Formatively Assessing the 4th
Happy Fourth of July! As far as holidays are concerned, I have always had a special place in my heart for the 4th. As a child, I can vividly remember riding my bike decorated with gaudy red, white, and blue ribbon alongside my brothers and sisters in the neighborhood parade. We rode through the streets, behind the floats, weaving in and out of the other 6, 7, and 8 year-olds, all valiantly attempting not to crash into each other. We checked in on each other to make sure that each of us was keeping up with the pack. We pedaled along looking for people we knew along the parade route until we ended up at Rosemont Park where we hoped our names would be announced for the $25 prize for the bike division. Occasionally, we would win (with seven kids and countless cousins entering the parade, the odds were stacked in our favor), but somehow never saw a dime of that money… hmm… must have been used for reimbursement for the pinwheels and scotch tape.
After the parade, it was time for free hot dogs and root beer at the park. We worked our way up the line to see if we could get at least two hot dogs and a can of root beer. Then we would meet in some shade to see how each of us made out. We circulated around the park with friends, watched the magician, and made our way to the playground. After a few hours, my siblings and I would check in on each other again to see how we were feeling, and if it was time to head to my grandparents for a barbecue, roasted marshmallows, and of course fireworks… fireworks that my grandfather had been holding onto since Christmas... We each got a few sparklers to write our names in the air. Again, we checked in on each other to see which of us had used up all of the sparklers. At the end of the night, we didn’t have to talk about the day we had… When we checked in with each other we could tell if the hills were too difficult while we were pedaling. I could tell if my sister was still hungry, and needed to get another hot dog, or if my brother needed help across the monkey bars. We didn’t need a summative evaluation of the day after the nighttime fireworks. We were able to assess our day based on the times we checked in on each other.
Let’s not kid ourselves… We teach in an age of assessment and accountability. That is not going away, but we shouldn’t need the PSSA scores, MAPS, or Everyday Math unit tests to tell us what our students need. Should we use this data to help drive our instruction? ABSOLUTELY! Is it too late once the students are assessed? No. We need to remediate and reassess… but we shouldn’t wait until after the assessment or after the fireworks show finale to determine how well everyone is doing.
We work hard as educators. As a teacher I worked hard to develop my craft of teaching as you all do, but there was a point in my career when I realized that I needed to change my approach. My focus needed to be on the learning, not the teaching. “When we focus on learning rather than teaching, it’s impossible for kids not to be the main focus.”
Legendary basketball coach John Wooden suggests, “You haven’t taught until they have learned.” If the students couldn’t demonstrate their learning, had I really taught them? Formative assessment is the most effective way to know which students are learning, which students are stuck and where, and which students just aren’t getting it at all. It is information for us as teachers, but just as importantly, it is information students can use to achieve more and perform at higher levels.
If only some students are learning, re-teach. If you see that they’ve got it mastered, move on. Pace yourself to meet students’ needs and try to make sure that everything you do in every lesson is targeting that end goal of mastery. Formative assessment is a clear but subtle picture of what’s going on with our students. I often joke that PSSAs are sort of postmortem. We use that data to help make our overall approach, programming and instruction better. We need formative assessments to focus on student learning rather than focus on our teaching.
We can assess formatively and deliberately in a number of ways such as, listening to class discussions, glancing over a student’s shoulder as he or she completes an in-class assignment, asking three exit questions, posing anticipatory sets of questions, pre-assessing, using a thumbs up/thumbs down, having students write answers on whiteboards, designing Study island Assessments, taking guided reading notes... The teacher glances around the room, tallies the feedback, and makes a quick expert judgment- Move onto the next idea, go back and do more instruction, or devote additional time to practice.
Have a great 4th of July! Feel free to give the fireworks show a grade, but assessing your day won’t be necessary as you look at the smiles on the faces of your friends and family.
Congratulations to Meg Meyers and Ryne Adolph for earning a contract for this year! They have always been a big part of Sabold. We are happy to solidify that.
Congratulations, and we are sad to see you go, Ivy! Ivy will be joining the ETR team next fall. We are excited that she will still be part of Springfield School District, but sad she is leaving Sabold. Don't be a stranger!
We have LOTS to talk about for next year, and I am excited to do that with all of you. Helping to facilitate and increase communication for next year will be the 2014-2015 Team Leaders:
Grade 2: Joan Bollinger
Grade 3: Monica VonTanhausen
Grade 4: Kim DiBiasi
Grade 5: Sandy Connor
Specials: Argie Fafalios
Learning Support: Meg Meyers