Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Using Quick Assessments to Help Form Small Groups

Years ago, I met Jennifer Serravallo through the pages of her book, Conferring With Readers which gave me new insights into conferring.  It also helped me coach other teachers on their own conferring.  I’ve attended many of Jen’s workshop sessions at Teachers College over the years on conferring and small groups so I was thrilled when I heard she was writing a new book on Teaching Reading in Small Groups.  Of course I bought it as soon as it came out last year and tagged parts with multiple post-its and notes.  This year, our school is focusing on strengthening our small group instruction across grades and subjects and are reading Teaching Reading in Small Groups as a school book club.  So when I saw that Jen Serravallo was presenting a session at the TC Saturday Reunion titled:  Using Quick Assessments to be sure our small group work in reading has traction, I added it to my list of sessions! 
In addition to her two professional books, Jen Serravallo recently published  Independent Reading Assessment which is a new assessment resource through Scholastic. 

During this session, Jen talked about the many different forms of assessments that can be more powerful and informative than formative pencil and paper tests.
Some of the assessment examples she talked about are:
·        Reading logs
·        Engagement Inventory
·        Writing about reading (post-its and readers notebooks)
·        Conversations (partners, whole class, book clubs)
·        Comprehension continuums

Importance of Reading Logs:
Both teachers and students need to ask questions about the logs and notice patterns so they are purposeful, inform instruction, and are reflective tools.  Some possible questions and noticings are:
·    What is it about this series or author that you like so much?
·    Hmmm…I’m noticing that you are reading more when you are home than in school. Why do you think this is?

Engagement Inventory:
Jen developed this idea when she realized one day that her students were quiet during reading workshop, but doing everything they could to avoid reading.  She created an engagement inventory to document her observations of what kids were doing in 10 minute increments.  The engagement inventory is a class list document with 10 minute increments across the top and an abbreviation note-taking key on the bottom.  For example:
·   a check mark = engaged
·   W = looking out window
·   T = looking at teacher
·   NB = writing in notebook or on post-its
I began using this inventory in my classroom when I read about it in her book, Teaching Reading in Small Groups and it is very informative! Once you notice and make note of the avoidance behaviors, you can create and pull small groups to teach them strategies that can help strengthen their stamina and engagement as readers. 

Having Students Create Portfolio Pages of Post-its from Read Aloud:
One of Jen’s ideas is to have students create a portfolio page of post-its for each marking period to show their individual comprehension continuum and growth in specific comprehension skills.  Three times a year (beginning, middle, end of year), give students four specific prompts to jot down their thinking while you are reading aloud.  They jot down their thinking on individual post-its that you will collect at the end of the read aloud. 
Some comprehension skills that you can assess through the prompts are:
·    Visualization (Imagine what the character’s home is like and describe it OR Describe this scene using all of your senses)
·    Developing theories about characters (Describe what kind of person _____is OR What’s an idea you are having about _____)
·    Determining Themes/Lessons (Even though we aren’t at the end of the story, jot down what you are thinking so far about the theme/lesson/author’s message that you are learning)
·    Making Connections (What does this story remind you of?)
·    Questioning (What are you wondering right now?)
·    Predictions (Based on what you know about the character so far, what do you think s/he will do next or how will they react?)
·    Synthesis (Now that we finished the story, what are you left thinking about the characters? OR How has_____changed from the beginning to the end of this book? )
·    Empathy (Put yourself in the characters shoes and explain how s/he is feeling right now)
·    Interpretation (Why do you think the character acted or reacted in this way? What’s motivating or causing their behavior/actions? OR What is the story really about? )

After you collect all the students’ post-its, you can sort them into three piles for each skill based on their level (low, medium, high level of understanding of the skill).  So if you ask four prompts, you will have three piles of post-its for each of those prompts.  Once you have your sorted piles, you can begin to form small groups based on the similar needs you notice for each skill.  My next couple of posts will talk more about small groups and what to do next with these piles so stay tuned! J

When you are finished sorting and forming the small groups, you can give the post-its back to the students so they can tape the four post-its onto a sheet of paper with the title of the book, date, and each post-it labeled with the skill (i.e. prediction, question, theory, etc.).  These papers go into their reading portfolios and by the end of the year, you will have three examples to help see the students’ growth in comprehension skills. 

Happy Reading! :)

1 comment:

  1. Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhh! This is so good!

    Engagement Inventory! Excellent idea!

    Thank you for sharing all of this!