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Assessments and Data

Assessments and Data Motivation Reading

What’s It All About?

September 18, 2017

Incentives and Reading Levels

When I began teaching, parents were all about the level their child was reading on according to  the Accelerated Reading (AR) program. Students were all about reading to get points, too. There were school wide reward parties for the “top readers” in each grade level. Funny thing is, I usually did not let my students participate in AR. The program itself has many benefits. The problem was how it was implemented.

This post will not be about nixing all reading incentives or disregarding tested reading levels altogether. The points I want to drive home in this post are that you may need to reexamine your incentive practices and not rely solely on a one-time computer generated reading level for your students.


First, there were the issues with the parents. Why didn’t their child get picked for the AR party? “That’s not fair!” they would whine. The truth was, it wasn’t fair. Some students were reading at levels far above the others and therefore better able to earn points and rewards. When I was in middle school I would read the first and last page of lengthy chapter books, take the book’s quiz, and rack up some major points even if I did not score well on the test overall. I think I missed the point of reading! The above examples are what you want to avoid if you choose to use reading incentives in your classroom. Students should not feel behind others or judged by their reading levels any more than they already do. Some incentives promote excitement in reluctant readers who enjoy games and contests. Some incentives make those readers who are behind become even more hopeless and they give up. If you do offer incentives, make sure there are not ways students can cheat the system, too!

Reading Levels

If I have your student in my class, I am going to find out his or her reading level from a computer generated test that we administer to all students at the beginning of the year. This score is conveniently accessible and gives me a good place to start my further investigation of your child’s reading abilities. I never stop at just the one score. Sometimes students test far below or above their actual abilities (blame test anxiety or lucky computer clicking). Students’ reading abilities may progress slowly or quickly and many times another computer test is not available to be administered in a timely manner. There are many factors that contribute to skilled reading and one test score is not going to give you the whole picture of the readers in your classroom. Please do not leave your students on the same book level all year just because there has not been a time for another reading test on the computer.

My biggest take away from using AR in the classroom was discovering the root cause of why parents and students liked it so much. Parents like to be informed about their child’s progress. If they see a simple test score that says “reading at grade level 2.2” parents can easily think about that number in terms of their child’s grade level. As educators, we know it’s not as simple as a single number and we also know these scores are sometimes inaccurate. Please take the time to explain to your parents exactly how their students are performing. What are the student’s strengths and weaknesses? This may take longer than placing a score in front of them, but it is well worth it! Students like reading incentives because they like to have fun. Make the enjoyment of reading the incentive! Take the time to truly find out what your students are interested in reading and reward them with great literature. Continue to use incentives and reading levels if they suite your needs, just proceed with caution to avoid the pitfalls!

Assessments and Data Back to School Motivation Reading

Go for the Goal

September 6, 2017

Goal Setting

Is goal setting really worth all the hype? I think so! Dr. Hattie says so, too. His collective research on preexisting educational studies (he conducts meta-analyses) led him to conclude many things about effective teaching practices. When it comes to goal setting Hattie defines learning intentions as “describing what it is we want students to learn in terms of the skills, knowledge, attitudes, and values within any particular unit or lesson.”

One can have long or short terms goals. Not only do your students need to know the expectations for their daily lessons, but they should know about appropriate long term goals as well. The experts suggest that goal making be led by the student or at least have some student input. We do not always follow this recommendation as educators, but we should! Consider how you would feel if all your goals were set by someone else. Not very motivating, huh?!

Why don’t you put yourself in your students’ shoes and set a teacher goal for yourself first? Just like you would with the students, you can start small. What is something you can do to improve your literacy teaching practices this school year? Maybe you could join an online professional book club and gain teaching ideas from peers. Perhaps you decide to set aside one day a month to sit down and analyze your students’ reading progress, scores, classwork, etc. Make a small goal that you are interested in and stick to it!

Now on to your students. It would be great to explain to your students some appropriate goals for their grade level or to even work individually with students on options for areas to focus on. Maybe stick to one area at a time, for example, have your students set a writing goal for themselves. Make sure it is measurable! Have students share their goals with their peers and their plan for making progress. You will surely not be disappointed with how far your students will grow when they have goals they are determined to succeed in. Go for the goal, kiddos!

Assessments and Data Back to School Classroom Community Phonics Reading Writing

New Crew

August 15, 2017

Getting to Know Your Students Academically

There is a bright, shiny, new school year ahead of us all! It is an exciting time where the possibilities are endless. You undoubtedly have plans to get to know your new students personally and create a positive classroom environment. There might be “all about me” pages or “what I did over the summer” journal entries. How will you get to know your students academically, though? When it comes to literacy skills, the more you know about your students’ abilities and the sooner you acquire that information- the better! Time to hit the road running. The following are ideas to help kick-start your journey.

