Introduction to Assessment A comprehensive approach to teaching reading helps teachers meet the diverse and multiple needs of young readers in their classrooms. No one method or model of reading will work for all children; therefore, a multi-method approach has the potential to address the needs and interests of more children. Young readers benefit both from being immersed in good literature and attending to the explicit teaching of both word skills and reading strategies. They need to be skilled in using multiple cue sources while comprehending text to be effective readers. Finally, in order for teachers to be reflective and engage in informed practice, they must balance teaching and assessment in their classroom. An approach to reading that is balanced, flexible, and resourceful provides an important framework to guide the work of reflective reading teachers working in diverse contexts. The teaching of reading involves the careful teaching of complex skills. These skills are seldom ends in themselves. At the heart of primary teaching should be a broad and enriching learning experience for children, promoting control, creativity, and pleasure in the use of language and the reading of text. Informed practices in reading and language experiences provide children with a context for the growth of their imagination and an opening for inquiry, reflection, and critical literacy awareness that will benefit all areas of schooling. Reflection, an essential component of informed practice, is ongoing. In the Teaching Learning Cycle (see Figure 1), teachers regularly think about why they do what they do in the literacy classroom as they go about their daily work. It is important, therefore, for teachers to come to know the reading process, the literate classroom, and how the graphic world of the children they teach supports meaningful literacy development. With these understandings, teachers maximize the benefits of the Teaching Learning Cycle. They engage in appropriate activities that will help them assess the children’s reading needs and teach with those needs in mind.. Once this information has been collected, teachers can refer to standards, benchmarks, curriculum frameworks, and what they know about reading to interpret assessment information. Teachers then systematically plan for reading experiences that meets the needs of the children while addressing the expectations of the school. This includes attending to resources in the classroom, as well as planning explicit instruction. As part of the Teaching Learning Cycle, teachers engaged in reflective practice question their assumptions about reading while building their background knowledge in early reading literacy. Figure 1. (needs to be sited??)Teaching Learning Cycle ASSESS TEACH REFLECT PLAN Teacher Education and Reading Instruction and Assessment There are many ways teachers can find out about the reading habits of the children they teach. Most importantly, teachers need to build into their reading plan time to teach and record information for each reader in a systematic way. This means organizing activities such that the teacher can meet with the whole class, small groups, and individual readers at different times during class. Classroom assessment activities are good teaching and learning activities. During teaching activities, assessment most often occurs simultaneously as an ongoing process of gathering, recording, and interpreting information on students from multiple perspectives and sources. It informs the teacher about student learning. This information is used to support instruction and ultimately to serve the needs of each child. An important aspect of assessment, therefore, includes reflection as thoughtful inquiry in which assessment and teaching/learning inform and are informed by each other. There are several aspects that influence the integration of teaching/learning and assessment. Time is a necessary condition for good teaching. Teachers need time built into their teaching situation to record, organize, and make use of assessment information in their daily teaching plans. Traditionally, the main method of classroom assessment has been teacher observation, recording information on students’ reading behaviors using anecdotal records and/or data collection forms. Focused observation on one or two students per day seems to be most effective. Most importantly, though, is for teachers to continually develop their understandings of what it means to be an early reader. There are multiple ways to collect diagnostic (used to identify specific difficulties children are having), formative (used to track over time what readers can and cannot yet do as they develop), and summative (collected at certain end points, e.g., grade 1 “final” test) information about early readers. Returning to the Latin roots of assessment, assidere (to sit by), and talking with children about reading sometimes through scheduled conferencing, provides important information for the teacher. As well, using reading folders with collections of student work is a valuable resource to find out about the needs and interests of early readers. In particular, the use of an assessment notebook in which the teacher records observations about the oral reading and strategies used is essential for improving practices. These methods of teaching and systematically recording student information help teachers learn about what the early reader can and have the potential to do. Teachers use that information to improve the quality of literary experiences of the children in their care. Reflection, interpretation, alignment, questions, and decisions are involved in making sense of the information. Student information should be interpreted in reference to standards and curriculum frameworks where available and within the contexts of teaching and learning. All document sources should contribute to supporting the needs and interests of the child. Teachers inquiring into their practices want to find out what is working (and why) and what is not (and why). Once teachers have made sense of assessment information, it should guide their planning and teaching. Some Guiding Principles About Assessment Assessment is essential for the successful implementation of good literacy instruction. Assessment is an integral part of the Teaching Learning Cycle. Assessment informs teaching. Assessment tells us what students can do and what they need to learn to do next. Assessment needs to be focused on individual students. Assessment needs to be ongoing. Even with larger classes, an observant teacher will come to know, through daily interaction and observation, the children who are keen and confident, those who take part quietly yet effectively, and those who are struggling in reading and writing. By observing and recording observations of students at work and by using assessments such as running records, phoneme awareness, and alphabet recognition , a teacher will have the information that is needed to: Assess individual student progress. Evaluate the classroom program. Report on progress to administrators. Report on progress to parents. Discuss progress with the students.
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