The way in which a teacher assesses student writing can either aid in the development of writing confidence or hinder that confidence development in students. As a college student, it has been difficult for me to get papers and projects back, with red ink on every page. I know over the past 4 years I have become a stronger writer, however I have lost much confidence in the task. Tompkins (2012) helped me to realize that there are many modes of assessing writing, and formal assessment of the final product is only one of them.
Since my students are so young, and since I am teaching in a Day Care facility, I find ‘formal grading’ to be intimidating for me. I worry that since students are with me half day and with their school district kindergarten teacher the other half of the day, that parents expect our half day to be relaxing, unstructured, playtime. Since it does not meet those expectations, I worry about grading my students as a teacher would typically. Although I have these anticipations, I also know I need some sort of assessment for myself as an educator to know where my students started, what they have learned, and where we need to go next. Therefore, I have been using many informal modes of assessment to help me gain the information I need, without the ‘typical’ report card number grades.
Informal monitoring of writing can play a large role in younger students writing tasks. Through observing alone, I gain a better sense of what my students are learning and how exactly they are growing. Although this assessment may be subjective, as long as the teacher creates careful, thoughtful, detailed notes of observations it is extremely meaningful. Along with observing, I often find myself informally conferencing with my students. Oftentimes, this is an on-the-spot conference, that was not planned and students did not prepare for. Through these conferences I am able to informally visit each student at their own desk and see how their writing is progressing. There is no intimidation factor with this mode of conferencing since I spend a short time with each student, yet I still gain a better understanding of what that child is working on and what they may need facilitated.
I also find myself gathering and reviewing writing samples. Even though we have not begun writing stories, over the past 5 weeks of school I have been able to gather written sentences, pictures with descriptions, and handwriting my students have been working on. Gathering all of these works in progress is a way for me to informally monitor student work, as well as for students to monitor their own work and successes!
When reading Tompkin’s (2012) work this week, I was trying to gather modes of assessment that would work for me in my classroom. The use of checklists stood out to me. I am currently not using them in my room, yet I think they would benefit both my students as well as me. The use of a checklist could help students understand exactly what I am looking for in their writing task, focus both student and teacher attention during the writing and assessing processes, and help students gain a better understanding of a certain piece of writing. For example, this past week my students were studying days of the week, and completed a writing task for me. The task included writing a sentence such as “On Wednesdays, I go to swimming practice”. Students were asked to think of a day of the week they have something important to them, and write a sentence and illustrate their sentence. Instead of me assessing these tasks, I could have easily used as checklist to have students assess their own work. The checklist would include pictures versus phrases to be checked off. Later in the year, or even within the next few months, I may even be able to use short words to describe the task to be checked off like the following:
O Capitol letter starting sentence
O Best writing
O Colored picture
Using this mode of assessment, students can learn to hold themselves accountable for their own work, and parents can see exactly what was expected and whether or not their child met those expectations.
There are many modes of assessment to be used in the classroom. The assessment used is strictly dependent on the task the students have been given. This week I have thought a ton about assessment I have been using, continue to use, and how I can change it to meet the needs of my students and be more purposeful.