes the spine and muscles weak? 


In the news

Two NZQA circulars

  • Notification of Computer Use by Students for the 2020 NCEA Examinations. For the 2020 NCEA examinations, students who require the use of a computer will not need a Special Assessment Conditions (SAC) application to be submitted by the school for NZQA approval.  Read more here.

  • Reconsideration fee waived for students who meet income limit criteria. Read more here.



Effective Teaching and Learning to Enable Pacific Success and Unpacking Tapasa Educatalysts, 2nd December, Onehunga, Auckland.


On other communities

Secondary Literacy Online have discussed teaching Grammar. Alana linked to video

Teaching Grammar in Context with some useful tips for mainstream teachers


Tip 1: Avoid discussing aspects of grammar out of context.

Tip 2: Give students time to discover grammar themselves.

Tip 3: Use games to teach and reinforce grammar points.

Tip 4: Give students the opportunity to practise grammar in a meaningful way.

Tip 5: Avoid rule teaching.


Primary ESOL Online also discussed teaching writing.

Have a great week everyone and, if you have a thought, idea or question about next year - please ask - it's getting lonely here!
Kind regards


Breda Matthews

Facilitator: Secondary ESOL community 


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