Saturday, October 19, 2019

Reading Workshop: Assessing and Grading

My three year old has been really interested in learning the alphabet. She now knows all the letters in her name. This is a pretty big task because "Mariella" is a long name! It definitely took some practice. If I were to assess on her letter recognition right now, she would be proficient. If I were to average her alphabet work from when we first started practicing her name, until now, the score I would give her would be far from proficient. The latter method of grading really doesn't make much sense and doesn't give an accurate picture of what Mariella is able to do. Why is this such a common method of grading for our students in school, then?

As I reflect on this and the work I've done with intermediate teachers in reading workshop, I have some ideas for assessing and grading in meaningful ways within the Calkins Reading Units of Study.

Lucy Calkins recommends first determining what you value in reading instruction and using that to determine what you assess. I love this method--focus on what you want more of! When determining what we value in reading instruction, let's first start with the experts: The academic standards, Lucy Calkins Reading Learning Progressions for the Units of Study, and Jennifer Serravallo's Reading Hierarchy.

The Indiana Academic Standards spell out all that readers should know and be able to do by the end of each grade level. These blueprint documents outline which standards are a focus on the ILEARN state assessment and how classroom teachers can support students.


The Reading Units of Study use a detailed reading progression that lays out the skills and behaviors of readers along a continuum of second through sixth grade. This is a great tool to help guide our values in reading instruction.


Another super useful tool Cherry Tree teachers have is Jennifer Serravallo's Hierarchy of Reading Goals. Serravallo has developed a progression of skills for each of the reading goals in her hierarchy.

All of these resources help teachers ground their values in educational research and best practice. But now the question becomes: How do I take these tools and determine WHAT and WHEN I assess the students in my class? Here are some tips to help with this.

In my last post I gave some tips on how to organize your small group work and conferring. Keeping in mind the tools laid out above, I want to dive a little deeper and look at the assessment journey of one student throughout a unit of study.

Gia is a typical fourth grader. This is her journey through the second unit of study, "Reading the Weather, Reading the World." Her teacher gave the class the RUOS preassessment at the start of the unit. Here are her responses:






Gia's teacher also did a modified assessment conference with each student during the first week of the second unit of study. Here are her notes from Gia's conference:


After looking over Gia's written work from the preassessment and the teacher's further probing during the assessment conference she determined that Gia had two areas of weakness: Main Ideas and Supporting Details/Summary and Cross-Text(s) Synthesis. Gia's teacher decided that the logical starting point would be Main Ideas and Supporting Details/Summary. This ended up being Gia's first reading goal. Using the learning progression found in the RUOS, Gia's teacher determined that she was performing around a second grade level. Her teacher wanted her to move up to a fourth grade level. She determined that a fourth grade level would be an "A."

Here is a peek at Gia's conferring form:

Looking at Gia's conferring form you can see that she and her teacher met eight separate times over the course of a month. Her teacher has taught her three different strategies to help her reach the fourth grade level. This goal is completely transparent to Gia. She has a copy of the learning progression in her reading folder and her teacher has an abbreviated version along the left-hand side of the conferring form. Gia's teacher found specific strategies in Jennifer Serravallo's The Reading Strategies Book to support her in reaching the fourth grade goal.

Here's a peek at Gia's goal bookmark:
This bookmark stays with Gia wherever she reads. When it goes home with her, Gia's mom and dad can see exactly what she working on. When it goes to her reading group with her, the IA can see exactly what Gia is working on. Along the left-hand side her teacher has documented the dates she has conferred with Gia on each goal.

Gia's teacher used evidence from her reader's notebook and from conversations to determine her proficiency level. Once Gia preformed at a fourth grade level, her teacher gave her a grade for that goal. Gia received an "A."

Now her teacher moved Gia on to another goal: Cross-Text(s) Synthesis. This was another area of weakness for Gia on both the preassessment and the assessment conference.

Let's take a peek at the work done on this goal:

Gia's teacher met with her four times over the course of two weeks and taught her two different strategies to help her with the goal of Cross-Text(s) Synthesis. Using evidence from these conferences and her reader's notebook, Gia earned another "A" on this goal.

The second unit of study has now come to an end. Gia will take her post-assessment along with the rest of the class. She is very prepared! Her teacher and her parents know exactly how she is performing in relation to the goals of the unit. She will receive four additional grades on the four parts of the post-assessment.

Gia's teacher has also invested a lot instruction time on reading engagement and written response. She values these two important components of reading instruction. Because of this, her students know that reading engagement and reader's notebooks will be assessed periodically throughout each quarter. Gia's teacher has made it clear what the expectations for these are and how students will be assessed.

At the end of the quarter, Gia has several grades in the gradebook. Each one is meaningful and reflects the values of Gia's teacher in relation to reading instruction. Gia also knew exactly how and why she was being assessed. There were no surprises and Gia saw a lot of growth from the start of the quarter to the end. Her grades reflected this.

This is one way to assess students in a reading workshop using the fabulous resources we have here at Cherry Tree. This method of assessment respects both the teacher's values and the student's learning. It is authentic and provides parents with an accurate picture of student progress toward grade level standards.

There are many other appropriate ways to assess beyond what is listed here! I hope that getting to see Gia's assessment journey through a unit of study was helpful! If this is something you'd like try out during reading workshop, let me know!

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