There has been a lot of talk lately about assessment in the classroom. I wanted to take a minute to give you some assessment shortcuts, by writing about good Authentic Assessment. We spend so much time testing students, and following new mandates. If we’re not careful as teachers, we can find ourselves at the end of a marking period without fair and meaningful grades for our students.
The reality is that so much of what we do with our students can teach them, and give us meaningful markers of their understanding. The assessment shortcut, is to make the learning part of the assessment process. This is when we know we are using authentic assessments. Good authentic assessments are part of the learning process itself. They do not detract from learning time, and should not be a form of stress for students. Finally, good authentic assessment should be flexible enough that with a quick modification, your diverse learners can be assessed by it as well.
I use balanced literacy in my classroom, and work with my students in small groups for much of the day. I find that I am using fewer traditional pencil and paper tests (although, I do still use some pencil and paper tests each semester). Last year, I came up with several great ways to assess my students during the weeks I did not use a traditional pencil and paper test. I thought this would be a great time to share them with you.
Each time I meet with a guided reading group I give them an assignment. If I’m meeting with one of my higher reading groups, the assignment may be to read the next chapter in the novel we’re studying and to write down a question they have while they’re reading. If I’m meeting with one of my lower reading groups, the assignment may be to write down the name of the character in the story they relate to the most, and why. Each week I pass out little post-it notes to my students (the same as many of you). What I began doing differently, however, was I began saving the post its from each reading group on a page in a special notebook. This allows me to refer back to each previous lesson (and skill) I covered with my guided reading groups. This also allows me to quickly (and fairly) assign a guided reading grade for each student. Here are some sample photos, that will help illustrate what I mean.
By assigning the guided reading grade after the group is done meeting, I am able to focus on the guided reading group, versus how each student should be assessed in reading for the day. When I am ready to assign grades for that week’s reading skill and lesson, all I have to do is find the correct page in my notebook. I also do not have to keep up with the post-its. I simply staple them into the notebook at the end of lesson, to insure that they do not fall out. It is so convenient. It is also an easy way for the students and I to remember where we left off during the previous lesson. Finally, it adds an extra layer of accountability for my students. They now look at our reading groups as something they have to prepare for and participate in. They know they are being graded. This made our reading groups even more interactive, and I had fewer students who would forget to complete their reading assignment.
Another form of authentic assessment that I used when I taught older students, was to have them write weekly Readers Response letters to me about their independent reading. They would write to me on one page of their notebook, and I would write back to them asking them questions to help with their reading comprehension. I would also assign a grade to each letter they wrote me. I realized that each quarter of the school year, my students were mastering new reading skills. So, I came up with four different Readers Response Rubrics to authentically assess my students with throughout the school year.
For more great ideas, please check out the September Teacher Talk!