Thursday, June 18, 2020

Instruction for the Vulnerable Reader: Assessment

In order to help a child become better at reading, a teacher needs to have a handle on what the child knows and is able to do. All learning builds on prior learning, so a good clear idea of a child's understanding at the point where instruction begins is clearly a priority. This information is not readily available from standardized tests, inventories, checklists, speed reading trials, nonsense word lists, or anything else that purports to tell us what students know about reading. This information is available to us from listening to a child read, watching the child write, and talking with the child about books and reading.

To the extent that we can set up our classroom so that there are frequent opportunities to interact with children around text, we are setting up a classroom to formatively assess children. As teachers then, we can design instruction that builds on students strengths, using those strengths to help them improve on their weaknesses. The teacher is constantly asking, "What can this child do? What does this child need to be able to do next? How can what the child can already do help us get there?

This is what assessment for reading improvement is about. Assessment is not some abstract score on a DIBELs scoresheet or Big Standardized Test, it is the formative assessment that takes place daily in the classroom. In the best classrooms instruction and assessment are happening at the same time. As my late mentor Susan Mandel Glazer would say, "Instruction is assessment!"

Here are some past posts that may help drive home that point.

What is the Best Way to Assess Early Literacy?


Following the Child: What Does that Look Like?

Assessing Reading Comprehension: Probing Instead of Questioning

Questions as Invitations, Not Inquisitions

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