Assessment and Grouping: Chapter 2 of The Next Step

Assessment and Grouping-Chapter 2 The Next Step


Chapter Two speaks about assessment and grouping. I’m passionate about assessment.  No!  Not the kind of paper pencil standardized assessment that we teachers dread and avoid if at all possible.  I like the kind of assessment that is meaningful, thought provoking and that allows me to adjust my instruction to better respond to my students’ needs.
Why do we assess?
Ok, stick with me for a second while I switch gears and talk a second about DI.  There are three guiding principals that you need to be aware of in Differentiated Instruction:
Did you notice the last one?  The one about assessment?   It goes right along with what Chapter Two tells us.  We need assessment in order to develop  our guided reading groups, in order to choose appropriate texts for those groups (readiness) and to understand what strategies we should teach?
We assess…we adjust our strategy and plan . . . and we instruct and then we do it again.   It is a cycle.  It is on-going!  It’s fluid.  So if you’re one of those teachers that think you get your literacy groups together and you’re set for the next year (or the next quarter, or the next month, or even the next 2 weeks)…you may need to rethink how you’re grouping.  As you keep assessing and adjusting, so should your groups!!!)
What do we assess?
So now that we know that it’s necessary, the question is WHAT?  What do we assess?
Richardson lays out five different areas of assessment for Emergent and Early Readers (Since I’m a kinder teacher and most of my kids fall within these categories, this is where my focus for this study will be).
She suggests:
Letter Identification
Sight Word Lists
Dictated Sentence
Writing Sample
Running Record and Oral Retell.
While personally, I may use all of these  at sometime throughout the year, at the beginning of the year, my main focus  (and in this order) for identifying student readiness is: letter recognition (including fluency), sight word recognition, letter/sound knowledge and letter formation, segmenting and blending.  If I happen to have a student who is excelling beyond all these areas, then I do a running record.
And then there is the HOW?  And maybe an even more important question, how do you keep track of you assessments?
Here is the HOW for my assessment:
Before I tell you how I assess these areas.  I think it’s important to note that everyone has their own way of assessing their students, keeping track of their data and how they use that data to form groups.  If you’re struggling with your ‘system’ please check out Richardson’s chapter 2.  It has some great suggestions.  For myself, I need a system that is quick, accessible and easy.  In my classroom, things are constantly moving and grooving.  So I have developed my own system for assessing and pacing not only my common core standards:

Editable Common Core Check-list/Pacing Guide

but also a system for assessing most of the areas that Richardson suggests.  While my common core standards hang from two different clipboards in my classroom for easy access.  My assessments for literacy are housed in a small three ring binder and in there I can put my spread sheets for letter recognition, sounds, sight word fluency . . . you name it.  It’s my reference ‘bible’ for planning instruction and grouping my students.


Ok, so here’s my system for assessing those areas that Richardson suggest for grouping…it works great for me, and I think that’s really what is important.  Does it work for you and help you know at any given time where your students are in regards to their literacy instruction.

Letter Recognition:  I have a complete system for letter mastery called ‘Top Bananas.’
I use fun festive letter flash cards to assessment students.  In addition to recognition, I test fluency.  Their goal is to read 40 letters in a minute.  When that happens, they become a ‘Top Banana.’ There’s a certificate that goes home and their name goes on a banana on my top banana tree.
I assess at least once a week but often twice.  I keep my data all in one notebook with the rest of my literacy assessment data.  The spreadsheet I use is an editable one from Top Banana system I use.  I can add student names and record the date and how many letters they correctly identified.  It is a great way to show your students how they are growing and improving each time.  Want to know more about Top Bananas?  Click on the picture below.
Sight Word Recognition:  For sight word recognition, I use Dolch words as my ‘list.’  I generally don’t assess sight word recognition on a regular basis until my kinders have master letter recognition.  But when they are ready, we assess sight words 2-3 times a week. 
I use my Ball Word system to assess and keep track of how students progress through their sight words.  Each set of 20 Dolch words have been placed on a different sports-type ball or item.  As students master their sight words they progress through another level of Ball Words.  Assessing this area is very easy, I keep my data in the same binder as my Top Bananas data.
There is an editable spreadsheet for keeping tracking of when a student has passed each level of 20 words.
Each time a level is passed a new word list goes home and once a week, students pull the list they are working on and we highlight the ones they haven’t mastered yet to send home an updated assessment.  If you want to learn more about Ball words, you can check out my post by clicking on the picture below:


Dictated Sentence:  This isn’t anything I have ever tried with my kinders for assessment.  In order to determine readiness for of letter/sound ratio, phonemic awareness or letter formation, I give students plenty of opportunities to write those first couple of weeks of school.  We do tons of phonemic awareness games and activities.  I often keep observations from an activity and add it to my assessment book for reference later.
Writing Sample:   For this, I just use either blank paper or single lined paper at the beginning of the year.  Students have about 10 pages and we just simply write and later conference or share it.  I keep observation notes so that I can refer to it later.  Later, they will have their own special journal for writers workshop that I can use to reference writing samples.
Running Record: In general, there isn’t much need for this at the beginning of the year, but as students start reading more and more, I use the same simple method that the book describes of  Percentage of Words Read Correctly by Number Of Total Words.  It’s not fancy, but it works and it gives me a general idea of whether my students are using books that will cause them to be challenged correctly or bored because it’s too easy or frustrated because it’s to hard.  And by watching them read, you can consider what strategies they are currently using and which ones you need to teach.

From this information, you can make your groupings for literacy/guided reading…I want to reiterate one thing at this point and that is…grouping is not meant to pigeon-hole students into a certain ‘group.’  Consider how Differentiated Instruction regards flexible grouping:

Make sure you check back for next week’s chapter 3.  I hope to have a few goodies ready for you by then.  You know…a spoonful of sugar and all that.
Now make sure you check out all the other contributors and followers in the book study by heading over to see Mary at Sharing Kindergarten.



Marsha Moffit McGuire

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