5 ready-to-use ELL pre-assessment activities for a perfect start of the school year

The start of a new school year is exciting for both students and teachers. It provides an opportunity to set the stage for a successful academic journey. As a teacher, you might wonder if your new students have the necessary prior knowledge to enter your course. One effective strategy for understanding students’ prior knowledge and tailoring instruction to their needs is through pre-assessment testing.

This blog post will explore strategies for pre-testing students at the beginning of the school year and how BookWidgets, an innovative content creation and evaluation tool, can enhance this process. This blog post shows the possibilities of pre-assessment for English Language Learners (ELL) and English as a Second Language (ESL) classes, but the presented principles can be applied to any subject. It contains the following sections:

Banner Pre-assessment with BookWidgets

What is pre-assessment?

Pre-assessment involves evaluating students’ existing knowledge and skills before introducing new content. It provides teachers with valuable insights into individual student needs, allowing them to differentiate instruction effectively. Pre-assessment is a form of formative evaluation.

Doing pre-assessment at the start of the school year is valuable because it helps teachers prepare lessons and activities that better fit the students’ needs. If used correctly, pre-assessments can be a great tool to help us identify students’ strengths, weaknesses, and learning preferences. This approach maximizes learning outcomes and fosters a positive and inclusive classroom environment.

Banner Pre-assessment with BookWidgets

What are the important considerations to keep in mind during pre-assessment?

Pre-assessments tests can have a downside, such as starting on a bad note if students feel like they don’t know enough at the beginning of the class. Teachers should be careful with pre-assessment tests and not use them to label students or limit their potential. Pre-assessment should be used as a tool to help teachers identify the needs of their students and adjust their instruction accordingly. Furthermore, be careful not to burden yourself with too much reviewing and grading work at the beginning of the school year. Therefore, it is advantageous if you can deliver the pre-assessment digitally, using a tool such as BookWidgets that allows you to review and grade very efficiently.

Banner Pre-assessment with BookWidgets

How can BookWidgets be helpful for pre-assessment?

BookWidgets is a content creation and evaluation tool for teachers. The 40+ activity types (widgets) available in BookWidgets offer numerous ways to create formative and summative evaluations.

The most suitable widget types for creating diagnostic tests are the Quiz, Worksheet, Split Worksheet, and Video Quiz. In these four widgets, the following features are available:

Banner Pre-assessment with BookWidgets

Ready-to-use pre-assessment tests for ESL and ELL

We have curated 5 examples of pre-assessment tests for English Language Learners. For each example, we mention the chosen type of widget, the question types used and a short description. This way you get a good overview of the possibilities of BookWidgets.

These examples mainly serve as inspiration, but if the level corresponds to what you expect from your students, you can, of course, use these widgets with your class. You can find them in this BookWidgets group. Create a free BookWidgets account to use the widgets with your students and receive their results!

Example 1: General knowledge (vocabulary, grammar)

🕹 Widget type: Quiz

Question types: Text, Multiple choice, Fill in the blanks, Mark sentence, Drag words in sentence, Correct words in sentence, Annotate picture, Word ordering question, Crossword puzzle

ℹ️ Description: This diagnostic assessment tests the general knowledge (vocabulary and grammar) of English Language Learners (ELL). It starts with an instruction (a “text question” in BookWidgets) and has a variety of different question types.

Diagnostic pre-assessment test grammar and vocabulary ELL BookWidgets

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Example 2: Listening comprehension

🕹 Widget type: Video Quiz

Question types: Text, Single line text question, Multiple choice question, Question table (true or false), Drags words in sentence, Sentence ordering question, Multi line text question

ℹ️ Description: This is a diagnostic listening comprehension test for English Language Learners (ELL). It starts with an instruction (a “text question” in BookWidgets) and has a variety of different question types. In this example, students could rewind and listen several times to the audio fragment before answering, but this is an option the teacher could disable.

Diagnostic pre-assessment test ELL listening comprehension BookWidgets

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Example 3: Reading comprehension

🕹 Widget type: Split Worksheet

Question types: Text, Single Line Text Question, Multiple Choice, Picture Multi Select Question, Question Table (true or false), Sentence ordering Question, Picture Multiple Choice question, Text Drag & Drop, Word Match Question, Multi Line Text Question

ℹ️ Description: This is a diagnostic reading comprehension test for English Language Learners (ELL). It’s created with the Split Worksheet widget in BookWidgets, with an embedded PDF on one side and the different questions next to it. This is very handy for both teacher ans students, because teachers no longer need to print the text and students don’t need to download the PDF or open it in a new tab or window. They can scroll in both parts of the screen and thus read the text and answer the questions at the same time.

