Category Archives: Assessment

Data Talks

Each year, I try to do a little more with students and data. I started with students keeping portfolios and writing a one sentence reflection on all their graded assignments. It sounds tedious, but it takes 10 minutes a week once the kids are trained. Then, I added graphing test scores and using district benchmark tests for goal setting. Last year, I mandated students to keep track of their goals and the work they’ve done to achieve those goals and tried to be a little more purposeful about data talks.

This year, I’m doing my best to start strong with individual data talks. While students work in literacy centers, I’ve been pulling kids back one by one. I administer the San Diego Quick Reading Assessment. I share their AIMS scores and San Diego reading level. The conversation pretty much goes as follows:

“Here is your AIMS score: ___. This means . . . Now, let’s look at your reading level. The last grade you finished was 7th, so you should be able to read at a 7th grade level independently and an 8th grade level with a teacher. Your scores are a little below/ right on/ a little above. This means, when we go to the library on Thursday, I’m going to help you pick out a book at your independent level. Have you ever read ___? That’s an example of a book that would be a great fit for you.” I follow up with some encouragement if kids are low or some motivation if they are high because it doesn’t matter where we start. We need to grow!

This does take several days to get through all my students, but I’ve got to tell you, it makes a difference. Students have a right to know their levels, and when they realize that their growth is so important that the teacher is willing to spend one-on-one time discussing their abilities and offering support and encouragement, the students really respond. Some of the students might get a little upset if they are very far below, but they quickly come back with a little TLC and a few encouraging remarks.

What do you do with data talks? Any ideas?



Filed under Assessment, Student Data


Obviously assessment is a huge buzz in education, but I’m not talking about bubbles and number two pencils. Instead, I’m talking about the sort of assessment that teachers do all day, every day. Here are just a few ideas to help teachers stay in tune with their students’ learning.

Fist of Five

I use fist of five at least 3 times per class period every single day. After we finish a lesson segment, I ask my students to reflect on how well they feel they understand the concept. I tell them to reflect and in a moment I’ll ask them to hold up the same number of fingers as their self-rating.
1 – I really don’t even understand the terms or academic vocabulary in this lesson.
2 – I can tell you what the academic vocabulary words mean, but I am struggling to apply them.
3 – I can apply the lesson if I can work with my partners.
4 – I think I could do this by myself and get a passing grade.
5 – I think I’ve mastered this. I could teach it to someone else.

Kids are surprisingly honest, and I use this to help with my pacing. I also use this in deciding if we’re ready to dig deeper into a concept or if we need more practice where we’re at.

Mini White Boards

Give each student a mini white board. During guided practice, have each student write his/her answer on a white board. Always provide some silent thing time first. Then, ask them to hold up the white boards. You can have a clipboard with a roster and make notes about students who need help. Then, ask them to put down the white boards, discuss the problem/question with a partner. Finally, discuss as a whole class.

What if you don’t have mini white boards? Buy some sheet protectors, put a piece of white cardstock or construction paper inside, voila! For makeshift erasers, I bought a cheap bath towel and cut it into smaller rectangles … maybe 2×3 inches.

Worried about set up? Show the kids where you keep your materials, and then ask a different student from each table to get a different supply for their groups. Today, I had team member 1 get white boards, 2 got markers, 3 got erasers, and 4 cleaned up around their tables. It took us less than 2 minutes to get 30 8th graders all set and ready to go.

Exit Tickets

Post a few questions about the day’s lesson on the board. About five minutes before class ends, ask your students to take a half-sheet of paper and answer the questions by themselves. When you dismiss class, students must turn in their ticket to you at the door as a ticket to leave. I love this strategy because I can quickly flip through them and sort them into piles to help me form my small groups to pull to work with me for a brief time the next day.

What are your favorite assessment ideas?

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Filed under Assessment