Using Assessment to Research, “What Does the Student Need to Learn Now?”
Formative assessment answers the question, “What does the student need to learn now?” This ongoing, daily research allows educators to monitor progress, investigate student needs, and decide what to teach. Formative assessment in RW is frequent, ongoing and incorporated into general daily classroom using the following tools, among others:
- Reading Logs
- Reader Response
- Reader’s Notebook
Researching with Student Reading Logs
Reading logs help students self-regulate reading behaviors, consider patterns in their reading decisions, and identify reading goals. The common core standards necessitate that students read a high volume of increasingly complex text in order to accumulate new language, construct deeper understandings, and employ developing comprehension strategies. What can educators research about student growth in these areas through Reading Logs?
- Reading volume
- Completion or abandonment patterns/intervals
- Genre patterns
- Text level trends
- Text formats (graphic novels, picture books, chapter books, etc.)
Pinterest and other sites offer creative teacher ideas for customizing reading logs to meet your assessment needs.
Using graphic organizers, “think sheets,” sentence-starters, and prompted questions help teachers gather data about readers as they analyze within or across texts and genres. Purposefully created reader response tools solicit targeted assessment data about reader comprehension. These tools can be pasted in Reader’s Notebooks, reflected during oral conversation in book clubs or conferences, written on “book recommendation slips,” distributed on photocopied “think sheets,” housed in reading folders, drawn by hand on student papers, reflected on sticky notes, or amassed on class anchor charts. This anchor chart helps the teacher quickly assess the class understanding a comprehension strategy.
- Aptitude for translating thinking into writing
- Level of comprehension (literal or inferential, strong or anemic, etc.)
- Evidence from text to support claims
- Points where reader gains or loses meaning (during or after reading, translating thoughts to paper, etc.)
- Depth of thinking (deep, superficial, concrete, metaphorical, etc.)
- Metacognitive awareness (Can they articulate use of strategies or skills when appropriate?)
- Skill discrepancies between open-ended and text-dependent question responses
The Wachusett Regional Schools website, among many others, offers a Reader Response Toolkit to peruse on their assessment page.
Researching with Reader’s Notebook
Using a Readers’ Notebook helps teachers collect data about student thinking over time in a way that is organized and easy to access. Readers’ Notebook records can take the form of diary entries, letters to the teacher, prompted response, sticky note compilation, scrapbook-style entries with “artifacts” reflecting the text, free form response, pictorial representation, diagrams, or graphic organizers.
- Development of comprehension strategies
- Depth of thinking
- Misconceptions about a text or strategy
- Pattern of challenges or obstacles
- Progression of capacity to convey meaning through writing
- Growth in inferential thinking
- Preferred modes for reflecting on text and new areas of reflection to explore
Eavesdrop on the teacher researching in this conference centered around the Reader’s Notebook and listen for the student’s “deep question!” What would you decide to teach based on the research you can gather?
Conferring is a powerful way to conduct assessment research during Readers’ Workshop. Conferences can enable data collection from reading logs, reader response, and Reader’s Notebooks, as well as observation of student reading, and conversation with students about a text. This all encompassing approach allows the teacher to record detailed notes and probe beyond just one assessment tool if more information is desired. The conference can start with general questions such as, “What are you reading?” or “How is that going?” Increasingly complex questions and observations can help the teacher identify an area of need or unlock points of confusion with the reader. Best of all, the conference provides an opportunity to make a decision based on this research and explicitly model a skill or strategy for the student to try, first with guided practice and then independently after the conference. What can educators research about student growth through conferring?
- Real reading vs. “fake reading”
- Reasons for breakdown of meaning or successful cuing strategies to regain meaning
- Strategies/skills applied to tackle fluency, decoding, and/or comprehension
- Literal vs. inferential understanding
- Self-regulation and reflection
With so much data generated from each conference, you may wonder about innovative ways to track and use resulting information. This teacher has created a technological solution to data management during conferring.