It’s back-to-school time! Classroom organization is ready and routines are established. Now it’s time to start assessments, and that is not always an easy undertaking. First, assessment takes significant prep work: you have to print materials, note students’ prior level, set each student up in your data management system, and then assess every student in a reasonable amount of time while staying organized and keeping track of all materials and results! It’s a lot of work. It can be easy to get caught up in the logistics and lose sight of the main reason why we assess our students. So let’s take a step back and kick off the new school year thinking about the power and purpose of assessment.
“Without a system of gaining information about each reader, you will be teaching without the children.” ~Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell
Some teachers might view assessment as “separate” from instruction, which can make it a dreaded task or an annoying interruption. But if your assessments are effective, instruction can be much more effective—even powerful. Using assessment to inform your teaching has highly positive outcomes. You’re able to:
- Understand the strengths and needs of individual students
- Determine your next teaching moves and make smart instructional decisions
- Monitor students’ growing control of literacy behaviors and understandings
- Accurately report students’ progress to parents and administrators.
“Assessment allows you to see the results of your teaching and make valid judgments about what students have learned to do as readers and writers, what they need to learn to do next, and what teaching moves will support them. In short, assessment makes evidence-based, student centered, responsive teaching possible,” (Fountas and Pinnell 2018).
Your observations of students’ literacy behavior are essential to the teaching process. You collect data for many purposes, but the most important reason is to inform teaching in a way that will improve students’ abilities. Fountas and Pinnell recommend two types of standardized assessment that are essential for effective teaching:
- Interval Assessment: assess to inform the direction of instruction (as you would when using the Benchmark Assessment System)
- Continuous Assessment: monitor student progress and analyze the effects of teaching (as you would by taking reading records during guided reading using the Fountas & Pinnell Classroom™ Guided Reading Collection)
It is critically important that these two types of assessment are used in conjunction with one another. Teachers cannot teach effectively without gathering information about each learner. Teaching without continual and interval assessment is akin to “teaching without the children.”
“Through systematic observations and accurate record-keeping, you will have a continuous flow of reliable information about students’ progress as literacy learners. The decisions you make based on the data will be the heartbeat of your responsive teaching,” (Fountas and Pinnell, 2018).
~The Fountas & Pinnell Literacy™ Team
Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell. 2018. Fountas & Pinnell Classroom™ System Guide. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
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