Friday, October 12, 2012

Anecdotal Reports are strong assessments

Check this out!  Global Meeting Room for teachers by Google. 
I plan to use this tonight! (After my immediate research).

Moving away from grading students on single opportunities for learning has been the best change for me.  I have, over the years developed practices for survival.  I sincerely try to help kids learn, praise improvements, document failures and refusals but always offer other school time to help kids learn.  Handing out quarterly report cards has always been a tense time. Now, with Powerschool grading we are learning how powerful adding and subtracting work to a grade. Kids are motivated or panicked when they view their grades going up and down.  I used to have students calculate grades on paper each Friday.  It took lots of time but it was the equivalent of balancing a checkbook, with a conversation around missing work, excitement about high scores. etc.   Numerical scores are powerful but often the power has negative results.  Zeroes, failing grades are noticed quickly and although they might be temporary, it is awful to see a zero next to one's name. It makes you feel that nothing at all was accomplished, that no learning took place.  A zero for a student is like your spouse unfriending you on Facebook.  Without the context, the conversation, it is powerfully negative and then leaves you wary even of the positives that follow.

Basic Reading Inventory- Jerry Johns, 2008
Anecdotal reporting doesn't base a student's worth on a raw score and determine a hierarchical level of achievement in relation to others in a class.  Instead the report identifies with specificity, the skill, the language issue is in need of improvement.  The report identifies how a student misread or misunderstood a reading passage.  The checkmarks identify what kind of miscue and the number of times it was made.  Substitution, insertion, omission, reversal, repetitive error, self correction, meaning change happen when very strong and very weak readers read.  Sometimes this effects comprehension, sometimes it doesn't.  Second language learners have to retrain themselves to make a different sound for a similar letter in two different languages.  Their problem isn't comprehension but letter reversal.

From this report an educator or even a parent can begin working on the miscue that prevents comprehension

Basic Reading Inventory- Jerry Johns, 2008

With this form, the instructor/ educator has more time and space to take notes on how a student is reading and comprehending.

In the literacy program that I am currently engaged in. anecdotal reports combined with weekly itineraries are essential.
  weekly itineraries 

Everyone involved reviews the itinerary. It replaces the agenda on the chalkboard. Personalizing it with the student's name is meant to address the minute changes that match each student's individual development. The signature for the mentor is important. It documents that engagement with an adult.  The bold print helps identify the skill or practice that is detailed in the daily lesson.  Comments can range from positive acknowledgement, "good job" to "working on pronunciation", "needs images of grain or main as vocabulary definitions". 

It took me several weeks of working in the literacy program to suddenly realize how wonderful routines and anecdotal reporting worked. Not once is a student given the indication that they are behind or ahead of their peers.  They only focus on the skill and the vocabulary.  This means that they never need to give up or stop to wait for others to catch up. And the lesson repetition helps students read, review the itinerary on their own.  1st graders are already beginning to read this on their own.  I realized that many of the skill based lessons were done independently by the students. Teacher/mentors provided encouragement, and aid on specific miscues, but did not need to grade each activity.  The activities that are scored or reviewed and assessed are few, culminating as a result of repetition and revision.  The comprehension journals, mentor comments and reading lists help document student progression and student attention to tasks. In conclusion, teachers, mentors, students are equally busy but can focus on purpose in an efficient use of time.   

Immediately I went home and sifted through my own weekly itineraries, routines, threw some away and reorganized others.  I made a draft itinerary for 2 courses I teach.  I looked at the first 7-10 minutes of class and the last 5-7 minutes of class.  Students normally come in, hang out, text, gossip and forget to prepare for class.  In trying to make students more engaged last year I created entry routines and exit routines but found myself constantly grading and returning work.  I was doing more work developing meaningful inquiry, skill practice and assessing it. I was busier than ever before.  I did not manage these routines so that students were more self reliant.  
my weekly itineraries
  1. First-  Post the day's routines outside the classroom entrance. (klw chart, primary source document, latitude/longitude...) Use bold font and bright paper. (a student helper can do this)
  2. Move student folder files next to the classroom entrance.  Students will take their folder as they walk in.  (student helper can do this)
  3. Use the walls of the room for public display of color coded activity/ assignment sheets.  latitude/ longitudinal locations receive a wall pocket, primary source documents' pocket, etc. Students will get their own materials, I shouldn't waste time handing them out.  
  4. use this engaged activity time to hand back papers, quick conference, help individuals or groups, take attendance, set a timer, quickly look at email or just breathe and get ready for content.
  5. Begin scoring or reviewing previous work,  Assessed work is not taken each day but every other day.  That should give me three days to look at student work, comment and hand back. 
  6. walk around the room and use dialogue, quick view of student work to know where to start with intended content.  keep checklists and scrap paper handy for anything that you will need to address. 

According to Daniel Willingham, Why don't students like school? (2009), teachers should take or be given time to keep anecdotal reports on their own practice.  Recorded as a journal or a weekly itinerary and commenting on what worked and didn't is often lost when setting up routines. This is why routines will fall apart from year to year.  Even listing # of worksheets to keep on hand as extra is efficient management.   The middle level school teachers at our union school taught me this practice years ago.  I did try to follow it, but I never figured out how to improve it.  It was a time when few of my colleagues had time to share ideas or encourage such practices.  I never received encouragement from administrators to take this extra step.  Over time, I stopped.  


Katie F. said...

I am a junior at Johnson State College in Darlene Witte's Instructional Dynamics 1 class. We are planning on having an online conversation with you this upcomig Monday (10/29). I was just looking over your blog and it was very neat to me that something that you are discussing, anecdotal reports, are something that we are learning about in our class. I look forward to learning more about your experience and teaching strategies!

whitney kaulbach said...

Please let me know if you have any new questions or need direction with any research. I am not an expert but I am connected with many talented teachers who are invested in edu research.