  • If students attended your school last year, try to talk to their teachers. Even if a child did not attend your school, many times his or her records will contain previous teacher or school contact information. A quick email is all it takes to reach out. Try to focus on strengths and weaknesses in reading or ways to motivate and challenge the student. Do not let this turn into a gripe session. It is meant to give you some ideas of how to best meet the academic needs of a student.
  • Do not forget about support teachers, too. If your student receives any type of specialized service in the school such as speech or intervention classes chances are that teacher may have loads of insight into ways to help the student succeed, too.
  • Look at your students’ records. I cannot tell you how many times I was filling out the end of the year reports on my students’ permanent records and thought- this information would have been extremely helpful to know at the beginning of the year! Do not make the same mistake I did. I know it takes time during a very hectic part of the school year. However, just think about the time it could save you in the long run!
  • Speak to the parents about their child’s literacy skills. Get their opinion and a bit more of the child’s academic history here. Find out if they have any concerns going into the new grade level or if there are any ways their student needs to be supported to succeed. For example, parents may know their child has testing anxiety and may not perform as well as they should on beginning of the year placement assessments. Let parents know upfront your expectations for literacy work in the classroom and at home.
  • There will be the beginning of the school year diagnostic tests, too. Several are required now for every student in the school. Beyond universal screeners and waiting for that data to get back to me, I always have a few quick assessments I like to do with individual students to give me a better understanding of their performance levels. It would depend on the grade level, but this might include having them read a vocabulary list, a fluency probe, or perhaps participating in a phonemic awareness assessment. Assessing the students personally gives me a better idea of where they are academically. It is much more valuable than just seeing a score on a spreadsheet.
  • Last but not least, ask the students about themselves and where they see their own skills flourishing or lacking. Here is where you will get some very honest answers! If you need some guidance, I recommend giving the Garfield reading or writing surveys to your students. Get to know your new crew and help them succeed from the start!
Assessments and Data Creativity Reading Writing

Reading Comprehension Craftivities

July 21, 2017

How many times have you found a great seasonal craftivity, but don’t have the book to go with it? Or it’s adorable and fitting for the time of year but its not covering a skill you’re currently working on? I hope that with my new Fiction Reading Comprehension Craftivities, this will no longer be an issue for you!

What’s Included?

In each seasonal pack, you will find 8 craftivities. Each craftivity covers its own reading comprehension skill. For example, in my Summer themed pack you’ll find a basket labeled “Character Traits” and lemons on which students list character traits of someone in the story they read.

The 8 reading comprehension skills included are:

– story elements

– retelling

– sensory details

– inferencing

– character traits

– summary

– author’s purpose

– theme

How Are They Used?

My favorite thing about these seasonal craftivities is that you can truly use them however you want! All you need to do is grab your favorite picture book that teaches your current skill, and choose the craftivity that fits! In order to avoid having a craftivity with the correct skill in the wrong season, each seasonal pack includes the same 8 skills.

In addition to their versatility throughout the seasons, these cuties are also perfect for differentiating within the classroom without changing up the activities! Each craftivity includes versions with writing lines and versions with blank spaces. Not only does this make the packs usable across multiple grades, it also allows teachers to choose whether students illustrate or write their answers based on their individual levels. Regardless of which version you choose for your students, they will all be able to participate in the same activity without feeling left out!

Whether you want to put together an adorable bulletin board, assess your students in a more creative way, or just review these important skills, my Fiction Reading Comprehension Craftivities are perfect for your classroom!

Click on the image below to check out my year-long bundle at a discounted price!

Assessments and Data Integration Language Reading Writing

Goodbye is Only the Beginning

July 19, 2017

The Final Step in the Text Set Process

If you have been following Tenspire’s Text Set building tips since the beginning, you may be a little sad to learn that we have finally come to the end of our journey. This post marks the last step in building your own text set that will inspire your students to build vocabulary and knowledge about their world. But, good news awaits you after all! Goodbye is only the beginning. Let me explain.

You have labored over meticulously putting together a set of books, short passages, poems, digital media, and/or songs, etc. You know the anchor text you will use, the vocabulary you will explicitly teach, and the follow up assessment activities you will have students complete. The text set process, however, is an on-going one. Nothing is set in stone. You will always be refining what your text set looks like during classroom implementation. Here are some ideas to help tweak your text set to perfection.

  • Have a colleague at your school check it out. Let them give you some ideas. These folks are easily accessible and familiar with your school’s population of students.
  • Have a colleague from another school critique your text set. Perhaps they can offer insight that is beyond your school colleague’s expertise.
  • Post your text set online. Internet folks are always willing to weigh in. Just remember some comments may be more helpful than others, so try not to take negative comments personally.
  • Lastly, the best thing you can do is implement the text set with your students. This will give you the best gauge of if it is right for your crew or what modifications can be made here and there to make it even better next time.

