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classroom every day. Each time I teach a lesson, I am informally assessing whether or not the students comprehend the material well enough to move on to the next day’s lessons. Of course, in my classroom there will be both informal and formal assessing, but I believe that assessment should drive instruction. Based off of assessing the students, I should know what I need to teach or reteach the following day, which mostly seems to be through informal assessment. However, aside from the standardized tests I must administer, I want formal assessment to be as meaningful to the students as possible and want to incorporate short answer and essays into my assessments whenever possible so students can demonstrate their knowledge instead of playing a guessing game with answer choices. Sadly, it seems that in our society, test scores are hyped up and emphasized more than thorough content knowledge. However, the reason assessment is given is to evaluate whether or not students are comprehending the material effectively and whether or not we are doing our jobs as teachers to adequately prepare them for the next step. The process involved in assessing the students is teaching the skill, giving the students multiples modalities and opportunities to practice and use the skill, then assessing whether or not they are competent when it comes to applying the skill. For example, if I were to teach multiplication, I would demonstrate the skill. Then I would give the students multiple chances to use that knowledge, i.e. games, sheets, flashcards. Then I would assess their knowledge: multiplication time tests or oral tests to see if they have been practicing. Every time I get in front of a group of students, I informally assess them by asking them questions in which they all respond; I take a few responses, or give them a short task to complete to see if they comprehended what I taught. It is incredibly important to informally assess students because it helps me know whether or not they are ready for me to move on to the next lesson or if I need to review or explicitly reteach what they do not understand. Informal assessment drives my instruction. The state test used for third grade is the ISAT. The issues surrounding this test is that in third grade, though it seems to be discouraged by almost every educator, teachers feel that they must teach for this test. ISAT is a norm-referenced test (Borich), but students are not being compared to their classmates, they are being compared to a norm set by the state or nation agency. It does not really help teachers or students to determine what the students need to know and where they need more practice. A better test for teachers to use would be a criterionreferenced test (Borich) because it helps the teacher determine whether or not the students need more instruction or an alternative instructional strategy. I wish there were only criterionreferenced testing in school. Teachers should be aware that ISAT is really nothing more than stressful and that every teacher feels the ISAT time crunch and whether or not they have adequately prepared their students for the multiple tasks the test requires them to demonstrate thorough knowledge on. However, teachers should focus on the task, not their feelings about it (Borich).
As mentioned earlier, I will determine my student’s strengths mostly by informal assessment. However, in math, social studies, and reading comprehension there will be formal assessment to see if the students are competent in our unit areas. All of these tests will be graded by me and recorded in my grade book. Warm-up worksheets and extra practice will be graded, but students will receive full credit if I can see they tried their hardest, even if they did not answer every item correctly. However, no matter if I am assessing formally or informally, Brenda Weaver states, “The most effective teaching is based on identifying performance objectives, instructing according to these objectives, and then assessing these performance objectives. Moreover, for any objectives not attained, intervention activities to re-teach these objectives are necessary (Weaver).” Formal assessment will only be given when students have had multiple opportunities to demonstrate and practice their newly learned skills. Homework is especially important for success at this age because as a teacher I can see if the students are paying attention during the day and able to apply what they learn in school at home, where there is not a teacher to directly guide them through their work. There may be parental involvement, which is greatly encouraged, but I will still be able to tell if the students’ work at home matches their work at school and assess their skills accordingly. For pretty big homework assignments, I will require a parent or guardian signature that the child completed the task, mostly on their own. Also to aid this, I will evaluate their work in school to see if it matches how they are completing their homework. As Carol Gioia mentioned in her article, “Why Teacher’s Give Homework,” the importance of giving homework is that there is not always enough class time for a comprehensive review of all the material. Sometimes, students need to do homework to prepare for the next day’s lesson when time does not allow for this. Students also need to practice newly learned knowledge and the teacher can better judge what has been comprehended by her or his teaching methods (Gioia, 2008). Third grade is the Gumby year where students need to become responsible for their learning and transition into upper elementary. This is the transitional year where students move from learning to read to reading to learn. Homework will especially help perfect this skill. Communication with parents will also be formal and informal. I plan on walking my students out of the door every day and meeting their parents. I will have an open door policy where parents can contact me whenever and feel free to come into the classroom and watch my teaching if it will help them aid their child at home, and schedule a conference with me whenever they need one. My phone number and email will be on every weekly newsletter so parents can always contact me. However, there will be formal communication when the situation calls for it, such as an incident report or a parent-teacher conference. I also plan on conducting weekly conferences with the students during work periods to assess how they think they are doing and either giving them supplemental material to extend their learning or supportive material to help reinforce their learning, depending on their needs. I will work hard to make students feel as though they can come talk to me whenever they need to about their classroom and academic concerns. An important aspect of student learning is self-directed learning. This requires some independence of the student from the teacher in order to acquire higher-order thinking skills and actively engaging the students in the learning process. Students construct their own understanding and meaning to help them reason, problem solve, and think critically about the content (Borich). I will facilitate the development of students’ self-directed learning by providing
information on how and when to use mental strategies for learning, explicitly illustrate how to use these strategies and think through real world problems, encourage my students to become actively involved in the subject matter by going beyond the information given, and gradually shifting the responsibility of learning to my students through practice exercises, question and answer dialogues, and/or engaging discussions with higher order thinking (Borich). Via these mediums, students will be encouraged to become accurate assessors and evaluators of their progress. Assessment will have many forms in my classroom and always drive my instruction.
Some helpful websites and resources for Assessment (for parents, students, and teachers) are: 1. Borich, G. Effect Teaching Methods Research-based Practice. 7th. Boston: Pearson Education, Inc., 2011. 2. Gioia, C. (2008, April 1). Why teachers give homework. Retrieved from http://www.helium.com/items/966021-why-teachers-give-homework 3. Weaver, B. (n.d.). Formal versus informal assessments. Retrieved from http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/article/formal-versus-informal-assessment 4. ISAT facts 5. Illinois Interactive Report Card
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