I keep a binder with sections for each of my 30+ students. During guided reading, I make notes about how well my students are using the strategies I've modeled for them. Before planning for that group again, I read over my notes to look for what my students need next to build their reading skills. I base my instruction on my notes, and find that most often the struggling readers need more modeling and practice with books at their instructional and independent levels. My notes help me keep it all organized, and with a brief peek I can see exactly where to direct my teaching with each student. These notes also help me to be very specific while discussing student progress and needs during conferences or student support team meetings.
My Story on How Meaningful Assessment Came Alive in My Classroom
Using Portfolios, Conferencing with Students, etc;
I will begin with a story for you that will paint a picture of how Assessment grew more meaningful in my classroom. All of the names have been altered to protect the identities of the individuals mentioned in my story.
In addition to being a Gifted Programs Coordinator here in Salem I am a teaching partner at Mary Baldwin College. I work with graduate students working on their Masters Degrees in Education periodically teaching courses ranging from Development and Diversity to Educational Philosophy. One of the courses I was teaching at the time this particular story took place focused on Assessment in the Classroom, and as I taught the class, I continued to add more and more assessment strategies I was teaching to my students in my graduate course to my own skill set in my elementary classroom. The worthy adage is true…. When you teach something to someone else, you really learn it for yourself. This is true for your students as well…
One particular year I was teaching the course, a student of mine, “Ava,” a graduate from a highly esteemed university in the state of Virginia, came to me and asked if she could do an internship in my classroom. She wanted to see first hand the assessment strategies I was teaching her in our graduate class. I told her, “Sure that would be great!”
When I got home that evening, I panicked! Wow! This is the ultimate assessment…. Performance Assessment at its best. This young lady is going to come into my classroom, and assess me on how my teachings in the graduate course I was teaching correlated with my teachings in the elementary classroom.
At the same time “Ava” was about to do an internship in my classroom, I got the news that I was going to be teaching a child who refused to write, refused to read, etc; (Later I would realize this child was a gifted student…That is a different story…) I also had a plethora of other students with their own unique needs….
Also, at the same time I decided to have “Ava,” my graduate student, do an internship in my classroom, I decided to up the ante on my portfolios and really put them to full use in my classroom. Why not, I really had talked them up in my graduate course….
Well, the new school year began with my new intern and the colorful new group of children who walked through my classroom doors. I was exhausting myself with demonstrating all of the differentiated teaching, learning, and assessment strategies I had been teaching “Ava” in my graduate courses.
This story could go on with all of the lessons I learned that particular school year, but I want to focus on the most valuable lesson I learned that school year with my student named, “Jobe,” my non-reader and non- writer. I learned so much about “Jobe” through conferencing with him…. (Talking to him) This child had so many interests that had not been tapped in to. “Jobe” and I broke down the barriers of his non-writing and non-reading, and he began to read about his interests and began to write about his interests, and “Jobe” began to think about his own thinking (metacognition) He began to take pride in his work and proudly displayed his work in his own portfolio (“a systematic collection of student work largely by that student to provide information about the student’s attitudes and motivation, level of achievement, and growth over time.” Bertie Kingore; Assessment 2nd ed; 1999)
The portfolio was a work in progress for "Jobe" where he continuously visited and revisited his work in his portfolio, and we had discussions on the revisions he was making on his work and how he could continue to grow in his learning. I learned where "Jobe" was in his learning with the portfolio and how I could help him move forward in his learning through creating meaningful lessons with "Jobe" to extend his learning.
Many of you may be thinking portfolios….been there, done that! Well, have you? Have you really implemented this strategy in your classroom, or are they sitting in the corners of your classroom collecting dust… I must say I was reluctant in the beginning, too, but after really implementing portfolios the way they are meant to be implemented in the classroom, I was amazed at the students new sense of responsibility, pride, and accountability for learning they were accepting.
“Jobe” took charge of his learning…. “Jobe” saw the progress he was making, and this motivated him to learn and grow more and more as the year progressed. After all he was in our classroom for ultimately himself…. Not for me, for his parents, his friends…. For himself. He learned this meaningful lesson and many more that year in our classroom, and I learned more about assessment that school year than all of the other years put together in my years as a classroom teacher.
Jobe, his family, and I had focused discussions about his learning and development, and his portfolio was an important part of those discussions. Sometimes I initiated the conversations, sometimes Jobe did, and sometimes his family did. It worked… A meaningful relationship was built between all of the stakeholders.
Hopefully, Ava’s internship was a positive experience for her as well. The experience was a positive experience for me. I was able to show her that not only could I talk the talk, but I could walk the walk. Walking the Walk starts with just one step. You may already be walking the walk, and just need to refine your practices, or maybe you are just beginning. To do this, begin with taking one step in your classroom to make meaningful assessment come alive. Then, keep walking...
Please contact me if you need assistance in your classroom with developing and executing differentiated assessment, teaching, and/or learning strategies.