Chapter two in this book is titled: Assessment and Grouping. I am sure it is no surprise to fellow teachers how this is both exciting and terrifying at the same time. I'm still a bit of a "baby" when it comes to teaching, having just completed year number one. Of course, it was more educational than all the years of college and I learned a lot. But I find that my internal dialogue is something like this: "I should have done this instead of that..." or "Why didn't I do this?!" or "I will definitely be adding this to my plans." I think I was a pretty good first year teacher, but I see so much that I will change. I have been excited about this chapter about assessment and guidance on how to best use them, what to use, etc. But I don't really like taking time out of teaching to assess, assess, assess. Sometimes we are required to assess and last year what was to be assessed for report cards was so intensive I didn't do anything else the week before report cards were due. Okay, that is the downside to assessing. But I do know that assessment drives instruction. How do I determine who "got it" and who didn't? How do I determine reading groups if not through assessments? How do I know where to target differentiated instruction? It's all through assessment. I know that. But having my whole classroom driven by finding time to assess is not what I signed up for. I am excited to read everyone else's reactions and see what assessments they use, when they assess and how often, and to see what resources they have to share.
This past year we used STAR early literacy testing. It was a first for the district, so it didn't go as smoothly at first as it did by the end. This is a computerized test and as with all testing, each child's results were dependent not only on their actual reading and comprehension levels but on if they ate breakfast, if they had enough sleep the night before, if there was conflict at home, if they were late to school that morning, and how they were feeling both physically and emotionally. Sometimes the results of the STAR test would have my highest readers in a mid-level group when I knew they should not be moved out of their group. My grouping was pretty fluid in those terms. If we tested and a student scored differently than what I thought, I would almost always follow with an informal assessment through observation and having them read with me. At that point I would make a decision about moving them to another group.
I had students write their name at the beginning of the year. I did not do a letter recognition test in the first week last year, but I will this year. I was able to tell pretty quickly through informal assessments who knew their letters and who didn't. Last year we used Reading Street and we also had a complete Saxon phonics curriculum. If you are familiar with Reading Street there is a complete phonics curriculum included in the RLA curriculum. I would like to try being true to the curriculum and not trying to include two phonics curriculum. Of course, I don't know what next year will bring.
During internships I used running records, but I did not use them this year. This is one of those things I plan to do differently. I think they provide a lot of information and are really valuable. So I wonder... why didn't I use them this year? Mostly because nobody said to me, "how are your running records coming along?" and I was just trying to keep my head above water my first year. It sounds sort of like a lousy excuse to me too. :(
As the mother of a struggling reader, I really related to the statement the author made that states: "The fact that a student can read a passage does not mean he or she comprehends it." My daughter could figure out the passage a lot of times but over-used the "does it make sense" strategy without employing other strategies, like reading the sentences around it and then trying to make sense of the entire paragraph. She would say to me, "this doesn't make sense!" and I would suggest using other strategies to try to gain comprehension and she would yell and not take suggestion. I think this is because I was the Mom and not the teacher. She worked really hard for her teachers. Once the text got to an instructional level and not a frustration level, the TEACHER (not the Mom) was able to teach her other strategies so she could gain comprehension. Okay, so as a teacher, it is valuable to me to remember that especially at Kindergarten level, it is up to me to teach students how to understand what they read. The chapter points out to me ways to use to do this in both the Analyze Errors section and the Analyze Strategies section.
In the Step 5: Assess Comprehension, I liked it when the author said " A word of caution: No single instrument can capture the total reading process. When making instructional decisions, always consider the student's day-to-day responses and reading behaviors during reading lessons." This pretty much defined how I ran my guided reading groups. My groups were relatively fluid, students moved in and out of groups whenever I felt they needed to move, but I used the STAR testing, observation, and a one-on-one reading assessment to determine if I would move them. Another statement I really liked in the book was when the author mentioned asking "Did that make sense?" when the student read accurately as well as when they make a mistake so that they develop self-monitoring skills and don't depend on teacher prompting. I tend to ask "why" a lot. Or "how." How did you get that answer? Why do you say that? I ask this in math and reading. I try to ask when I see a mistake and when they get it correct so they learn that higher order thinking process. I want my students to take responsibility for their opinions as well as answers that have right and wrong answers.
One of the problems I encounter when I think about guided reading is that I run out of time for everything I need to accomplish. At least one day a week needs to a be available for assessment, one day to introduce new literacy stations or centers, and I really want/need one day to mix and mingle with students to make sure they are doing the centers correctly and to build relationship. That only leaves two days to listen to students read. Of everything I have read, that is not enough.
I completely agree with the author about the statement that books for independent reading should be easy and the student should enjoy it. Unfortunately some of my daughter's teachers have not allowed her that luxury (?), forcing her to choose books that are at or above her reading level for independent reading. I know this contributes to her dislike of reading. Reading at home for fun should be just that, fun. So that is my goal for her as well for my students. Sometimes I think parenting is the best teacher ever.
What assessments should I use?
I think I would like a commercial assessment package. I do have a reading assessment text with passages to copy for students that I used in college. I think I should have used this last year. I think I will next year. But again, I don't know where I will be and maybe my new school will have a wonderful assessment package in place already. I have also seen some great ones on TpT. I think finding SOMETHING and not having to make it, revise it, make it again, will be a welcome break.
Should I introduce text used for assessment? and Should the student read the text silently first?
I did introduce text just a little last year. I would tell the title and author and say very briefly what it would be about, but I didn't introduce vocabulary. And I did not have students read silently first. I agree that it interferes with getting a true assessment, and most of my students did not have enough practice reading to be able to read silently. Here are the voice levels that we practiced all year long , but level one was particularly difficult for my students to master.
In conclusion, I still have questions, but I have more direction about what assessments I want to use next year and how they will help me. I am intimidated to be in this study with all of you, as you have fantastic TpT stores and offer great resources, and I am just a beginner. I jumped in to this study perhaps without all the facts. Will I be expected to host this one week? This thought terrifies me! Help!