Performance Assessment for Reading
When I first began
using literature to teach reading in my fourth-grade classroom, I encouraged
my students to choose their own books, read them independently, and periodically
write and talk to me about what they were reading. In time we developed
portfolios of their best work for reading and writing. Yet I had a nagging
feeling that some key element was missing from the assessment process.
I searched for a way to measure comprehension that would support the natural
act of reading and responding to a story and allow for diverse interpretations.
By reading professional literature, I discovered performance assessments.
Here's the process I use now.
The performance assessment
I use for reading comprehension two or three times a year requires a common
reading and writing task for the entire class. The first step is to select
a text that your students have not read a good story with a significant
theme appropriate for your grade level, a clearly identifiable problem and
resolution, well-developed characters, and high interest for your students.
Once you have selected
a text, think about designing a prompt or writing task to
which students can respond in writing. If you teach primary children, encourage
the use of invented spellings or approximations to help them freely express
their ideas. Create a task that gets students to really think about the
story. Then, along with sheets of lined paper on which they will write their
final ideas, provide students with prewriting organizers such as webs, maps,
and Venn diagrams, or lists of questions so students can make notes about
their ideas. It's also a good idea to allow plenty of time perhaps
two class periods for students to complete the performance assessment.
Here are some sample writing prompts.
- For primary students:
Think about how you would tell a friend this story. Use a story map
outline to help you remember all the important parts of a story. Then
write about the story on lined paper.
- For middle and
upper elementary students: Characters, like people in real life, often
change as a result of events. First use your planning sheets to make
what the character was like at the beginning of the story,
what the character was like at the end of the story, and
the events and people that led the character to change.
Now use lined paper to write about how the character changed.
- For students in
any grade: Write about an important problem in the story. Tell why it
is important and how it was solved. First, make notes on the planning
sheet. Then, once you've organized your thoughts, write about the story
on lined paper.
With Scoring Rubrics
To evaluate students'
performance assessments, you need to rely on your own impressions of each
child's performance and on a rubric a table with numerical ratings
and explanations of the characteristics of each number on the rating scale.
For example, the rubric I use provides a scale of
03 to evaluate children's writings about a story problem.
With practice, you
will find that scoring is a quick and reliable task, but there are a few
things you should know about the process. When reading a student's response,
refer to the rubric frequently. Ask yourself which descriptions best match
the student's work, but keep in mind that there is some variation. For
example, some papers might be a high 3, others a middle 3, and some a
low 3. For this reason, you may wish to use pluses or minuses to make
system you use, focus only on the criteria in the rubric and avoid comparing
students' papers. When in doubt, refer to the child's prewriting organizer.
Younger children may write more on an organizer than on a blank sheet
because it is a more directed task.
Notice that the rubric
focuses on three important features you can modify to evaluate a wide variety
of written responses in just about any curriculum area. Whatever rubric
you develop, be sure to explain the criteria to your students before they
begin to write. Knowing your expectations in advance will help most students
produce better work.
3 The written
response is complete. It indicates a very good understanding of the story
and its problem, and provides accurate, and relevant details, information,
and supportive reasoning.
2 The response
is partial and indicates a fairly good understanding of the story. Although
the information selected includes mostly accurate details and ideas, some
may be irrelevant or unrelated to the story's problem.
1 The response
is fragmentary and indicates only minimal understanding of the story's
problem. It includes mainly random details and irrelevant information.
0 There is
little or no response. Inaccurate and irrelevant details and ideas indicate
a serious misunderstanding of the story.
Reading: Assessing Social Studies
assessments in social studies or any subject area for that matter
is a process much like the one I described for reading comprehension.
Look for interesting nonfiction stories and articles that relate to your
students' studies in history and social studies. (Cobblestone,
Faces, and Scholastic News magazines are three good story
resources.) Then design a prewriting organizer and a writing prompt that
challenges students to think in-depth about the subject. Create a rubric
for scoring the writing.
For example, as part
of a study of immigration, sixth graders read "The Letters of Rosie O'Brien,
a Convict in New South Wales" (Cobblestone, April and May 1987).
On one side of the planning sheet, students listed words and phrases that
they felt described Rosie. On the other side of the sheet they provided
evidence from the story that backed up their opinions. The students were
then asked to use their knowledge of Rosie's character to write a letter
from Rosie to her sister.
Adele Fiderer has extensive experience
as a classroom teacher and language arts developer. She is the author
of Teaching Writing: A Workshop Approach and Practical Assessments
for Literature-Based Reading Classrooms (both published by Scholastic
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