Friday, January 27, 2012

Week 4::Question 1::Chapter 7

I am a firm believer in the consistent assessments throughout the learning process, but I find it challenging to implement it to the best of my ability. I want my students to directly benefit from the formative assessments. I do not use a notebook (I am thinking about it and hoping to create a small form that will guide my ongoing assessments) My Questions for you: What tips or tricks to do have and use that you find success with? How do you incorporate your formative assessments and observations at grade card time? Do you factor in the assessments or are your grades based on only summative assessments? I have truly enjoyed the book study and all of your responses. I have seen growth in myself as a teacher and my students have grown as well as students. I hope that you find success in the second half of your school year! -Alexis


  1. Formative assessment is so crucial and we all do it every single day, but the hard part is documenting it. Then as Alexis said being able to utilize it not only for planning, but also for grade cards and conferences.

    When I was teaching in the classroom I tried to use a notebook, but for me it did not work. I never really learned how to organize with it. I would scroll all of my interactions, but then I would find myself flipping through pages and pages of notes on students. I struggled to follow the progress of each student because there would be so many pages in between.
    The best tool I was able to come up with was a grid that held about 6 students per page. Each student had their own box. I would keep these pages on a clipboard and carry that with me as I spoke with students and listened in on them. I had a different clipboard for each workshop. One for writing and one for reading. Then when I needed to look at them I was flipping through a lot less paper.

  2. I love formative assessment. Sometimes it is difficult to keep formative assessments organized and well documented.
    I use formative assessment mainly for planning and conferences, I use a form similar to Alyson. During reading and writing I have a form with each student's name on it. It has a ladder (something the student needs to work on) and a star(something the student is doing well). When I have a conference with each student I make sure to point out at least one strength and something the student needs to work on. The weakness may turn into a lesson or just a point of conversation next conference.

    Before each math test, I have each learning target listed and then each student puts a check mark under the grade they feel they deserve. It helps me see if each student thinks they grasp each learning target. Then, when I grade the test I put a line over their grade. If our grades match it forms an X.

  3. Formative assessment is very important, but I agree that it's difficult to manage. I keep a file folder on each of my students and as we’re engaged in an activity and I’m making observations, I write notes on Post-its then stick those notes in their file folders. Then I can look back at an individual child to see what kinds of things I’ve noticed about his or her learning.
    I take grades from participation during these kinds of practice activities and from my formative assessments. This is the only way this performance affects their grades.

  4. How do I keep track of formative assessment on each student? I have tried various methods, but what ends up working for me is post-it notes. I have a binder (or 2 depending on the year) with all of my students in it. As I get representative work samples, I stick them into that student’s section. For the day to day assessment, I jot notes (along with the date) on post-its and stick them into that student’s section until I am able to transfer the information onto a more permanent form.
    I agree with everyone else that formative assessment is very important. What I get tripped up on is programs like Everyday Math that are adopted curriculums. I can formatively - is that a word? - assess what my students do or do not need, but the harsh reality for me is, the lessons in the regular classroom are moving on even if my 4th and 5th graders with IEPs aren't on-board so when my intervention time with them is over they have to be able to have a general idea of what is going on in order to not spend the rest of class off in space. Because my students need more, I end up cutting into their homeroom time in the morning or my planning time to try to help them as much as I can. I also end up trying to cram as much as I can into my short time with them - which I realize is absolutely opposite of what Miller advises in chapter 8. I agree with Miller, but there is so much pressure to expose my students to as much as the general curriculum as possible, and they have to take the state test with all of the standards of their grade level, not of their personal instructional levels. Because of this, grades are always tricky for my students as well. If the grades on the report cards are standards-based where you get to indicate their level of mastery (beginning, developing, secure, extending, for example), the formative assessments are absolutely figured into that "grade". But, when you need to figure percentages and A, B, C, D, or F, it becomes sticky to me. Formative assessment is supposed to inform instruction, which means that if your assessment shows students aren't understanding you revisit that concept until they have a better understanding. If you are truly using your data to guide your instruction, the goal is that every student would have earned an "A", even if those A's are earned at different points for each student, right? I agree with Erica that any grades would have to be more for participating in the practice activities than their actual mastery if the activity is purely formative. Grades would have to come from assessments that are meant to be summative, which in my experience sometimes end up being formative because I notice holes in their learning which are then addressed and reassessed later. I've always allowed students to correct tests and assignments as well and taken the higher grade when they have shown better understanding. The only tests or assignments I ever see as truly summative are OAAs or other standardized tests, which aren’t figured into grades anyways.

  5. Formative assessment is important, but it can be difficult to document and organize. I use a system similar to Erica's. For me, it's easy to jot something down on a post-it note as I'm observing the students. Since I pull small groups for reading instruction, I can transfer the information onto sheets that I give to their classroom teachers twice a month. I also make a copy of each student's sheet to keep track of their progress.

