Reading assessment

I just did reading assessments all day long on top of celebrating birthdays and having kindergarten day.

The easiest way for me is to give them a chunk of something we’ve read lately, or in two classes, the poem or song we’ve been doing. In one class, there has been a marked falling-off of attention to songs, so we played our song as usual and then I had them gesture the chorus of the song to partners in the paired situation. They had to read the words and help the partner say them (the meaning was beneath the words) and then switch places. I had a pretty good idea that some of the kids who finished early hadn’t really done the activity. It was kind of mean, but I wanted to see whether I was right. I posted just that chorus and asked them to translate. If they got the gist of the meaning right (only four lines, with two of our target structures in them), they got their “meets standards,” a B. If they got a lot of the words right but didn’t seem to get the meaning, they got a “progressing,” a C. If they got both the gist and the non high-frequency words (three of them in the chorus), they got an A. If there were a number of unconnected words, that was a “beginning,” or a D. Basically, it was the kids who’ve been singing along and who participated in our practice who met or exceeded standards. I’ll have a little talk with them on Monday to drive home the point. I was pretty bummed by the number of kids who didn’t do well. My usual test practice is to drop any assessment that 80% of the class doesn’t get 80% on, and I’ll follow that, but I’m going to tell them that I think it’s my fault for not being on top of discipline. I’ll keep the scores for the meets and exceeds groups. But that doesn’t mean I don’t personally think it’s their fault. Grrr. Hate it when the traditional teacher in me wants to take over and let them fail, but I also sit at meetings and grumble in irritation when a math or science teacher announces that his kids had an average of 34% on the last test and he’s letting the grades stand. I always want to ask whether it isn’t the teacher at fault. So I know that I’m at fault in some way. Motivation, interest, discipline. One of those was not part of that lesson.

The level 1 (with 2’s) had to do a mural of the reading and then point to the part of the mural that showed each phrase as I read it. I could pretty much tell who had complete murals and who could understand. The difficult part is that the newbies need to get a grade for listening comprehension, and the level 1 kids need a grade for reading comprehension, but because I read it out loud for the newbies, they might have just used their listening. It’s a little hard to work that differentiation for the Zangle program. The level 2’s had to read what was there and extend the reading while the others were drawing. They did that beautifully, and because there’s a different entry system for the different year levels in my computer grading system, I can make it be both a reading and writing grade.

And in the advanced class, they had to translate the poems we’ve been reading. Same grading procedure as the intermediate class with songs, but only a couple of kids bombed. Most did way better than I’d expected.

It’s so interesting grading this way. I have to ask myself, “What are the most important structures they can take from this poem or song?” “What structures have we used so that it’s reasonable for them to remember?” “Which words are real “stretch words” that I can’t truly expect everyone to get?” and “What constitutes meaning in a translation?” It’s not a “percentage of words translated right.”


9 responses to “Reading assessment

  1. Piedad Gutierrez

    Hola Michelle!
    Take it easy on yourself! After reading your first paragraph and your disappointment with the results, I kept thinking if may be the element to reconsider is the assessment instrument. As usually happens in TPRS you knew before the quiz or test where each student stands. Where the songs intended for repetition of the structures or for comprehension in context? Was the instrument appropriate to evaluate the specific learning process? Big hug!


  2. Piedad, I love your hugs! And you were right…I didn’t think through that enough.

    I guess I was hoping that I was wrong about the kids who hadn’t been focusing, and that they really were picking up the vocabulary. The songs are always intended as a chance to repeat some vocabulary, but since the kids are picking the songs often (while I’m the one who decides what we’ll do with them), the structures are more for comprehension in context and a way for the advanced kids to get access to more vocabulary. Often the songs become a background for a story or a driving force to reading about the singer’s life.

    On the one hand, it’s cool when kids come in and get to see their choices getting used. On the other, maybe the format for our songs is getting into a rut. I’ll have to think about that. And I certainly need to think about the assessment/grading. I did a form of assessment. Whether it was a reasonable tool is a good question. Thank you.


  3. Michele,
    I too struggle with assessments: not enough in my case. Just like you, I do know where the students stand from daily observations and informal quizzes, but I realize that I need to let them know where they are through a more formal assessment. Give me a “Developing” grade on this one:)
    Can you, please, explain the mural you used in one of your classes? From what I understand, it is an illustration of a story with all the details incorporated in one picture instead of the traditional 6-frame. Is there a particular reason you do it this way?


  4. Mural: a Laurie Clarcq idea to encourage kids to get every detail into the picture. When we do a 6-frame, for one thing, I can’t always guarantee that a detailed description is going to fit in there. A “mural” gives me an excuse to go around repeating or walking up and pointing to a phrase and pointing at various kids’ pictures where I see that phrase illustrated, and repeating/re-reading it at other pictures where I don’t see it. Sometimes they’ll then point to it, and I’ll say, “Oh! The girl has long hair.” Or they’ll look mystified, and I can point to another kid’s picture and repeat/re-read, pointing the phrase yet again. This lets me see who’s got it, repeat or get their eyes on the text a bunch of times, and also find out who knows it instantly when I point to it if they do have it drawn. Very useful, and not as annoying as circling forever.


  5. Not as annoying as circling forever. Boy did that leap out at me. Sometimes I feel really silly circling over and over (it keeps me from doing circling). Yet, how else to get those reps? Thanks.
    I’ve listed above another great video you might like after the stealing story to play with. Someone sent it to me after I sent her the crow story.


  6. I just went to Carol Gaab’s workshop and she made a great analogy of circling. It’s like salt: if you add just the right amount of it to the meal (your lesson), it enhances it; if you add too much, it can ruin it. She said that the challenge is to find those other ways to get reps without being boring and predictable: PQA in a variety of ways, concentrated reading and novel reading, storytelling, songs, videoclips, you get the idea.I certainly feel like I need another week long conference to “get the reps” of TPRS teaching for my own sake:)


  7. This is why I’ve changed to having just three structures in a week. It’s easier to do lots of reps of only three structures.


  8. When you say three structures a week, does it mean that they are exactly the same all week or do you vary them in perspective or tense?


    • I try to use them in the same way for the first week, especially in the beginning class. But when I write the story, I’ll switch tense, and now that I think about it, in PQA, I will sometimes use other forms. But if I’m up on my game, I’ll ask a kid a question right in the beginning (in English) just so that I know the answer and can share with the class. They have to hear that word many times before they can acquire it, so if it changes radically (as it often does, in Russian) for tense especially, they can’t possibly get it.

      In the intermediate and advanced classes, most of our structures are actually pre-heard. I’m just trying to nail down the grammar around them. In that case, I’ll sometimes put the basic structure up as the week’s word, and then write other tenses or forms as the challenges (Carol Gaab-style). I haven’t even mentioned that when it’s a structure involving a noun or adjective, there can be many different cases, so I’ll put a couple up as they come up in our conversation.

      And Susie would say that we should be using all the target structures in every extended story. It’s my goal but doesn’t always happen that as I embed our stories, I use more and more of the quarter’s vocabulary, just filling in the meaning for kids as they read in class. Then when we get to those structures, they are at least familiar ones.


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