I am often struck by the fact that I am completely, 100% reliant upon assessment in my instruction (Running Records). This sometimes seems really daunting, but through our books study of Understanding By Design, I have realized this is OK! Where I have found I need to grow is in the feedback I give to my students. I have always used assessment to drive my instruction, but I have not been skilled in sharing that information with the student.
On Michelle’s padlet, I found the article “Bowling with Your Eyes Closed: Students Need True Formative Assessment” by Ben Johnson.
The portion of the article that struck me most was “Assessment provides needed information for the teacher to adjust instructional activities, but that is a by-product of the real reason for doing it. True formative assessment engages students and puts them in charge of their own learning.”
I also found David Wees’ compilation “56 Different Examples of Formative Assessment” on the Padlet to be a great resource and suggest taking a look at it!
When I noticed that this resource mentions running records as a formative assessment, I made an immediate connection. My question became: could what I do on a daily basis to assess my students and drive my instruction actually be used as part of a thinking routine if I engaged my students in feedback? By adding the simple question “what made you say that?” when a student stumbled on a word, or (more importantly) self-corrected a word, feedback had much more impact. I was able to gain insight into what the student was thinking at the point of error, and help the student articulate the strategies they used to make a correction. This is such a simple way to enhance meta-cognition! I was so excited to realize that something so simple could so greatly enhance feedback!
In the past, I would have quickly glanced at a student’s running record, picked one strategy I thought the reader needed to focus on, and incorporate that into my next mini-lesson. Typically this teaching point would be focused at the skill level on word attack skills: visual, meaning, or structure. After reading this article, and incorporating feedback, I have noticed that my students have shifted from exclusively using phonics to figure out tricky words (or appealing to the teacher for help, and are now using meaning to help when they are in a tricky spot.
When I began working with the student represented in the running record pictured above, she was a phonics queen! She could absolutely slaughter a word! By the time she came to the end of a page, she was exhausted and might as well have been speaking a foreign language based on the way the words sounded when she read them. After MONTHS of feedback (explicitly showing her what she did when she read out loud to me (I would even re-read her running records out loud exactly as she had read them), followed by LOTS of support and reminders to think about “what would make sense” when she was caught on a word, the work has paid off! Her fluency has increased by 300% (!), and the mistakes she makes are typically meaningful. She often thinks aloud (“what’s that?”) while reading, and although she still falls back on phonics, she no longer perseverates on a word to the point of exhaustion. The use of explicit, immediate feedback from her running records has made such an impact!
In shifting my view of running records from just formative assessments, and viewing them as part of a thinking routine, I now have a regular formative assessment that has a huge impact on both the student and teacher. They are no longer just a measure of how a student decodes, but serve as real-time snapshots of how as student uses his/her schema, inferences, and questions to navigate tricky text.