As part of the assessment program of our division, three times each year I have to complete a reading and writing continuum for each student in my class. Often used poorly in classrooms and abused by teachers, I have struggled with these myself. Last year I decided to make a change – I decided to have my students fill them out before I did.
These assessments are simply photocopied on large pieces of paper. We have a working copy in our classrooms that we use throughout the year. As the close of the school year approaches in June, we are supposed to complete them one final time and then transfer our data to a final copy that is kept in the student’s cumulative file in the office.
After completing this process several times, I decided that it was nonsensical for me to be parsing student skills in these ways without their input – so I decided to involve them. I took the parts of both the reading that writing continuum that usually involved my students and attempted to turn some of the descriptors into kid friendly language. I then made theses two assessments into google docs templates. Doing this, my students were able to search for them, access their own copies and rename them. I simply asked them to name them like this “Joan’s Writing Standards.” This way, when both sets of standards were completed and shared with me, I was able to quickly scan through my docs files and find who I was looking for.
So after locating the templates online and renaming them, I had my students work do a self assessment of their own reading and writing skills. It took my students approximately 40 minutes to complete each of these sets of standards.
This was an interesting process. The first thing I noticed is that many of my students were either interested or worried about being involved in this process. They knew this was a required divisional assessment so they wanted to “look their best.” We talked long and hard instead about being honest and open. About being fair to themselves, but also open about their weaknesses. I stressed the fact that this was not a “right or wrong” kind of assessment. It was a continuum that they were making progress along. In the end, it was my impression that most of my students were able to complete this fairly well.
I think that this entire process needs revision and work. I need to do a better job making sure that the criteria are in kid friendly language and that students understand what the descriptors mean. I also need to ensure that students become more familiar with parsing their skills into subsets like these. To them, reading and writing are simple monoliths – they read, and they write. Helping them see their success as a combination of these skills might help them to set goals for improvement for themselves. Have to see second term how this goes.
Oh, and by the way, I also do this with the work skills / personal development section of my report card. I have the students reflect on their progress and then I use their data, along with mine as I complete this first section of their reports.
As always, your thoughts about this process or any suggestions you might have about how to make these forms more user friendly are welcome. If you can use these continua in any way, please feel free to take and remix.