By Charlene Rivera
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Additional resources for An Ethnographic/sociolinguistic approach to language proficiency assessment
This district is the largest in Arizona, with about 55,600 students, 16,000 (29%) of whom are of Hispanic origin. They wished to go beyond these lowerlevel linguistic phenomena to assess what they tentatively called rhetoric or rhetorical skills. Hopefully assessment data could be used to contribute to the design of better instructional programs as well. In particular, each child's language could be assessed in the context of the interview itself. It constituted a set of hypotheses with regard to the structural properties of the children's discourse that might be most relevant to the assessment of proficiency.
The frog fell on the man's face, and he falls and breaks the drum, and they're laughing, and he's angry, and he's angry, and they're laughing. When the man went to drink his wine, the frog kissed him. He catches it. When the man went to drink his wine, the frog kissed him. He catches it. And then he went inside the cup, this is a cup, and then he was sad, and she was mad, and he was mad, then he came out, and then he got mad, he wanted to drink it. It is interesting, in this last example, that the character's responses are given, but the event to which they are responding is not in fact mentioned.
Show or movie. Because of this, the researchers recommend that examiners use questions and other utterances such as comments on the topic, that are situated in the ongoing conversational discourse (CookGumperz, 1977), rather than follow a standard pattern of questions in eliciting language from linguistic minority students for assessment purposes. It is recommended here that examiners be trained in strategies for providing more explicit cues regarding the social and linguistic context to students who may be unfamiliar with the "educator" expectations of the assessment context and also that they respond to student initiated changes of context.