Exactly one year ago, our school began exploring a new (to us) tool for assessing reading behaviours and comprehension. We had just purchased Fountas and Pinnell’s Benchmark Assessment System. We used this as an opportunity to revisit the way we administer running records and how they are used and analysed in order to drive our teaching.
A year on, I can say that we have come a long way! There has been inspiring and enriching professional development and collegial discussion that have occurred as a result of our move to F & P.
Personally, it has been great to consolidate my understandings of the Running Records process. Having taught grade 3/4 for the last 7 years, I haven’t had to administer these on a frequent basis compared to when teaching the juniors.
Here are some aspects of the assessment that have been of particular focus:
MEANING – Does the error have an impact on the meaning or message in the story?
STRUCTURE – Does the error make sense grammatically?
VISUAL – Does the printed text have visual similarity to the word the reader used?
F & P assesses comprehension on three levels:
• WITHIN the text – a LITERAL level of understanding (right there information)
• BEYOND the text – an INFERENTIAL level of understanding (using clues from the text, the implied meaning)
• ABOUT the text – an EVALUATIVE level of understanding (making judgements about the text, author’s intentions)
Do you use Fountas & Pinnell?
If so, what have been your reflections?
If not, what assessments do you use?
Please feel free to leave a comment below.
On the heels of report writing and planning ahead for 2014, I have been reflecting on what assessment looks like in my classroom. I have always been interested in improving my assessment strategies. Not only does assessment inform and drive teaching, but how assessment is collected and analysed is pivotal as this directly impacts what evidence you will have available when writing reports and meeting with parents during Parent-Teacher Interviews.
As I begin to review my assessment practices, I recently reviewed one particular article that spoke to me during research for my Master’s degree.
Below, you will find extracts from a paper I wrote about the importance of assessment, most particularly, Backwards Mapping.
There is substantial evidence that assessment is a powerful process for promoting learning. Paul Black and Dylan Wiliam, writers of the 1998 article – ‘Inside the Black Box: Raising Standards Through Classroom Assessment’, synthesised over 250 studies linking assessment and learning.
Their findings revealed that the intentional use of classroom assessment to promote learning, ultimately improved student outcomes and achievement. This is NOT to condone that we should spend all our time assessing our students, rather, to use classroom assessment to become aware of the knowledge, skills and beliefs that students bring to a unit of work.
Teachers should use this knowledge as a starting point for new instruction and monitor students’ changing perceptions as instruction proceeds. Classroom assessment promotes learning as it is intertwined within the teaching and learning process.
Like all we do in the classroom, careful planning is required to ensure that assessment aligns with the curriculum and instruction, so that ultimately, learning will be effective and meaningful. Therefore, assessment needs to be embedded into the unit when planning. This can be done effectively using the Backwards Mapping approach to planning. The notion of Backwards Mapping entails that we begin with the end in mind, i.e. considering what assessments will assess what students have learned.
to read the full article by Black and Wiliam.
I love Google Docs!
Up until completing this course, I had heard of Google Docs but didn’t know much about them. Google was just a search engine to me. I hadn’t realise how far Google had developed in the last few years – Google Drive, Gmail, Google Blogger etc. Actually, I’m beginning to feel quite behind!
I can instantly see the application of Google Docs in the classroom. The potential for online collaboration is great. The fact that users can access and work on one document anytime and anywhere means that learning is not confined to the location of the school or its hours. Also, since there is only one document, there is no confusion between updated copies.
I liked the notion that we are attaching multiple users to one document, rather than copies of one document to a number of users. I like how different users can edit the document using different colours and fonts, which means that we can see the contributions that each user makes.
I am most excited by the potential use of Google Forms, especially in terms of assessment. I think that Google Forms will help towards the organisation and collation of assessment data, allowing me more time to analyse the data rather than sorting it. I am mindful that this may only be useful for some assessments and will greatly depend on the domain, topic and most importantly, the purpose of the assessment.
However, I am willing to try it out with the class and have already done so. I used Google Forms to create a survey about the students’ perceptions of Maths and to ascertain their opinions and feedback about what a ‘good’ Maths lesson looks like. Already knowing what questions I was going to use, I spent perhaps 10 minutes creating the form on Thursday night. I emailed the link to the students and they completed the survey in the first 15 minutes of our ICT time on Friday. Instantly, their responses were collated into a spread sheet. It was great! Now, I don’t need to spend time looking through papers and collating their responses. This tedious part has been done for me. I can spend time actually looking at their responses and use the spread sheet functions to create graphs. As a visual learner, this will give me a clear idea of how students are feeling and what they would like to see more of in our Maths lessons.
