This article is the tenth in a series that summarizes and reflects upon the Ontario Ministry of Education 2009 document Me Read? And How!
The tenth strategy advocated for improving boys’ reading:
Assess for Success
It seems the most fitting to start with ‘backward planning’ which I believe is an essential way to lesson plan! Plan backward from the expectations (objectives, outcomes, etc.). Determine what the students should be able to do at the end of the unit—the summative evaluation. Show students exemplars so they know what they are aiming to achieve by the end of the unit. When you are working backwards in your planning, include periodic, targeted diagnostic evaluation so that the students know how to improve upon their current skill level for the new learning. This practice is considered ‘assessment for learning’ because you are assessing how well the skills have been learned, at which point you should make adjustments to your teaching to address areas of concern or weakness.
Diagnostic evaluation is an extremely important part of the process of learning. Through getting specific, periodic feedback, students know what they should do to improve their work. Since we can’t see into a student’s brain, we use products to determine if the learning has occurred. If possible, “regular, targeted, and individualized feedback [is best for] improved writing performance among boys” (61). At the elementary level in our school board, Diagnostic Reading Assessments (DRA) are administered from grades one to eight. The results of the DRA are used to determine what will be taught next and what materials are most appropriate to improve their skills.
The simplest form of evaluation is ‘the test’; however, we often using writing, creative and oral reporting products to assess if learning has occurred. Problem: Writing skills don’t accurately represent reading ability; they will be as good as or lesser than the reading comprehension. For this reason, there should be differentiated assessments for students to be able to best showcase their skills. Allow students to choose from a variety of possible assessments!
We often get isolated in our teaching as we are so busy that the communication with other teachers does not happen. Building a literacy-focus into the system, for example through PLCs, allows for the time to develop common assessment tools, to reflect on students’ results, and to school-wide moderate student work. By engaging in collaborative school-wide marking, there’s discussion about what constitutes excellent, good, satisfactory, and weak work. It’s a way of getting teachers on the same page in terms of expectations.
Finally, students should absolutely be doing self-assessment! The ultimate goal of education is to create self-sufficient, capable learners. To become such a learner, a student must learn to consistently reflect on their abilities and practices so that they made improvements to future work (or to the assignment they are currently working on).
Ideas for assessing for success:
- backwards plan your lessons/units
- show exemplars to students
- frequent diagnostic feedback to students
- use a systematic method of assessing reading skills
- allow for differentiated assessments
- build in student self-assessment
- team mark to establish ‘bench-mark’ assignments
Next Boys’ Literacy Strategy: #11 – Be in Their Corner