Content Literacy 101

Assessment (From "Do I Really Have to Teach Reading?")

There are multiple ways to assess how well your students are able to utilize the strategies you are teaching them. Part of being a reflective practitioner is taking the time to track the effectiveness of your instruction. On this page, I am just going to list several methods you can use to monitor their progress (instead of the usual "Why use it?" and "How do I use it?" sections.)

Goal-setting: At the beginning of the year/semester/quarter (or whenever else you start using these strategies), it is helpful to have students write out their reading goals for the class. These goals can then be posted, and periodically updated. Examples of possible goals include:
  • "Finishing a book more than 150 pages long
  • Reading a new genre
  • Learning two new strategies to keep the mind from wandering while completing a dull text
  • Learning how to pick out a good book
  • Figuring out what to do when encountering unknown words"
At certain intervals, students can revisit their goals, and write or talk about their progress.

Quick Conferences: As opposed to the more formal Parent/Teacher Conferences, quick conferences are accomplished daily. While the teacher circulates around the room, they can pull up a seat next to a student, or simply get down on their desk level. If the student is doing an exemplary job, you can use their strategy usage as an example to the rest of the class. If the student is struggling, you can see whether they are having problems with the text itself or if they are just confused by the strategy.

Asking Yourself Questions
Here is a checklist of questions you can ask yourself to see how your students are progressing with their reading comprehension strategies:

"Activation of Background Knowledge: Can students access existing information to make connections between new and known information? Is there evidence that making connections helps students to:
  • relate to the subject matter in a way that enhances interest and deepens understanding?
  • visualize in a way that helps students remember what is being read?
Student Questioning of the Text: Can students ask useful and authentic questions about the text in a way that enhances understanding and encourages deeper understanding? Is there evidence that asking questions helps students:
  • build background knowledge about an unknown topic?
  • answer questions by drawing conclusions beyond the unseen text?
Drawing Conclusions and Making Inferences: Can students combine their background knowledge with textual evidence to draw logical conclusions? Is there evidence that drawing conclusions helps students to:
  • think beyond the literal meaning to the unseen text?
  • use existing knowledge and textual clues to support inferential thinking?
Monitoring Comprehension and Using Fix-Up Strategies: Can students recognize signals that indicate they are confused? Do students have strategies that repair meaning? Is there evidence that monitoring comprehension and using fix-up strategies helps students to:
  • recognize that rereading with a different purpose in mind can improve comprehension?
  • adapt strategies to meet the demands of the text and the purpose of the reading?
Determining Importance in Text: Can students identify different purposes for reading? Do students recognize unique features of texts, author styles, and similarities in topical information to distinguish important ideas from interesting details? Do students recognize that purpose determines what is important? Is there evidence that determining importance in text helps students to:
  • recognize that purpose is used to sift and sort important information?
  • recognize organizational features in text to aid comprehension?"

Asking Your Students Questions
Here's a brief list of "Sample Questions from Reading Final Exam:"
  1. Attached to this sheet is the definition of reading you wrote for me during the first week of the semester. Look at your definition, and think about all that you know about reading. Compare your new knowledge of reading with what you used to know.
  2. Define metacognition. Why is it important? Give a real-world example of metacognition. Be specific and thorough in explaining your example.
  3. You are reading a very difficult text, one that doesn't make sense on a first read. List at least five strategies you could employ to help you understand the reading.
  4. You are reading a difficult textbook. You have little background knowledge about the topic. Answer the following:
                  a. How do you know you are confused?) List five signals that indicate confusion.
                  b. List two strategies you could use to keep your mind from wandering. Explain                        how each strategy will help you construct meaning.
                  c. List five strategies you could use to fix up meaning.

(All assessment strategies from: Do I Really Have to Teach Reading?by Cris Tovani)