Kelsie Syverson, EngEd 275 DL, Chapter 3: Assessing Literacy Development

When assessing literacy development there are four steps that need to be followed:

Step 1: Planning for Assessment

Teacher should be planning their assessment techniques are they are creating lesson plans. There are many different types of assessment that can be used. By choosing which assessment will be used during planning the assessment process goes more smoothly.

Step 2: Monitoring Students’ Progress

Teachers monitor their students’ progress every day to help them better instruct their students. Teachers use both formal and informal assessment by testing and observing.

  • Observations: During the observation process it is important to focus on what is being observed and not whether the student is behaving or not, even though it is hard to learn when there are disruptions going on but that is not what is being observed. Teachers can focus on a group of students a day so that by the end of the week all the students have been observed.
  • Running Records: These work well during reading because the teacher can write down everything as the child is reading; if they are getting sight words correct, how they handle words they don’t know, and what reading strategies they might use.
  • Minilessons: Minilessons can help focus observations to certain topics, this could include reading and writing. If a teacher wants to observe how well students know sentence structure they can do a minilesson on it to see what students already know and what they still need help with.
  • Anecdotal Notes: These are brief notes written on sticky notes, scrap paper, or in a notebook on something a teacher sees a student doing. Just because these are brief notes does not mean they shouldn’t be detailed. During reading and writing activities, teachers can write notes on questions students ask or strategies that they use.
  • Conferences: Teachers can have a variety of conferences with their students. A teacher can have individual conferences with students as they are working on something so that each students gets a minute or two of the teachers time if they have questions or if the teacher just wants to see what strategies they are using. They can also make plans with the students about reading or writing goals. During reading conferences the teacher can discuss strategies, vocabulary, or a reading schedule. During a writing conference, teachers can help students with topics and narrowing them down. They can also have evaluation conferences with students after they complete an assignment or project to show them the progress they have made and help students to set new goals.
  • Checklists: Teachers set up these checklists before teaching a lesson so students know what is expected of them. Checklists are useful as all students are graded on the same criteria. Teachers could use checklists during book talks where students share a book they have read to their classmates to get them interested in the book too. This way all the students would know what they need to include to get a passing grade.

Step 3: Evaluating Students’ Learning

Tests are one way to evaluate students’ learning but work samples and rubrics can be used too. Teachers collect work samples from students through out the year, work could include: recordings of the student reading, reading logs, writing samples, and pictures of projects the student has done. The student may also choose work that they are proud of to be placed in the portfolio, to display all of the progress the student has made. Teachers can also use rubrics, which are forms that are used for scoring an assignment. They are similar to a checklist; however, a rubric has a scale of how well the student completed the task instead of a simple did they do it or not. Students can use the rubric to self-assess their work before they turn it in. Rubrics have a scale ranging from best to worst, the teacher should provide samples of each level of work. Evaluating helps to tell where the student is at but can also tell the teacher how effective they are being.

Step 4: Reflecting on Students’ Learning

Teachers need to reflect on how well they teach their lessons and if the students seemed to understand or if the teacher should try teaching it a different way. Students can do self-reflections to take responsibility for their own learning. The teacher reads the students reflections but does not grade them, instead they are used to help students set goals for the next unit during conferences with the teacher.

Determining a Student’s Reading Level

Teachers need to make sure that they get each student on the right reading level because students who read books that are too easy or too hard don’t succeed. There are three different reading levels that help students to become fluent readers, recognize words automatically, and comprehend what they are reading.

  1. Independent Reading Level: Students can read books on their own without struggling. They know almost all of the words with an accuracy rate of 95-100%. The student is reading fluently and in understanding what they are reading.
  2. Instructional Reading Level: Students read with support but not on their own because these books are a little bit harder than those in the independent reading level. They know most words with an accuracy rate of 90-94%. The reading may be fluent but not always. The students comprehends the book with support from a teacher or classmate that they may not understand if they read it by themselves.
  3. Frustration Reading Level: These books are too hard for students to read even with teacher assistance. Students don’t recognize enough words and the accuracy rate is less than 90%. Reading is choppy and most likely will not make sense. Students will also not understand what they are reading.

Students should be evaluated regularly to make sure they are in the right reading level. The Common Core Standards state that students should be reading at their grade level by the end of the year which is why teachers may use a lot of grade level materials but readers who are a few grades below grade level may struggle with this. Teachers need to know their students and make adaptations as needed. This is where teachers can use guided reading so that all students can follow along and see the words as they are being read.

Readability formulas help to figure out a students reading level. If a book is marked RL 5 teachers assume that most 5th graders should be able to read it. Students are given passages to read and depending how well they read them depends on their reading level. There are then leveled books that correspond with the students reading level. As the student improves they can begin to read at the next level.

