I have heard this question many times during the past several months. I have been working with a number of teachers who are in various phases of implementing a workshop approach for reading and/or writing. Most of us who have moved to a workshop approach have at some point asked this question and have had to reconcile doing what we know is best for kids and fulfilling our obligation to report to parents and administrators where kids stand.
When I am asked this question, I usually begin by clarifying the difference between assessing and evaluating our students. For me, assessment takes place every minute of the day as I observe my students, listen to them, confer with them, watch them interact with text and other students, read what they have written, etc., etc. I assess to inform my teaching and to guide my instruction. Evaluation happens when I put a value judgment on the assessments I have made. How do I come up with a grade? I wish I could tell you that I have this magic formula into which I plug a bunch of numbers and out comes a grade. It doesn’t work that way. The best I can tell you is that when I am diligent about observing and taking anecdotal notes on my students in every area of their reading development (sight words, fluency, retellings, book chats, partner discussions, written response logs, reading logs, at-home reading, etc.), I have a clear picture of where each child’s strengths and weaknesses are and it is much easier to give a report card grade. You can read about about some of my assessment tools by clicking here.
In addition to my tools, I want to share with you a book that I just purchased. When a teacher shared it at a recent workshop, I knew I had to have it, so I came home and immediately ordered it. It is called Day-to-Day Assessment in the Reading Workshop Making Informed Instructional Decisions in Grades 3-6 by Franki Sibberson and Karen Szymusiak. When I saw who the authors were, I knew I would like this book—they are the authors of Beyond Leveled Books and Still Learning to Read: Teaching Students in Grades 3-6. When the book arrived just a few days later, I immediately began reading it. Here is how chapter 1 begins:
“Good teaching begins with knowing our students. We can teach wisely and well when we have taken the time to understand them, think about what they need, and plan ways to move them toward independence. We need to know them as learners and as human beings. And, of course, as teachers of reading, we also need to know them as readers.”
That’s all I needed to read to know that this would be my kind of book. It is filled with numerous authentic assessment tools, and yes, the authors even share how they translate all of these assessments into grades.
So if you have been struggling with how to make informed instructional decisions during your reading workshop and find ways to give authentic grades, I think you will find this resource to be invaluable.