Tag Archive | assessment

Fieldwork Reflection #5

Dates: Monday, May 06, Wednesday, May 08, 2013
St. Paul Lutheran School, All day kindergarten
Cooperating Teacher: Mrs. Novak
Total hours together:
3 hours 10 mins
Total for EDU344:
20 hours of 20 hours


On Monday I finally had time to work on the final assessment from my unit plan with Luc. First I had him reread the words he had missed last time we played the “word train game: need, dear, under, river, storm, herd, corn, fame and paper. I also included other words he had gotten right last time. Like the previous time, he had to put these words into train groups by vowel. He missed storm, herd, corn and fame again. The “or” sound seems to be a major issue for him. He also really struggled with fame, which was odd because he read all of the other A words with a final e perfectly fine. I even told him to rhyme fame with came or same, but he couldn’t process it. We talked about the silent or “magic” e and that it turned the a into a long /a/ sound, but Luc still could not pronounce the word. Eventually I sounded out the whole word for him.

The freezing on the word fame is very puzzling, and I am not sure what to make of it. I know his mother has been working on the “silent e” with him, and I also know that words like same and came are sight words for the class. So perhaps, he memorized some a words with final e by sight, and he has not mastered how to decode any unfamiliar words with this vowel structure.

After we finished our word trains, I had Luc read The Foot Book by Dr. Seuss. This particular text features quite a few of the vowels correspondences that Luc is struggling with, including vowels with a final e, vowels preceded or proceeded by an r, and vowel diagraphs. There were 131 words altogether, and he read 118 words correctly, including self-correcting most of the words he initially read wrong. His reading for this book was at independent level.

Some of his reading errors were due to thoughtlessness and rushing. For instance, he would see the word “foot,” but instead of closely looking at the middle vowels, he would just read it as “feet,” or vice versa. Also, later in the book he read “left” instead of “feet.” He had seen the e, f and t of the word “feet” and because the book had just used the word “left” he read the current words as “left” as well. I had him stop and reread this portion because he had made the same mistake several times in a row. I told him to really closely examine each word as he read and to slow down.

The final assessment I had concocted was to have Luc play a word ladder game. In this activity, the student starts with one word at the top of the “ladder,” and he has to trade one letter in to create a new word on the rung below. For example, the “r” in read is traded in for a “b” to create bead. The “d” in bead is traded in to make beat, etc. This assessment is used to determine whether the student understands that spellings of vowels and consonants must change in order to create new sounds. Unfortunately, while Luc understood the concept of the game, he could not change any of the letters to form new words on his own. So I ended up just walking him through the whole process. I think part of his confusion was that he still hasn’t grasped that vowel combinations can make different sounds. For instance, Read can be read with a long /e/ as in feed, or with a short /e/ sound, as in bed. This inconstancy in the English language is still baffling for Luc. In many cases, he doesn’t know whether he is reading an English word correctly or not, because he has never heard the word before.  At least for the majority of other kindergarten students they have heard the word before and have schemata connected to each word. Luc is still building his schema.

Fieldwork Reflection #4 With Picture!

Dates: Monday, April 22, Wednesday, April 24, and Friday, April 26, 2013
St. Paul Lutheran School, All day kindergarten
Cooperating Teacher: Mrs. Novak
Total hours together:
4 hours 5 mins     Total for EDU344: 13 hrs 45 mins out of 20 hrs

For Monday, I performed the second mini-lesson that I had devised for my mini-unit. First I used flashcards that looked like train cars to see if Luc had any knowledge of vowels with a final e, vowels preceded or proceeded by an r, and vowel diagraphs. I made a mark on a sheet for each word he struggled with and also gave him tips how he might sound them out.