You can see the Maths Survey by clicking on the following link:
And here is a screenshot of the spread sheet that was created from the responses:
As part of our school’s Change 2 initiative, we have begun to work towards embedding effective feedback practices in our school. It is hoped that this will occur in every facet of school life – between students, student – teacher, between teachers, teacher – parent, parent – student, etc.
What does formal feedback look like in the classroom?
This year, I have made an effort to explore this question. I have used this year as an opportunity to refine my practice and trial various things with my grade 3/4 class. Here’s where I’m “at” with feedback…
I have used rubrics throughout all the years of my teaching. I find that rubrics are versatile and adaptable for ALL year levels. When I taught grade 1/2, I would introduce rubrics by creating a Behaviour Rubric. At the beginning of the year, we discussed what ‘excellent’ behaviour would look like. This would be recorded in the rubric and then compared to what ‘acceptable’ behaviour would look like and finally, ‘unsatisfactory’ behaviour. All this information would be collated and colour-coded using a traffic light system. From then on, we would refer to the rubric as a preventative and evaluative tool for our classroom behaviour. We also included mutually agreed consequences.
Here is an example of the Behaviour Rubric.
I always try to create rubrics WITH students PRIOR to a task. This gives students a sense of ownership for what they will be assessed against as well as giving them explicit assessment criteria.
Here is an example of the Persuasive Writing Rubric used with grade 3/4 students.
Often, I will encourage students to use the rubrics as a self-assessment tool. I have found this to be quite powerful for students and they seem to be their own harshest critic. In the comments section, I encourage students to use reflection sentence starters such as:
I am proud of…
Next time, I could…
I am still experimenting with Capacity Matrices. Over the last few years, I have tried several different templates. The idea of a Capacity Matrix is for students to self-assess their own ‘capacity’ of certain skills. This tool also explicitly defines assessment criteria for topics/units of work. I try to introduce the Capacity Matrix around the time of the Pre-Assessment. Together, these tools give me a clear picture of the students’ abilities and their perception. I can use this information to inform and drive my teaching.
We try to revisit the Capacity Matrix during the unit. Around the time of the Post Assessment, students will complete the Capacity Matrix once more and provide evidence of their learning.
Like I said earlier, I am still experimenting with Capacity Matrices and have found that they work best for Literacy and Numeracy units. This year, I haven’t used them as much as I would have liked. If anyone has suggestions or can share their experiences, please feel free to comment below.
Here are some examples of the Capacity Matrices I have created:
Capacity Matrix – Comprehension
Capacity Matrix – Time
Capacity Matrix – Holy Week
This year, I have increased the amount of time I conference with students on a one-to-one basis. Of course, I am interacting with students every minute of the day through whole class discussions and small group activities. In the past, I would rove and one-to-one conferences were unplanned and would happen incidentally. Feedback was often verbal and there would not be any record of what had been discussed. Also, I wasn’t tracking who I saw. What if I was conferencing with the same students each week? This is possible. We often are drawn to those who need us the most…
Now… I don’t think what I was doing was wrong. As teachers, we do the best we can. We have such limited time with the students in our care. But I am the type of person to question myself – “How can I do it better?” Therefore, this year, I have purposely planned to conference with individuals. This means that every week, I will conference with each student on at least one occasion. And most importantly, the main points of the discussion are recorded. I think this has worked well and I hope to expand on this next year to at least two occasions.
This year, I chose to make a start on my goal by scheduling Reading Conferences with each student each week. We begin every morning with 30 minutes of Independent Reading. During this time, students read their choice of books and record their thoughts and opinions in their Reading Journals. On their allocated day for conferencing, the students bring along their Reading Journal and a text. During the conference, we will set or revise a reading goal for the week/month/term. We will discuss the students’ progress so far as well as model/practise strategies that can be used to work towards the reading goal. I record the main points of the discussion as we speak and always make a suggestion of what students can do during the week to continue working on the goal.
I have found that this has helped me to get to know my students better. In fact, I am keen to schedule conferences for Maths. I just have to think how this would work on a practical basis. Again, any suggestions would be much appreciated!