Assessing Week Two

Dictionary.com defines “assessment” as “the evaluation or estimation of the nature, quality, or ability of someone or something.” In the public school teaching life, assessment was one of the most challenging parts of the work. The tools that teachers were to use and the variables we were to measure were usually defined for us. Read this passage at the start of the year, answer these questions in writing to show your understanding of the reading, solve this math problem and show your work. Sometimes the timeline for the assessments was even prescribed. Teacher Jodi still remembers how many of her readers’ abilities dipped when our second district reading assessment happened to occur during the first snowfall of the year.
Having the ability to define our own assessment schedule and parameters has transformed assessment into a truly rewarding part of our day. This week was about assessing the students’ “nature, quality, and ability,” and both the process and the results have held some amazing discoveries.
Being able to watch students work with Teachers Rhonda and Elaina for art and music allowed us to see aspects of the students that we might otherwise have overlooked. How are students managing frustration? Look at the focus and concentration; how can we help transfer that to other parts of the day?
When recording in their wonder journals, who relies mostly on pictures and who is using letters and words to label and expand their ideas? Who has a broad variety of wonders and whose interests are more focused? Who loves letting their mind wander during this time and who is eager to know, “are we ever going to answer these wonderings?”
While one teacher made notes of independent work habits or cooperation during games or partner work, one of us was assessing reading and math skills – through games or through one-on-one reading of a student-selected text. The selection of a book told so many valuable pieces of information that we never would have gotten from a teacher-selected passage. It also provided us a range for our assessment data – from their ability with less engaging reading like instructions or labels around the room to more engaging reading of an enjoyed story. By having students respond to stories they listened to, we assessed comprehension skills at a text level higher than what they may be able to decode independently. It gave us a truer assessment of their abilities as reader-thinkers. Math games revealed skills outside of the context of “math,” hopefully minimizing some of the math anxiety that can impact kids.
With these new insights about traditional academic skills and attitudes and habits of learners, we planned eagerly for the upcoming week. We will be looking at communication and inference. We look forward to another week!
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Monday/Thursday addendum
Our full time kids are working on critical thinking skills in the context of mathematical puzzles like Sudoku and Ken-Ken. It was impressive to see the kids’ thinking skills as they transferred strategies from the sample we work together to the independent practice.
We also continued our design challenge. The principles of the process are inspired by the D.School at Stanford and the curriculum designed by the Cockrell School of Engineering. Students focused on meeting the needs and wants of our “client,” Gus the Mouse. They interviewed Gus and used information gained from the interviews to help them redesign their chair designs.
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The kids are also developing some teaching and presenting skills. We talked about how to teach a game to someone and practiced those skills before introducing card games to the rest of the class on Friday. The budding teachers did a fine job explaining, demonstrating, and answering questions.

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