After he read each word, Luc organized these “train cars” behind a cut-out train engine according to their vowel patterns. Each word group made a “word train.” The groups were as follows:

“Er” words: Fern River Paper Herd Under

“Or” words: Work Horn  Storm Corn

“oo” words:Took Look Book Roof Good

“ee” and “ea” words: Feet Need Dear Meet Read

“A” words with a final “e“: Came Fame Same Game Name

Of the preceding words, Luc missed or struggled with need, dear, under, river, storm, herd, corn, fame and paper. Some of them I expected, since they were multi-syllabic words, and the kindergarteners for the most part have only been learning one-syllable words. We talked about ways to recall proper decoding, such as remeluc with x boxmbering the “silent e” on fame. Luc told me his mother had been working on the “silent e” as well, which pleased me to know they were doing some English education at home. He seemed to really enjoy the lesson, despite the fact that I was drilling him quite extensively.

Later that week the school was celebrating “Grandparents’ Day.” Luc didn’t have any special person visiting him, so I did activities with him instead. We worked on a Search and Find puzzle that was made up of his classmate’s names. He struggled to find the words, so I had to give him plenty of hints. He also had to write about a happy memory in his journal. He couldn’t think of anything, so I gave him a few suggestions. He decided to draw a picture of his X-Box 360. I helped him write out this word at the top of his page. As we worked, he told me about his family, and how he had recently visited his grandparents in France. I asked him in my best French accent, “Parle vous Francais?” To which he replied, “Yeah.” He told me he also was learning Chinese and proceeded to recite the Chinese alphabet to me.

Luc is a very bright boy, who seems to have a knack for picking up languages. I have no doubt that his English will improve provided he continues to get adequate practice.

Assessing and Correcting Reading and Writing Difficulties: Chapter Six

In chapter six, Gunning spends more time discussing reading assessments, explaining how teachers need to not only look at how a student does on reading assessments like an IRI, but also to take into account the cognitive, school and home factors of the child. Gunning posits, “In order to get a fuller understanding of the student’s background, it is important to obtain a case history from the parents or other primary caregivers” (169). Gunning also believes that talking directly to the student and asking him what he’s having trouble with or what he dislikes most about reading will give you a better understanding of the child’s problem (172).

I agree wholeheartedly that both the child and the parents should be involved in the assessment processing, since they have a better understanding than the teacher or psychologist on what is going on with the student. However, Gunning seems to take for granted that all parents are going to be involved in their child’s education. He doesn’t take into account those parents who treat school as a glorified daycare center and who could care less about how their child is doing academically as long as he or she is out of their hair. Parents with this abysmal attitude are not going to willingly offer to take a questionnaire or come to school for a conference so they can answer questions on pregnancy, early years of physical health and development, language and literacy development, school history and home factors.

Furthermore, there are also cases where parents are in denial about their child’s disability. They’ll point fingers at the teacher, the curriculum or the entire school system before they will admit that their child might have some learning and/or cognitive difficulties. It is challenging in itself just to get these parents to arrive at the understanding that their child needs extra help and that it’s OK and nothing to be ashamed about. Before handing out any questionnaire to parents, the teacher needs to first understand the parents own attitude toward learning impairments. It can be a very difficult task telling parents or guardians that their child is having trouble reading and needs intervention. In any situation like this, tactfulness, respect and reassurance are required.


Thomas G. Gunning, Assessing and Correcting: Reading and Writing Difficulties, rev. ed. (Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon, 2010), 169-174.

Assessing and Correcting Reading and Writing Difficulties: Chapter Four

While reading Chapter four, I was reminded of the fieldwork I completed last year for the Teaching Reading class. I had the great fortune of getting to observe my cooperating teacher give Informal Reading Inventory (IRI) assessments to her first-grade class. The school was using Fontas and Pinnell’s Benchmark Assessment System. This was a form of running records that used bits of IRI and miscue analysis with the added benefits of comprehension questions to see where the students were in their reading ability. Each reading level was assigned by a letter A-N, getting progressively harder down the alphabet. The children had to read two books, one fiction and one nonfiction, both at what the teacher believed was the student’s instructional level. If the book was giving them too much trouble, the teacher would select a story from the previous level instead. The teacher was looking for word identification and fluency skills, like the ones listed on page 93 of the textbook: mispronunciation (substitution), omission, insertion, repetition, rising or falling inflection, etc., and she used the symbols of IRI to mark the errors. As is the case with miscue analysis, the teacher also made note of how many words were figured out using semantic similarity vs. graphic similarity. At the end of the reading, the children got questions about what happened to help determine their comprehension.