    The notes can also be used to help plan lessons. If I notice that several students are struggling with similar concepts, I try to incorporate it into the next lesson. It's been great to be able to communicate with each student's teacher and have notes to help guide my instruction.

  6. I don’t really have a good “system” yet for my formative assessments either. I think it’s fantastic that Debbie Miller uses individual notebooks for each student, but my first thought to that was, “What a nightmare!” I teach 75 students throughout my day and I can’t imagine trying to store, keep organized, and not lose 75 different notebooks!

    In terms of grade cards, my formative assessments/observations are really only incorporated into the comment section of our grade card, and only minimally there. I think that assigning a point value removes the “formative” aspect of an assessment, which has the primary purpose of informing instruction, not grades. Summative is the only type of assessment I use for grades.

    But I agree with Allyson about the type of grading system used. Formative assessment would fit better into a system that isn't figuring percentage points, which is not what we currently use.

  7. First, I also agree with Allyson about the type of grading system used; people equate percentages with a letter grade, and it doesn't work that way in the arts.
    What tips or tricks to do have and use that you find success with? How do you incorporate your formative assessments and observations at grade card time? Do you factor in the assessments or are your grades based on only summative assessments?
    Well, as a teacher who only gets to see students once a week (if I’m lucky!) for 50 minutes (if I’m lucky!), a lot of my assessments are formative. I keep track of my formative assessments by printing out rosters of my 30 classes (700+ students) and keeping them in a binder (in the order I see them)with me. Each week, I select the MAIN standard(s) I am trying to teach and “assess,” and plan activities/questions accordingly. Because I do not have time to assess every student individually every class (because then all I’d be doing is TESTING instead of TEACHING), I encourage students to volunteer & participate as often as possible. I can quickly tell who understands the basic concepts that way. Rather than calling upon the same students all the time, I usually call upon students unexpectedly- another way to assess the quieter or more “ornery” students. In addition to participation, I am constantly assessing past and present standards; a student may demonstrate improvement in rhythmic performance while performing a song, even if we’re focusing on pitch or dynamics- I’ll take note of that in their roster and/or in my journal. Then, students’ participation grades become based on much more than just behavior and effort; they become more of a conglomerate application of national standards in music.
    Overall, I think our education system has become so obsessed with grades and test scores, aka- the final product (summative assessments), that we have completely overlooked the efforts our teachers are making to TEACH THE MEAT, and to foster in students a LOVE OF LEARNING. Because of this, we feel rushed and hard-pressed for time. We also reward students for numbers, instead of letting the joy of learning be its own reward. Because of this, I see less and less intrinsic motivation in students and more and more extrinsic motivation, which does not transfer into the real world. We must foster an internal drive in our students, self-discipline and motivation. When did school become more about numbers and less about the love of learning?

  8. As many of you have stated formative assessments are extremely important to teaching, at least effective teaching. Without formative assessments you have let the students slip past you without any clue as to what they are learning until it might be too late. Now, like Allyson commented, grading formative assessments as part of the grading scale is a difficult endeavor. I like, Bethany, work in the arts were percentages truly do not exist on our grading scale and the subject matter taught is more quantitative in value versus qualitative. However, I think that is often forgotten since our grade books are computer generated and need a number entered. When using formative assessment, I think it is very important to understand the subject or standards being assessed and how that information is to be used. So, tricks and tips – I use formative assessment all day every day. I have rosters for all 30 classes that I keep handy with me while I teach and while I am circulating the room having discussions, observing, guiding, and challenging students. On that roster I am able to make notes regarding where students may be struggling, where they are excelling, and occasionally the student that for whatever reason has given up. My class is a cumulative class; the learning of a concept does not stop when we move from one unit to the next. I am looking for previous skills and how they are being used as well as the skills that were taught during that class period (which are posted for students to see). These formative assessments are used at grade card time to help shape the grade the students receive. Summative assessments make up for ten times the grade formative assessments do, however, without including the formative assessments into the grade, I am not providing an accurate representation of what the students are doing on a daily basis. It is important to remember, grades are not “given” grades are earned.
    On a side note, I am terrified by the growing number of elementary students who are becoming grade or number obsessed. Where is the love for learning? Where is the desire to do one’s best – knowing that my best may be different from yours? These pressures do not seem to reflect what it means to be a child and seem to squelch the creative spirit.

  9. The grade part of the discussion doesn’t pertain to me, because I do not give grades in Title. I use formative assessments daily taking anecdotal notes and recording these in an excel document which I update frequently. I jot these notes down on my lesson plan for the lesson I am doing and make sure it is recorded by the end of the week. These are very helpful in guiding my instruction to meet the needs of my students. The kiddos are used to me writing while they read, but at first it concerned them what I was writing. I let them know I was writing all the good things they do when they read, which I do along with error information. One summative assessment we use is MAP testing three times a year, but I find it difficult to use these scores toward instruction. I do use them along with leveled reading to establish groups. I find it very beneficial to do other assessments such as leveled benchmarking and running records, but the time it takes to do these does take valuable face to face teaching time from my students.