Student Oral Language Observation Matrix: Spreadsheet Style

By Thomas DeVere Wolsey

A time-tested standby to help teachers understand English learners’ oral language proficiency is the SOLOM or Student Oral Language Observation Matrix. The instrument is not a test, but it is an informative assessment that teachers use to inform instruction. There are many versions in html, Word, and PDF, but an interactive version in Excel (.xls) may prove useful.

SOLOM and Excel

SOLOM is in the public domain, so you may find some variations in the various published versions of the Matrix.   Teachers and teacher educators use the Matrix, developed by the San Jose (California) Bilingual Consortium, for a variety of purposes:

  • It fixes teachers’ attention on language-development goals;

  • It keeps them aware of how their students are progressing in relation to  those goals; and

  • It reminds them to set up oral-language-use situations that allow them to observe the student, as well as provide the students with language-development activities.

    Source: Center for Applied Linguistics

Download SOLOM (Excel)

Download SOLOM (Excel) here.

The Box.net file opens in preview mode; to download, find the upper right ↓ download arrow. Figure 1 shows where to locate the download icon.

SOLOM (Excel)

Figure 1: Download from Preview Mode – SOLOM Excel

What are the advantages of the Excel version of SOLOM?

  1. You can replicate this SOLOM digitally without killing any trees (no paper needed).
  2. You can add sheets for each student to keep all your results in one file.
    • Each sheet is accessed by the tabs at the bottom, left, of the spreadsheet. See figure 2. This template includes three sheets, but you can add more if you need them. Start here to learn how.

      Excel Tabs

      Figure 2: Excel Tabs

    • If you choose to do so, you can calculate results across sheets – a topic for a future post.
  3. The Excel spreadsheet does the calculations for you, an important feature if you have many students’ results to enter.

Want to review some common Excel terms? Navigate here. Maybe you want to dive into Excel vocabulary a bit more deeply? Point your browser here.

SOLOM Practice on YouTube

Several good YouTube videos allow you and your colleagues to practice using SOLOM. Try this one. This Playlist may also be useful.

Excel Geek?

If you happen to be an Excel geek, you can read this paragraph. Otherwise, just skip to the “Sources,” below. Excel is a powerful spreadsheet that harnesses the calculating abilities of the processor on your computer (or in the cloud). This version of SOLOM employs the COUNTA function to actually count the number of entries for each column, the SUM function to add up the column totals, and the VLOOKUP function to assign overall scores to a proficiency level. Shout out to gebobs for helping me find the function I should use instead of the one I was unsuccessfully trying to use!

SOLOM Sources

The best original source for SOLOM I can find is found at http://www.cal.org/ and opens as a PDF.

I adapted SOLOM for Excel from Arch Ford Educational Service Cooperative;  in Word format at SOLOM. (note: I removed the word “even” from cell B8).

Please share your variations and adaptations of SOLOM (Excel) in the comments section. What might you do to improve this tool? How have you used apps other than Excel to improve SOLOM or similar assessments

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