One of the children I watched was a Turkish ELL student and was at a “D” level, very beginner. He struggled with word identification, including finding the English words in his schema to answer the questions at the end of the reading, but his comprehension was there. He knew what was going on in the story; he just couldn’t find the words to explain it and kept reverting to his native tongue. My cooperating teacher understood this and was very patient with him. I think patience is a key to a plethora of reading problems. If a child cannot read what is in front of him, no amount of cajoling or complaining is going to change the outcome. When we exercise patience, we are letting the student know that we accept their struggles and we want to help them succeed no matter how long it takes.

Another boy I viewed could figure out most of the words on his own and make self-corrections. But for one word he refused to sound it out on his own and looked to the teacher for help. He had basic comprehension, where he could tell you the gist of the story, but he couldn’t think critically. For instance, the teacher asked him why the boy in the book might have gone to a farm to find a cat, and the boy couldn’t answer. Critical thinking is an imperative part of learning, but it is something that many educators don’t invest time in teaching. I was impressed to see that this particular IRI series was pushing for higher critical thinking.

Another child I had the privilege to observe was a classified struggling reader. At one point, he got stumped on a phrase and knew it was wrong, but he didn’t know how to correct it. He had great comprehension, though, and great expression. He understood graphic cues—that bold letters should be read with emphasis and that sentences ending with exclamation points and question marks need to be read differently. I loved watching him, because despite the fact that he was below level for his grade and had reading difficulties, I could tell he enjoyed reading.

I feel that getting children to love books is the most important goal we can accomplish in the classroom. So many worlds will open up to them once they begin reading–so many opportunities for learning will be uncovered.  Whether students are struggling or above-average in reading, we teachers need to build up their enthusiasm so that they will learn to independently seek out literature to read. Reading, no matter how fast or slow you do it, always fosters growth.

Thomas G. Gunning, Assessing and Correcting: Reading and Writing Difficulties, rev. ed. (Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon, 2010), 94-105.

Assessing and Correcting Reading and Writing Difficulties: Chapter Three

Shocking as it may seem, there was a period in my life when I didn’t like to read. Let me set up the back story: from kindergarten to 4th grade, I attended a Lutheran school. While I loved reading at the time, I dreaded the multiple choice tests I would have to take after completing every book. I thought the tests were pointless with asinine questions like, “What color dress was Alice wearing when she went down the rabbit hole?” I often found myself wondering what these assessments had to do with reading. Yet that was the program the Lutheran school was using: the students had to pick books from an approved list and then take the exams afterwards for comprehension assessment.

Perhaps it shouldn’t have been surprising when in fifth grade, the year my mom started homeschooling me, I gave up reading. I refused to pick up any book unless it was an installment in the popular yet completely fatuous Baby Sitter’s Club series. I was rebelling, showing those silly creators of reading programs across the nation that I would not be so easily manipulated into reading and regurgitating useless information on queue.

After months of barely touching books, my mother told me that she didn’t care what I read, as long as I was reading something. The only requirement was that she had to approve the content of the book first. Her words stuck with me, and I began reading in earnest again. In sixth grade, I read every single book written by Lucy Maud Montgomery, starting with Anne of Green Gables. The summer before seventh grade, I read Pride and Prejudice and then immediately moved on to Northanger Abbey. On my twelfth birthday, I remember reading Northanger Abbey nonstop. I didn’t want to do anything else, not even eat cake.

