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Dr. Joanne Meier

Along with her background as a professor, researcher, writer, and teacher, Joanne Meier is a mom. Join Joanne every week as she shares her experiences raising her own young readers, and guides parents and teachers on the best practices in reading.

Careful watching and listening during those first few days of school

August 24, 2011

First day jitters? First week jitters? Assessing kids those first few days and weeks of school probably isn't a great idea. Kids need a chance to settle in to school, to learn the new routine, and generally become more comfortable in the new classroom. Hopefully, by waiting, a child's assessment results more accurately reflect her true skills.

Here in Virginia, kindergarten teachers aren't supposed to use their state-mandated assessment until the kids have been in school for six weeks. Teachers in grades 1-3 begin to assess after two weeks of school. So, what's a teacher to do during those first few days? Some thoughtful planning, watching, and listening can yield some terrific information about student skills.

I love the conversations centered around a child's writing in this clip Spelling as a Diagnostic Tool. It's so important to be able to look at a child's writing and know how to learn from it. Our Looking at Writing module provides just that opportunity using writing samples from kids PreK-3. See if you can gather a writing sample from each student and make some notes on each one regarding strengths and areas of need.

A reading interest inventory is one way to find out how kids feel about reading and books. This Professor Garfield survey (see pages 7-12) is widely used and uses cute pictures to gather the information. There are lots of others out there too, like this one and this one from Scholastic.

Sitting with a child and listening as he reads provides an opportunity to use a fluency rubric to assess reading behaviors such as expression and volume, phrasing, smoothness, and pace. Scores could be given in each of the areas, or the rubric could just be used as a framework for thinking about a child's fluency.

Last, I think it's just useful to sit, watch, and talk to your students, particularly during silent reading time. What sorts of books does a student choose? How much reading stamina does a child have? Are they focused and "getting lost" in books, or distracted and fidgety? Do your students prefer to read in a quiet corner, or together with a friend?

Each little bit of information we can gather can help us provide the best environment and instruction for our students. Happy back to school!

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