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September 18, 2017

Tips for Streamlining Your Informal Reading Assessments

By Genia Connell
Grades 1–2, 3–5

    If you asked any room full of teachers what their favorite part of teaching is, I’m going to guess “assessing my students in reading multiple times a year, then recording the data in four different places” is not going to be anyone’s answer. It is, however, the reality for many of us. We have a few changes in our district this year due to some new state legislation, known as the Third Grade Reading Law. All 29 of my students need to be assessed in a 1:1 setting, three times a year, with the first deadline approaching quickly. Previously, we only needed to do informal assessments twice a year and our testing window lasted eight weeks instead of four. This new legislation means being ultra-organized and focused during assessments is more important than ever. This week I’m happy to share some of the ways I have tweaked my assessment routine to make the most of the time I have as I test my way through my class list.

    Make a Schedule and Post It

    Scheduling who you will test on which day is crucial to fitting everyone in in a timely manner, but to push myself a bit further, I post the schedule on the classroom wall for all to see. This visible schedule stops students from asking when their turn is, but more importantly, it helps keep me accountable. When I kept the schedule tucked in my plan book, it was easy to assess fewer children then planned on any given day. When the schedule is posted, I make sure I stick to it so no one is disappointed and to avoid hearing, “Why didn’t you test me today? The schedule said you were going to test me today!”

    Location! Location! Location!

    Before you begin, choose an area in your classroom that will be your testing zone. Set up your space before the first student is assessed by gathering everything you will need and putting it within reach. For me, this includes the student text, running-record sheets, pencils, my phone or iPad, and data sheets. From experience, I find it’s ideal to have my student’s back to the class while I face them to lessen the distraction factor. This arrangement allows me to look up and survey the class while administering the assessment, giving the sometimes necessary “look” or hand signal to quiet students down.

     

    Do Not Disturb Signals

    Every interruption will lengthen the amount of time it takes you to finish your assessments. I explain to my students that when I am assessing their classmates, I am off limits unless the room is on fire or someone is bleeding profusely. I use a dollar store push-light to signal that I’m testing. When the light is on, stay away! If I see a student approaching, all I need to do is silently point to the light and they get the message. I’ve also seen teachers keep a stop sign up at their workstation to show that an interruption is not welcome at that time, another great strategy.

     

    Keep the Other Students Engaged

    Testing one student can take 15-20 minutes. This means my other 28 students need to be doing something else, Q-U-I-E-T-L-Y! My favorite time to get two to three students assessed is following our reading or writing mini-lessons, while the students are working independently. I’ve also given Front Row assignments on the iPad that keep my kids productive, but quiet. Think of the quietest, most engaging activity you know and have your students do that!

     

    Use One Sheet to Collect Data

    For each student we need to record the genre read, instructional level, number of self-corrections, comprehension, and fluency scores. I write these on one spreadsheet immediately following each test. Later, when everyone is tested, I type them in so I have an electronic Excel version that I can sort by reading levels. This helps me easily view and track my lower performing students who I need to provide data on for the state. The same sheet is used to record my scores in rounds two and three of the assessment.

     

    Get Creative With Your Time

    While I used to bristle at using time outside my workday to assess students, now I realize it makes my life less stressful in the long run. A couple of times each testing session, I arrive at school about 30 minutes earlier than usual and assess my students who are in morning latchkey. (Afternoon latchkey doesn’t work as well because parent pick-up times can be unpredictable.) Another easy way to eke out a little extra time is sharing recess duties with another teacher if your administration allows it. When my team teacher, Lisa, takes my kids out with hers, I have no problem getting a couple of volunteers who would like to stay in to do their reading assessment. An added bonus of using these times is that the classroom is quiet and distraction free!

     

    Videotape the Oral Reading

    Years ago I started videotaping my students during their oral running record. The recording helps serve as my timer to determine words per minute, but it also helps me take notes on each child’s reading behavior as I prepare to create individualized reading plans. As an added bonus, I use these videos as artifacts for my teacher evaluation to show student growth over time.

     

    Use Voice to Text

    I used to take five to ten minutes after each reading assessment to write detailed observations about what I noticed about the reader. Now I watch the videos mentioned above, then use voice to text on my phone to take notes much more quickly than I could type or write them by hand. By testing students back to back and getting rid of the ten minute buffer, I have more than three hours of extra class time during which I can assess students.

     

     

    Give Students Instant Feedback

    Following each assessment, I still take the time to talk to my students about their reading. I compliment what they did well, and I talk about things I noticed what we will be working on during reading time to help them improve. While I’m trying to be speedy as I test, this follow-up conversation is too important to skip.

    While I initially felt stressed going into the school year knowing I had less time to test students more, I have realized that it is actually quite manageable once I streamlined my procedures. With about half my class done, I’m excited to get the rest finished and begin working on the goals that will help everyone become stronger in their reading.

    What are your favorite ways to make you informal reading assessments manageable? Please share in the comments. 

