Jasper Roberts - Blog

Creating Assessments that Work

When I reflect at the end of each year, I start by looking back through my lesson planner to see what we accomplished. I always see patterns in the assessments that I choose to use, along with many of the activities we do in class. For example, each quarter my students almost always complete a series of short writing assignments followed by a larger writing assignment and Writer's Workshop, along with a Shared Inquiry/Socratic Seminar. I noticed that I rarely utilize comprehension tests for reading, and the only consistent "test" I use is for word study. But even then, my students are expected to incorporate their required vocabulary into their writing assignments. By the way, I am loving the Townsend Press Vocabulary Series that we are using this year!

So anyway, every year I ask myself, what other types of summative assessments could I be using in class? Would anything be more effective for measuring student mastery? Sometimes I add in an additional assessment in the form of a project, but for the most part, I stick with the same assessments year after year. Why? Because I strongly believe that they work, and if it's working, why change it?

So why do I think these assessments work so well? I'll break it down.

Short Writing Assignments and Writer's Workshop (Covers CCSS Writing, Language, and Speaking/Listening Standards)

1. Teaches smaller grammar skills in chunks.
2. Gives students options for their larger writing piece.
3. Allows for drafting and editing in the smaller writing pieces, with a focus for the editing.
4. Allows for collaboration and discussion, resulting in a final edit for the larger writing piece.
5. Is focused on skills, and ties in the literature or unit focus.

Shared Inquiry/Socratic Seminar (Covers CCSS Reading Literature, Reading Informational Text, Writing, and Speaking/Listening Standards)

1. Uses a "Level 3" question, as I tell my students. Rather than focusing on comprehension, students are answering an open-ended multi-level question that requires textual evidence and support.
2. Students practice writing, reading comprehension, analysis, and speaking and listening skills in the seminar.
3. The written response shows me the depth of their understanding before the discussion, along with specific areas where they may struggle.
4. Students defend their opinion, but they can also change it based on the discussion.
5. Students are in charge of the discussion, and they learn how to be respectful and articulate when speaking.

Socratic Seminar is a key feature in my new Digi-ISN: Novel Study Notebook, which I'll be uploading soon! It's taking longer than I thought, but only because I just keep coming up with more tweaks to make it a fantastic unit to teach my students this upcoming quarter!

What assessments do you use in class that you love? Share in comments below, or over at my FB or Instagram page!


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