I have to confess I had been feeling a little burn out from talking about and thinking about assessment and formative assessment. We've had lots of great pd about formative assessment the last several years in my district and it wasn't really a topic I thought I needed to read more about this summer. But then..... I started browsing Cris Tovani's new book, So What Do They Really Know? Assessment That Informs Teaching and Learning online. I was reading the free online preview of this book when suddenly I realized I was on chapter four, and had started taking lots of notes and getting lots of ideas. Hmmmm, maybe this was a book I should buy! So I did. It was an easy read. Two little girls + 2 synchronized naps (this NEVER happens) got me through it in one sitting. It confirmed a lot of prior knowledge but also gave me some new ways to think about formative assessment within my classroom. Franki, at A Year of Reading posted a great review of this book as well.
Here are some quotes and notes that got me thinking further about assessment...
- "I knew there needed to be multiple pieces of evidence to tell me the stories of the learners in my room so that they nor I would ever be judged solely on a test score" How will I use what students say and do to get their story, and to know where to celebrate, help improve, and to take them next in their learning?
- "Formative assessments help teachers name areas of strengths for students. Teachers can also adjust their instruction and give targeted feedback so students can improve their performance. Formative assessments nurture hope and say to students, You might not get this yet, but you will. Here is something else you can try that might help you understand and improve." This affirms what I believe that formative assessments aren't only used to figure out what kids DON'T know but are a way to figure out what to CELEBRATE what they do know and inspire and motivate them to try the next challenge! I love her positive outlook and message to kids that they WILL eventually get it with guidance from her as their teacher.
- Formative Assessments feed teachers and, more important, feed students so they can grow. That is a lot of control, and a lot of power. Cris got me thinking about next year and how will I use data I collect to provide just in time instruction to not just categorize students but improve their performance?
- Cris talked about the workshop model as being so important for her to be able to assess and immediately address student needs. She talks about in her workshop whoever is doing the most work is the one getting smarter. The workshop model gives the majority of her class time to read, write and discuss. I started thinking about who is doing most of the work during my reading workshop. Sometimes I get so caught up in trying to teach, teach, teach during guided reading and individual reading conferences, that I wonder if I am giving kids enough time to talk to show me the ways they are thinking about what they read.
- "Smart coaches model for their players the skills and strategies they want their athletes to master. They plan their practices so they kids have lots of time to rehearse what they are taught. Coaches know that it's not efficient or effective to 'grade' everything their athletes do in practice. I'm wondering how well do I model what I want kids to master? Is there enough time to practice alone, together as a class, or with partners and small groups what they are taught?
- As Cris described her workshop model she always has a "catch." This is during the work time when she pulls kids back together to re engage learners, give feedback based on patterns of confusion she may be seeing in the class, or model strong or weak work. I'm going to start implementing this in my workshop next year. I love stopping in the middle for a catch to reenergize, reteach or reconnect what we are doing during the work time.
I had lots more important thinking while reading and my highlighter was running a little dry. It was a great book to get me motivated to REALLY get to know my students as learners and strive to help them know themselves as learners. Even though it is marketed for grades 6-12 Tovani wrote about assessment in a way that any teacher could connect with and get ideas from. Her passion for teaching and connecting with kids is so evident through her words.