Diagnostic pre-assessment test ELL reading comprehension BookWidgets

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Example 4: Oral expression

🕹 Widget type: Worksheet

Question types: Text, Audio question, Rubrics

ℹ️ Description: This is a diagnostic oral expression test for English Language Learners (ELL). Students will have to record their answers with the audio question in the worksheet. The worksheet ends with a rubrics question for self-assessment. Teachers receive the students’ recordings and can listen to them (multiple times if needed) before grading and adding feedback.

Diagnostic pre-assessment test ELL speaking BookWidgets

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Example 5: Written expression

🕹 Widget type: Worksheet

Question types: Text, Rich text question, Rubrics

ℹ️ Description: This is a diagnostic written expression test for English Language Learners (ELL). Students will have to write their answers in the Rich text editor. They can use a scratchpad if needed. For each question, we’ve enabled the word counter, so students can easily check if their text is long enough. The worksheet ends with a rubrics question for self-assessment. Teachers receive the students’ answers in the grading dashboard, where they can add feedback and grades.

Diagnostic pre-assessment test ELL writing BookWidgets

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Bonus: self-assessment with the rubrics questions

🕹 Widget type: Worksheet

Question type: Rubrics

ℹ️ Description: At the start of the school year, encouraging students to engage in self-assessment is a valuable practice. It helps them reflect on their language skills and motivation, identify strengths, and set meaningful learning goals. To facilitate this process effectively, a rubrics table proves to be the perfect tool. It gives ELL and ESL teachers valuable insights to tailor instruction, provide targeted support, and foster a more inclusive and growth-oriented classroom environment. In BookWidgets, a rubrics question can be added in any quiz, (split) worksheet or video quiz, like in the above mentioned examples for oral expression and written expression. Another option is to create a separate worksheet with just the rubrics table, like in the example below.

⭐️ Blog post: Read more about using rubrics tables in this blog post.

Diagnostic pre-assessment test ELL self-assessment BookWidgets

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Banner Pre-assessment with BookWidgets

How to finetune your pre-tests with the right settings?

BookWidgets not only offers many possibilities thanks to the different question types, there are also numerous settings that allow you to set up the widget completely according to the needs of every teacher and student.

Below is a non-exhaustive list of some settings that may be useful for your pre-assessment tests. Most of these options can be found in the widget editor on the “Reporting” and “General” tabs. In this blog post we will not go into the details of how to configure these options, but do not hesitate to contact us at support@bookwidgets.com if you have any doubts.

  • Timer (“exam mode”): Determine how much time the students will have to take the diagnostic test;
  • Show whether answers are correct/incorrect when quiz is done: Students will see which answers were right and wrong immedatelly after submitting;
  • Show correct answers when quiz is done: Students will see the answers that the teacher was expecting immedatelly after submitting;
  • Immediately color correct student answers green: Students can keep trying and dig deeper in their brain. Students get instant feedback, which is motivating;
  • Strict answering order: Questions need to be answered in order;
  • Enter automatic feedback based on the students’ results: Students with a different outcome will get different feedback, adapted to where they are in their learning process;
  • Allow students to edit their answers: Students can change their responses after feedback is provided. This way, they will improve their learning outcome;
  • Enable tools like a calculator, text-to-speech, spell check …: These tools assist learners with special needs or can be useful for all learners to support the learning process.


If you have read this blog post all the way to here, you’re probably already convinced that using pre-assessment activities at the start of the school year offers teachers valuable insights into students’ language proficiency and attitudes. BookWidgets enhances this process with its 35+ question types and efficient grading dashboard. 🙌

Have you already created digital pre-assessment activities with BookWidgets or are you planning to do so? Let us know on X (Twitter) @ibookwidgets or join our Facebook community and share your experiences.

Wishing every teacher a fantastic start to the school year, filled with boundless enthusiasm and the joy of guiding students toward success! 🙌

Dimitri Bongers

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