Sunday, November 27, 2016

A Special Note About Calkins' Assessments

In preparation for the November visit, teachers were asked to administer the post writing assessment to their students at the end of the narrative unit.  We observed a pattern we would like to share.  

Across great levels, students' work in class appeared better than the work on their assessment piece of writing.  While we recognized the element of time prevented students from going back and revisiting pieces, we came to several conclusions.  Blake Reidy, 3rd grade teacher, was instrumental in helping us with the discussion around assessment.

  1.  How the writing assessment is presented to students is key.  While teachers want to make students aware they are being assessed, they should be cautious about putting too much emphasis on the assessment, so it is not viewed as a test. 
  2. Students' work should be considered when grading them for proficiency - not the assessment alone.  Student journals are a great source for checking to see if the student is carrying over what they have learned and applying it to their every day writing.
  3. Some of the instruction presented during the units of study, may not be "learned" to the level of proficiency during the unit.  Students' level of owning and generalizing what they learn to different writing tasks takes time.  To stop and focus all instruction on forms of punctuation would be to derail the writing process.  Students will acquire writing strategies as you guide them through the different genres.
There is a parallel between students' reading and writing acquisition.  In reading, students build a self -extending system, early on.  This is like a skeletal framework of the basic process.  As the teacher guides them through different types and levels of reading, students learn how to apply their understandings to the changing texts.  Writing is similar, in that students build the framework and then are guided by teachers through the types and levels of writing.  In both instances, basic strategies and understanding must be revisited and revised in order to meet the challenges presented by each new text - written or read.  The cursive nature of both processes means we will often revisit - for example - the use of a period, the choice of a word, the amount of type of details.  Consequently, we will need to follow the student, based on teacher observation.  This is not a linear process and challenges to reflect often on each learner. 

Thank you one and all for your hard work.  Your students are lucky to have such a dedicated staff.   

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