Assessment in the classroom
There has been a lot of talk lately about assessment in the classroom, so I thought I’d take a minute to give you some assessment shortcuts. Quality Authentic Assessment is a saving grace for me. 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. This is where Authentic Assessment comes in.
Authentic Assessment makes learning part of the assessment process
The reality is that so much of what we do with our students can teach them while giving 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.
A great assessment for guided reading lessons
I use balanced literacy in my classroom (For more on how I structure my literacy curriculum, click here). 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 have a lesson with a guided reading group, I give them an assignment. One week, 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. Another week, the assignment may be to write down the name of the character in the story they relate to the most, and explain why.
Each week I pass out little post-it notes to my students (the same as many of you). The assessment shortcut I made, was to save the post its from each guided reading lesson 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.
More effective for students and the teacher
I assign the guided reading grade after the group is done meeting. I am able to focus on the guided reading lesson, versus how each student should be assessed that 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 the guided reading lesson, to insure that they do not fall out.
The post it notes are so convenient. They are also an easy way for my students and I to remember where we left off during our previous guided reason lesson. Finally, they add 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 has made our reading groups even more interactive, and I have fewer students who forget to complete their reading assignment.
Another form of authentic assessment are Readers Response letters. Students write to their teacher about a book they’re reading, and the teacher writes back with questions to help with their reading comprehension. I used Readers Response letters for years when I taught older students. The first year I used them, however, I did not use them as a form of assessment. Then, I realized I was missing an opportunity. So, I came up with four different Readers Response Rubrics to authentically assess my students with throughout the school year. This way, as my students improved with their readers response, the rubric challenged them to achieve even more.
For more great ideas, please check out the September Teacher Talk!