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Assessment That Works (Or at least seems to be working)

Ever since our Middle School English department began using the Teacher’s College Reading and Writing Workshop model, #TCRWP,  as a way to teach our curriculum, I have been torn about ways to “authentically” use technology in everyday practice.

I wrote a while back about my excitement about charts and notebooks and books, and have been struggling with how to use tech in ways that make sense to my classroom. However, much of my focus has not been on technology, but more on conferring and finding my way around workshop.

As we start our second full year with the TC units, I am starting to feel more comfortable with the structure of workshop. The mini-lessons, checklists, and the run of the class are becoming more and more familiar.

So this year, I have two new goals: continuing to hone my conferring skills. I am working with our literacy coach to get the most out of each conference. We are recording my sessions and debriefing on what I am learning, but that is a whole other post and I will share videos and ideas soon.

The second goal for our team is assessment. How do we gather the data we need for the most effective teaching? We want it to be formative, have little to do with grades or evaluation and allow us to offer timely individualized feedback to match each student’s needs.

Although the year is still young, we just went through a powerful and effective assessment cycle with our first reading unit. And I want to share.

Basically, we wanted to get a peak into our students’ notebooks. When explaining the system to the students, I used the analogy of checking the oil of a car. I spoke to my class in depth about the purpose of this type of assessment and worked diligently to detangle assessment from stress, anxiety and grades.

The idea was simple: show us your understanding of each skill, show examples of these skills from your notebook and discuss what you still need to learn and ask any questions you might have.

I explained that assessment is just as much for the teacher as for the student. That by sharing what you don’t know and asking questions, you are showing your teacher what to teach you next.

I am not sure if what we came up with is “authentic” use of technology, but it got the job done for us, felt natural and ubiquitous, and allowed us to give feedback back to kids quickly and gather the data we need to teach.

The photos are pretty self-explanatory. Take a look:

Students used their devices and google docs to show snippets of their work and show their understanding of the skills.

Then I used my hybrid-data-collection-system to monitor their learning, take notes to inform teaching and send them timely feedback. The program you are seeing on the iPad is called iDoceo.

Here is a video that walks you through the “marking” side of this process:

There is no perfect model and every school and every teacher needs to find their own systems, but this seems to be working for us at this time.

Do you have any questions? Any suggestions?

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