The Lexile Framework can also be used to determine what books are best for students to read. Word familiarity and sentence complexity are the two factors that are used to figure out the difficulty of a book. Lexile scores range from 100-1300 for grade levels K-12. Teachers, students, and families can use the online Lexile database to find books at the right reading level.

Diagnosing Students’ Strengths and Weaknesses

Diagnosing students’ strengths and weakness is important in the ways they learn and if the teacher needs to modify their instruction in any way.

  • Running records can be used to assess a students reading by writing down every detail as a student reads a book. This can tell word identification and fluency of the reading. Teachers can have a copy of what the student is reading and make marks above the words the students knows, doesn’t know, mispronounces, replaces, or figures out on their own. The miscues are analyzed to see if the student is making similar errors. Only mispronounced or replaced words are analyzed, not repetitions or omissions.
  • Informal reading inventories (IRIs) are commercial tests that can be used to evaluate a student’s reading performance for students 1st through 8th but don’t seem to be as useful in 1st grade. IRIs can be used to identify where the students are struggling such as word identification, oral reading fluency, or comprehension. These tests have two parts: a graded word list and a passage. The word lists have about 10-20 words for each level where the students keep reading words until they can’t identify anymore. This will indicate what level the student will read the passage at. Teachers can then look for patterns in the words that the student misread and figure out how to better help this student. Students then read the passage either out loud or silently, when they are done the teacher asks comprehension questions such as recall questions, drawing inferences questions, and explaining vocabulary words questions. When reading aloud students can be graded on fluency but students over 3rd grade should be fluent readers at their grade level and if they are, they can read silently. Look for pattern when the students answer the comprehension questions to see where they may need more help.

Oral Language Assessment for English Learners

Students who are not native English speakers and have a different native language get assessed on their English language proficiency. Tests are typically given to measure this and depending on the results, the students may get placed in a special class to help with their English language proficiency. Teachers can also use the Students Oral Language Observation Matrix (SOLOM) which isn’t a test but more of a rating scale. The 5 components of oral language that the SOLOM looks at are:

  1. Listening
  2. Fluency
  3. Vocabulary
  4. Pronunciation
  5. Grammar

Each component is ranked from 1 to 5 for a maximum of 25 points. A score of 20 or higher means the student is a fluent speaker. The SOLOM is available at the Center of Applied Linguistics website free of charge.

Reading Assessment for English Learners

English learners also struggle with learning to read too. They learn the same as a native English speaker but doesn’t have as much of the background knowledge as an English speaker. The same assessments are used to figure out their reading level, measure progress, and document their learning. Teachers can create KWL charts with students to see what they already know (K), what they want to learn (W), and then at the end, what they did learn (L). This lets the teacher know what the students know and what they are interested in learning before the reading has happened. Students can also assess themselves as readers.

High Stakes Testing

These tests are designed to measure students’ learning according to the grade-level standards. High stakes testing is different from classroom assessments and typically provides very little information to improve instruction in the classroom. Scores are used to determine where to place students in certain classes and allows the administration to evaluate teacher effectiveness.

There are many problems with high stakes testing such as students feeling pressured or students not caring how they do. Because teachers are getting evaluated, they spend more time having students take practice tests or teaching for the test, students are losing time for actual reading and writing. Teachers are also more focused on those who are below grade-level, so that they can improve their test scores.

Students learn to use test taking strategies depending on what type of test they are taking. These strategies include:

  • Reading the entire question first
  • Looking for key words in the question
  • Reading all answer choices before choosing the correct answer
  • Answer easier questions first
  • Make smart guesses
  • Stick with your first answer
  • Pace yourself
  • Check your work carefully

Portfolio Assessment

Students choose items to put in their portfolios that they are proud of but also show progress throughout the year. Students learn to make meaningful selections that fit the established criteria. Because the students are picking the items for their portfolios, the assessing process includes both the student and their work. The portfolios show the progress the students are making by the artifacts they choose, then the teachers, students, and their families can see the progress. Students also reflect on the materials they put in their portfolios. At the end of the year, the teacher organizes a day for students to share their portfolios with classmates, teachers, families, and community members. This allows students to show pride in the progress they have made and take responsibility for the artifacts they have created.

All above information comes from:
Tompkins, G. E. (2017). Literacy for the 21st century: A balanced approach (7th ed.). Boston: Pearson

Classroom Application

I would love to have portfolios in my classroom that students choose what they put in to it. This is a great way to show families the progress their students are making and seeing what they are doing in the classroom. I also think it is important to have a balanced approach to teaching and learning and not just teaching for a test. I think students learn just as much from reading aloud and writing essays/papers as they would from learning things that are on a test that the students need to take. Of course, I would use the 4 steps of assessment in my classroom to help guide my teaching as well as see where students are with their learning.

Dr. Churchill’s Lesson Plan Overview

Dr. Churchill gives a great explanation of what to put into the lesson plan. I now understand what needs to be on the lesson plan and will continue to refer back to this video as needed.

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