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How to Use WIDA Can Do Descriptors

By July 21, 2022ESOL Instruction

How to Use Wida Can Do Descriptors

The face of many US Schools is changing. Schools, particularly in or near major cities experience changing demographics by the week. Diversity within both public and private schools is evident and we must be prepared to meet the needs of the ever changing demographic. English language learners (ESOL/ELL/ESL) are students whose primary language is a language other than English. ELs enter US schools with varying language levels, no English to social language, and it is our duty, as teachers, to meet them at their language levels. As described by WIDA, total language includes listening, speaking, reading, and writing.

US Schools

Most schools have a specialized provider, ESOL Teacher, either full or part time. These providers design individualized language sequences to help Els acquire language so that may integrate equally alongside their grade-level peers. These providers are only with EL students a small portion of the day, therefore, it is important that general educators and specials teachers (PE, music, art, etc) provide access to the curriculum per federal guidelines.

Important Information About English Language Learners

All ELs must have an official designation (officially identified through testings or local procedures)

If you suspect a student is an EL and he or she does not have an official designation, reach out to the ESOL teacher/chairperson or designee for next steps; all Els must have an official designation similar to an IEP.

Language services can be provided through “pull-out”, “push-in”, or co-teaching models.

Sheltered services should be available for “newcomers” and beginners.

Each language learner should have an official language level and updated annually through state level testing. For states in the WIDA Consortium, this test is ACCESS.

Using the Can Do Descriptor Matrix

Can Do Descriptors are organized by grade level and grade clusters: Kindergarten, First Grade, 2-3, 4-6, 6-8, and 9-12.

  • Select the grade cluster
  • Identify the key use (type of activity and desired output) located on the left side of the matrix | e.g. recount, explain, argue, discuss
  • Within the respective key use section, identify the language level (s) of the students you service.
  • Identify assessed medium. Is it a listening, speaking, reading, or writing task? This is listed just inside the key use label.
  • After identifying the medium, select the outcome the best aligns with the whole or small group objective.
  • Score the EL on their performance based on this outcome versus the general education outcome.
  • If the EL is dually identified, incorporate their goals and follow the IEP as noted.

WIDA’s Can Do Descriptors are linked here.

Kindergarten Can Do Descriptors

1st Grade Can Do Descriptors

2nd and 3rd Grade Can Do Descriptors 

4th and 5th Grade Can Do Descriptors

Middle Grades Can Do Descriptors (6th-8th)

Can Do Descriptors for 9th – 12th Grades