The Book Fort
Instructional Ideas for Immediate Implementation
Welcome to The Book Fort! Vol. 1 Issue 14
Missed previous issues? Find them below:
Week Fourteen: Assessing Higher-Order Thinking
Since I am off to #NCTE17 in St. Louis this week to spread some #wonder with my fellow Wonderopolis Ambassadors, I can’t help but think about the importance of creativity and innovation in education. I was reminded that we are responsible for teaching the whole child, not just the parts that bubble in answers or write to address prompts. The first principal once told me that parents send the best they’ve got to us everyday and it is our jobs to pick up the slack if needed, to treat their “best” with love and respect.
That message is mirrored in Susan M. Brookhart’s How to Assess Higher-Order Thinking Skills in Your Classroom (2010). Another essential professional text published by ASCD, this short book outlines practical ways to assess some of the skills that do not explicitly show up on standardized tests, but rather skills that students needs to be successful in post-secondary endeavors as human beings. This includes multi-step projects, problem-solving, critical thinking, analysis, and evaluation, all things students do in well-designed project or problem-based learning, which is showing up more and more in schools. I hope you’ll find my review useful.
Brookhart, S.M. (2010). How to assess higher-order thinking skills in your classroom. Alexandria, VA, ASCD.
Reading Strategy: Assessing Multiple Levels of Thinking
In Chapter 1, Brookhart reminds us that we should never, ever shortchange students, particularly those at the lowest and highest ends of achievement and demonstrated ability, by only giving them questions that challenge them to think at one level. To truly know what students can do and how they think, we must design a variety of tasks and questions. I say this in every Advanced Placement training I do: if we never ask students to think critically, to do things that they feel are difficult and challenging, how will we know if they can do them? This most certainly applies to reading assessment. Keep in mind that you wouldn’t necessarily give students all three types in one sitting, but rather expose them to all three at various points in the unit or series of lessons.
Brookhart includes a sample assessment that demands various levels of thinking from students (28), but allows them to express this in different ways. Each demands, then, different assessment criteria from the teacher as well. An adapted version is shown below.
Writing Strategy: Assessing Analysis in Argument Writing
One of the best reminders I return to, both as a teacher and facilitator, is we must be clear from the beginning about what we expect to see in a student’s writing, and we don’t have to assess the whole piece of writing every, single time we read an essay. This is echoed in Chapter 2 when Brookhart speaks to the assessment of analytical thinking through writing. She reminds us that students must first assess the analytical writing of others themselves using the criteria they will be assessed on in their own writing later; then, they must do the analysis themselves. That is how we will know if they’ve demonstrated the skill. We cannot stop at multiple choice, folks, we just can’t.
Brookhart gives a short list of questions (47) students should use to assess analytical arguments of others, which ultimately become their own assessment questions. An adapted version is reproduced below.
Caution: Don't Miss the Point
Assessment of Creativity
In the final chapter, Brookhart recommends the following when assessing creativity:
- Construct an on-going list of indicators of creativity as it is demonstrated in your class (132-133)
- Revise grading schemes and rubrics that trivialize creativity (138-139) by providing specific indicators for the demonstration of it (i.e. "colorful and appealing to the eye" instead of "creative").
- Define creativity for each unique assessment as it relates to the project or assignment as a whole (139); explain what creativity might look and sound like so students understand how they might demonstrate it.
Classroom Tool of the Week
Cult of Pedagogy
What Kids are Reading
Hank Zipzer Series by Henry Winkler and Lin Oliver
4th grade #SiglerStar Farrah Z. enjoys reading the Hank Zipzer books, she says, because "despite his learning differences, he always finds a way to overcome the problems he faces." Sounds like those who like the very popular Wonder by R.J. Palacio will love these, too! Follow the very famous author @hwinkler4real
Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard
Cassandra, student at Olmsted South Middle School, recommends Red Queen. She said, "The book is based off of a world divided by whether you have red or silver blood. People have the abilities to control." If you like Game of Thrones or similar series, this one is for you! Follow the author on Twitter @VictoriaAveyard
The Third Twin by CJ Omololu