Summer Reflection: Thinking about Assessments K-8 - National Council of Teachers of English
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Summer Reflection: Thinking about Assessments K-8

Pencilquestion-blogWe’ve talked before about the need to reclaim assessment, and reading through the hundreds of responses we’ve gotten for the Assessment Story Project it’s clear that many of you feel the same way. It’s a myth that teachers take the summer off, we’re reflecting and working and planning all the while for the new school year ahead. So we wanted to share some glimpses into interesting assessment practices folks have described through the project – that just might get your wheels turning. There are so many we’ll do this in two parts. Today we explore examples from K-8.

(Where possible, we added links to outside resources on the strategies mentioned.)

“Our students produce a “portfolio”, which we call Main Lesson Books, for each one of their subjects.  Reading through the pages of their daily work gives a picture of the arc of the student’s development for teacher, parents, and for the student themselves.  We use them as some schools use text books, reviewing our work before moving on to a new topic, and the children are always really proud of the work they produced; all have favorite pages, some have ones they’d like to do over again.  Often they will actually ask, ‘When can we do that again?’” – Lisa (elementary)

“I use interactive journals to assess my whether my students are able to deeply understand what they have read. I also use vocabulary journals which allows me to see which words my students still struggle with.” – Diana (middle)

“As a new-to-profession teacher, I am constantly trying to ‘take the temperature’ of the class. By determining if they ‘caught what I thought’ I can judge whether I need to talk one-on-one, pull a small group, or reteach the whole class. My stand by’s are conferring with students 1-1, at a table of 4, or by using exit tickets / digital games (Kahoots – when the devices are available).  I am also planning on using Plickers in the classroom as these do not require that each student have an internet connected device.” – Jim (middle)

“One example of informal formative assessment that I do in my fifth grade class occurs during interactive read-alouds.  I consciously note who asks questions, who makes inferences, whose inferences are grounded on evidence from the text, who is able to access prior knowledge to deepen understanding, who is able to build an understanding of main idea (informational text) or theme (fiction), and who has difficulty with any of these aspects of comprehension.  I’m able to follow up on this in conferences with individuals during independent reading time, as well as in small group literature circles.” – Karen (elementary)

“The most useful assessment tool is my engagement with students and their families on a daily basis. I am constantly receptive to their verbal and non-verbal signals before, during, and after instruction, as well as communications to and from their families and guardians … In this way, I constantly modify my approaches, lessons, and assessments year to year, section to section, and student to student.” – Angie (middle)

“Recently I have come to appreciate the power of Socratic Seminar as a way to assess students’ understanding of a variety of types of text, as well as their ability to use evidence to craft a response to a question and to engage in high-level dialogue with their classmates about themes, author’s craft, and other elements of text.” – Cecilia (middle)

“When studying plot structure, I place my students into small groups then my clipboard and I move throughout the class listening to the interaction in each group. The moment I knew this form of assessment was the answer I was looking for was when I heard two students, two under performing, disinterested students, debating over which part of the story would best fit the criteria for the climax. Within a matter of minutes I could determine whether these students understood the elements of plot!” – Jill (elementary)

“Every day, I collect some kind of student artifact or record anecdotal evidence that demonstrates student mastery of the lesson’s objective, usually a quickwrite, learning log, or exit ticket. I then go through the artifacts or records and “make three stacks” (and sometimes four) based on a simple rubric that students see at the start of the lesson:

  • Got it and need more depth or complexity,
  • Need minor clarification and/or more practice, and
  • Need re-teaching and/or major clarification.

The next day, I address each group’s needs during the lesson, either in rotations or differentiated tasks. Throughout the unit, my goal is to move each group (and each student in it) toward its deepest possible level of mastery.” – Mary Beth (middle)

“I do have one “recurring assessment” in Kindergarten that I do in Aug/Nov/Feb/May that is really powerful for myself and parents.

  1. Is how to write your name (this is an awesome way to document letter formation, fine motor control, how to spell the name, etc..)
  2. A list of 5 cvc words. At the beginning of school, most kids don’t get them. By Feb, most do. The parents think it is so impressive. And if a student does have them spelled correctly in Aug. that tells me important information as well!
  3. I also do a self-portrait at each of these dates as well. You can see the child “grow” in front of your eyes.”

– Anonymous (elementary)

“I’ve gamified my classrooms this year, adopting (as part of my assessment process) a badge-based system. Students may earn badges in a wide array of areas (collaboration, editing, discussion, leading study groups, competitive quizzes, and more). Some students become virtual experts in one area, earning higher and higher badge levels. Other students become somewhat versed in multiple areas, earning low or mid-level badges across the board. This me to help identify and enhance individual strengths rather than judging all students on averages only. Although their badge grade is only one part of their final assessment/semester grade, in my opinion, the grade they receive there is more reflective of their actual progress than any standardized test or final exam can measure.” – Danielle (middle)

“I like blogging because the kids do not realize it’s an assessment. It’s an online conversation that feels authentic because it’s the way they see their friends and parents communicating.” – Margaret (elementary)

Want to learn more? Check out our #NCTEonAir event June 3 at 8pm ET.