    Take care and thanks for reading!

    Genia

     

    If you asked any room full of teachers what their favorite part of teaching is, I’m going to guess “assessing my students in reading multiple times a year, then recording the data in four different places” is not going to be anyone’s answer. It is, however, the reality for many of us. We have a few changes in our district this year due to some new state legislation, known as the Third Grade Reading Law. All 29 of my students need to be assessed in a 1:1 setting, three times a year, with the first deadline approaching quickly. Previously, we only needed to do informal assessments twice a year and our testing window lasted eight weeks instead of four. This new legislation means being ultra-organized and focused during assessments is more important than ever. This week I’m happy to share some of the ways I have tweaked my assessment routine to make the most of the time I have as I test my way through my class list.

    Make a Schedule and Post It

    Scheduling who you will test on which day is crucial to fitting everyone in in a timely manner, but to push myself a bit further, I post the schedule on the classroom wall for all to see. This visible schedule stops students from asking when their turn is, but more importantly, it helps keep me accountable. When I kept the schedule tucked in my plan book, it was easy to assess fewer children then planned on any given day. When the schedule is posted, I make sure I stick to it so no one is disappointed and to avoid hearing, “Why didn’t you test me today? The schedule said you were going to test me today!”

    Location! Location! Location!

    Before you begin, choose an area in your classroom that will be your testing zone. Set up your space before the first student is assessed by gathering everything you will need and putting it within reach. For me, this includes the student text, running-record sheets, pencils, my phone or iPad, and data sheets. From experience, I find it’s ideal to have my student’s back to the class while I face them to lessen the distraction factor. This arrangement allows me to look up and survey the class while administering the assessment, giving the sometimes necessary “look” or hand signal to quiet students down.

     

    Do Not Disturb Signals

    Every interruption will lengthen the amount of time it takes you to finish your assessments. I explain to my students that when I am assessing their classmates, I am off limits unless the room is on fire or someone is bleeding profusely. I use a dollar store push-light to signal that I’m testing. When the light is on, stay away! If I see a student approaching, all I need to do is silently point to the light and they get the message. I’ve also seen teachers keep a stop sign up at their workstation to show that an interruption is not welcome at that time, another great strategy.

     

    Keep the Other Students Engaged

    Testing one student can take 15-20 minutes. This means my other 28 students need to be doing something else, Q-U-I-E-T-L-Y! My favorite time to get two to three students assessed is following our reading or writing mini-lessons, while the students are working independently. I’ve also given Front Row assignments on the iPad that keep my kids productive, but quiet. Think of the quietest, most engaging activity you know and have your students do that!

     

    Use One Sheet to Collect Data

    For each student we need to record the genre read, instructional level, number of self-corrections, comprehension, and fluency scores. I write these on one spreadsheet immediately following each test. Later, when everyone is tested, I type them in so I have an electronic Excel version that I can sort by reading levels. This helps me easily view and track my lower performing students who I need to provide data on for the state. The same sheet is used to record my scores in rounds two and three of the assessment.

     

    Get Creative With Your Time

    While I used to bristle at using time outside my workday to assess students, now I realize it makes my life less stressful in the long run. A couple of times each testing session, I arrive at school about 30 minutes earlier than usual and assess my students who are in morning latchkey. (Afternoon latchkey doesn’t work as well because parent pick-up times can be unpredictable.) Another easy way to eke out a little extra time is sharing recess duties with another teacher if your administration allows it. When my team teacher, Lisa, takes my kids out with hers, I have no problem getting a couple of volunteers who would like to stay in to do their reading assessment. An added bonus of using these times is that the classroom is quiet and distraction free!

     

    Videotape the Oral Reading

    Years ago I started videotaping my students during their oral running record. The recording helps serve as my timer to determine words per minute, but it also helps me take notes on each child’s reading behavior as I prepare to create individualized reading plans. As an added bonus, I use these videos as artifacts for my teacher evaluation to show student growth over time.

     

    Use Voice to Text

    I used to take five to ten minutes after each reading assessment to write detailed observations about what I noticed about the reader. Now I watch the videos mentioned above, then use voice to text on my phone to take notes much more quickly than I could type or write them by hand. By testing students back to back and getting rid of the ten minute buffer, I have more than three hours of extra class time during which I can assess students.

     

     

    Give Students Instant Feedback

    Following each assessment, I still take the time to talk to my students about their reading. I compliment what they did well, and I talk about things I noticed what we will be working on during reading time to help them improve. While I’m trying to be speedy as I test, this follow-up conversation is too important to skip.

    While I initially felt stressed going into the school year knowing I had less time to test students more, I have realized that it is actually quite manageable once I streamlined my procedures. With about half my class done, I’m excited to get the rest finished and begin working on the goals that will help everyone become stronger in their reading.

    What are your favorite ways to make you informal reading assessments manageable? Please share in the comments. 

    Take care and thanks for reading!

    Genia

     

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