Sunday, September 22, 2013

Savoring Assessment

This year, I decided to stop and savor the time I've spent with each individual student during diagnostic testing.  I'm not sure why I came to that decision -- was it because I have two amazing groups of students and didn't want to rush through, or was it a subconscious push-back from me to hurry up to teach the standards when I knew I had to have solid information about each one of my students first?  Whatever the reason, my assessment time this year has been lovely.

In the beginning of the year, we give the DRA (Developmental Reading Assessment), and it yields great information about each student.  But my favorite part of the DRA has been the time I spent sitting side by side with the students, first asking them to choose a text, then inquiring as to why they made the choice they did.  The latter is not really an official part of the assessment but it gave me so much insight into how children preview what they will read.  Then the next segment was time spent listening to them read orally.  Personalities began to shine through during this portion of the assessment.  One more piece of knowledge added to my understanding about each of them.

After the students read orally, they were asked to do a paper and pencil activity that involved some questioning and prediction.  In prior years, I have asked the students to find a quiet location to do this section and then come back to visit me when they were done so I could check for the reasonableness of their predictions.  It was a far more efficient way to approach the testing situation.  However, this year, I threw efficient out the window!  I asked them to stay by me and fill out this first page of wondering what will happen in the text.  I gathered some amazing anecdotal notes sitting beside them, and observing how they approached this task.

Just as valuable were the anecdotal notes I gathered by watching others in the classroom during this time as well.  I noticed that most students were thoroughly immersed in their books of choice, a few wandered around the room having a difficult time selecting a book that worked for them, and several students sat by classmates and needed to share parts of their book with each other from time to time.

The final part of the assessment for the student involved reading the rest of the text on their own and then answering some comprehension questions (again, a paper and pencil activity).

The final part of the assessment for me involved more "savoring" - - sitting here on my screened porch on a weekend morning, looking at the answers the students gave for each question, and analyzing their thinking as a reader.  It was my first real glimpse into their reading mind.  I didn't want to hurry through and miss any information they left for me.  I needed to organize and reflect on all the data I'd collected, thinking about how best to serve each student's needs.  DRA folders surrounded me, and my computer was opened to Google Form so I could input the numbers from their rubrics.  Once the numbers were inputted, Google Form translated them into a spreadsheet where I could look at my classroom information as a whole.  This made starting conferences and strategy groups easy in the beginning of the year as I looked at students with similar strengths and weaknesses.

So I savored my assessment this fall, and the payoff seems to be huge.  It didn't feel like an assembly line, just "getting 'er done."  This year, I felt like the nuances of each learner were more apparent because I slowed down and didn't rush (though the temptation was great as I thought about 50 DRAs to score, analyze, and savor).  And the structures of workshop lived on throughout these assessments because I didn't rush the students as they learned to settle in with a book or a piece of writing for an extended period of time.

Savoring assessment - so enjoyable.


  1. Savoring and assessment in the same sentence - YEAH!! Thank you for this positive account of assessment. We are trying hard to redefine assessment in our classrooms and this inspires us to keep going. Your words are so important --thank you for sharing.

    Clare and Tammy

  2. Such an important post, Karen. I was beyond ready to be done with assessment, but found myself gaining many insights through the process as well.