So what changed between fourth and sixth grade? I think the form of assessment played a huge factor in getting me back into books. My mom didn’t make my sister and me take multiple-choice tests. We wrote book reports or our own stories inspired by the literature we were reading. We watched the movie adaptations of books after we finished reading them, or talked about the books at length with each other. We role-played the characters from our favorite stories. In summation, we participated in authentic assessment.

In chapter three of Gunning’s book, he spends a great deal of time detailing standardized testing. Obviously this the norm in schools nowadays, thanks in part to government programs like NCLB that mandates all children (but 1% of the most cognitively impaired) must pass standardized tests. But Gunning also mentions the importance of authentic assessment: “Given an interactive transactional theory of reading…it follows that assessment should involve the kinds of reading and writing tasks that students are called on to perform in and out of school” (65). If children are struggling with reading and writing, how beneficial is a multiple-choice test going to be in assessing their strengths and weaknesses? If they can’t read the questions on the test, or they are struggling with comprehension, they are always going to do poorly on the exams. Gunning speaks of “dynamic” testing, which is the process of continually experimenting with teaching methods and forms of assessments. If one form of assessment gets you below-par results, try teaching the content another way. If the child still does poorly on the assessment, try a different type of test.

Children do not come in standardized packages, yet we try to push each child into standardized curriculum and assessment. Even if a child isn’t struggling with a concept, she might not do well with the type of assessment you are forcing upon her (see the rebellion of fifth-grade Cassie). If the job of a teacher is to instill the love of learning into our students, shouldn’t we be doing a better job catering to the individual student’s wants and needs? How do we expect every child to be enthusiastic about a subject if we don’t take the time to differentiate?

Thomas G. Gunning, Assessing and Correcting Reading and Writing Difficulties, rev. ed. (Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon, 2010), 65-66.

Assessing and Correcting Reading and Writing Difficulties: Chapter One

The one message that really stood out for me from the opening chapter was the emphasis on the struggling reader as a unique individual not bound to the common stereotypes that currently pervade our education system. Nobody fits into a box, neatly labeled with terms like “dyslexic” or “ELL.” Instead, we educators should view every child as brilliant diamond with infinite facets that cannot be ordered or determined by our own limited terms. The book summarizes this succinctly on page 7: “Being unique, individual students have and always will vary in their reading and writing abilities, just as they vary in running, playing basketball, singing or solving math problems” (Gunning, 2010).

This is one of the reasons it is imperative to treat the individual child and not just the symptom(s) of their learning disability. Everybody learns differently. Even those 70% of our classroom that are considered “average” have their own unique methods of learning—the multiple intelligences, as Gardner called them. If we use differentiation for our average students, why wouldn’t we allow it for those who are cognitively impaired or reading disabled? Why would we assume one type of supplementary tutoring would work well for all our struggling readers? Why would we toss every single one of them into an after school program without first determining the cause of their issues? The answer is: we wouldn’t. And if there are teachers who are lumping every type of reading and writing struggle together, they shouldn’t be.

This is one of the issues that I have with the discrepancy method of assessment: it assumes that everyone fits perfectly into one niche. The discrepancy method assumes that students all learn the same, and if we look at their age and grade we can determine how above or below average they are. Using this method, a teacher could infer that a student who is on level in all aspects but reading, obviously has a reading disability, which is completely unfair and unjust to assume unless the teacher has also looked at all of the other factors. Gunning writes on page 12 that “understanding a student’s reading difficulty….means finding out how it affects and is affected by the significant aspects of his life: family, school and friends.”

Every child learns differently, including (or maybe, especially) those who have reading difficulties. As educators, we have an obligation to reach as many students as possible, and if that means we have to do extra work for those in our class that are struggling, then that’s what we will do. Every child is a diamond in the rough, just waiting to be refined and polished, but these children with special needs will never shine brightly if we don’t have the right tools to help them.

Thomas G. Gunning, Assessing and Correcting: Reading and Writing Difficulties, rev. ed. (Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon, 2010), 3-12.