Building text sets is an organic process. Just take it one step at a time and enjoy the journey!

Thematic Text Set Guide


Assessments and Data New Teacher

Standardized Testing Survival Guide

April 24, 2017

Spring time means longer days, outdoor recess, and the dreaded standardized testing season. I am sure I am not alone in saying that standardized tests are far from loved. The teachers are stressed and the students are worn out; however, I have gathered some tips and tricks to help make testing a little bit more enjoyable for everyone.

My third graders just finished their NWEA-MAP assessments. This type of test required my kiddos to be on the computer for four sessions that each lasted about two hours (yikes!!!). Even though I was dreading losing the valuable instruction time, these tips and tricks helped the kids see the value in the tests and to give it their all.

Goal Setting

 For the NWEA-MAP test the students have very clear growth goals they need to achieve. Instead of having my kiddos take the test without a plan I made sure they understood the goal they needed to achieve. I was worried they wouldn’t be able to understand the numbers but by putting them into kid friendly examples, I helped them go into the test with a positive mindset.

Making growth in four different subject areas (math, reading, language, and science) can be overwhelming! To help make goal setting manageable I asked the students to pick one subject they wanted to focus on. After picking a subject we brainstormed things they could do to help them reach their goal.

Celebrating Success

To help motivate my students to do their best, I rewarded them in many different ways. Here are just a few of the things I did to celebrate their success.

  • In each test area I gave a prize to the student with the highest score and to the student who made the most growth. This was a great motivator for all of my students.
  • For each test I promised a treat if 80% of the class met their goal. This was hard to reach but the kids pushed each other because the promise of donuts was way too good to pass up.
  • With this particular test you get the scores immediately. As the children finished their tests I sat down with them and discussed their score and helped them determine if they met their goal. This immediate response helped the students stay accountable because they wanted to make me proud.

The day of the test

 Before each test I made sure my students’ brains and bodies were ready to attack the test! We would do a Go Noodle video to get our bodies moving, I shared a healthy snack with my students, and I made sure each child was prepared with a pencil and blank sheet of paper to show their work and track their answers.

As a first year teacher, testing was stressful, but going into testing season prepared and with a positive attitude helped my students rock their tests! Even though we don’t all take the same tests or do testing the way I hope that these ideas help you go into your next standardized test with a sunny outlook.

Assessments and Data Culture Language

Comprehension Knowledge

April 13, 2017

As a School Psychologist I spend a lot of my time administering standardized tests, writing up the results in a report, and explaining the results to others.  Often times there are just so many different processing areas to review that I have to briefly summarize them rather than going into more depth on each one.  My hope is to share a different processing area with you each month in an effort to increase your background knowledge and make psychoeducational evaluations more meaningful to you and your students.

Comprehension Knowledge

One of my favorite processing areas can be referred to as Comprehension Knowledge or Crystalized Intelligence.  This is basically the knowledge you get from your culture, life experiences, and what you have been exposed to in your life.  If you have been to museums, had your parents read a book to you, been exposed to vocabulary through conversations, or sat in a classroom, all of these experiences would be linked with your comprehension knowledge.

This knowledge differs from culture to culture because it is based on the information and skills that a particular culture values.  Thus, this knowledge is how well an individual has learned this content and mastered important skills.  Back to why it is one of my favorite processing areas is because you can actually increase this area!  This area grows over time as you are exposed to new life experiences and lessons in school.  As you will find out later, many cognitive processing areas cannot be taught or manipulated. They have to be accommodated for or a student has to learn a coping strategy.

 “This area grows over time as you are exposed to new life experiences and lessons in school.”

It’s important to think about your students and how much exposure or enriching experiences they may have had, especially for children with lower social-economic statuses.  If a student is worried about where their next meal may come from or they are being raised by a single parent working three jobs, they may not have the energy, time, or means to be exposed to culturally diverse learning environments.

Crystalized Intelligence

If a student has weak crystalized intelligence, it may negatively impact their ability to understand math word problems due to poor vocabulary.  They may also struggle to learn math processes due to difficulty listening and following sequential instructions.  In writing, their lack of vocabulary, background knowledge, and poor language development will hinder their ability to adequately express themselves.

A weakness in comprehension knowledge can harm a student’s ability to understand what they read independently.  Their lack of life experiences, poor background knowledge, and limited vocabulary make it difficult for them to gain meaning from written text.  This can even impact understanding directions.

How can you support students with weak comprehension knowledge?

These students will benefit from instruction semantics and vocabulary.  Using pictures and visuals paired with vocabulary words to make it more meaningful.  These students need concrete examples to build their knowledge base.  Strategically placing these students in the classroom so their comprehension can be closely monitored.  A peer tutor can also serve to support them.  If you are unsure if they understand the directions or task have them paraphrase the directions back to you to ensure understanding.  Help these students learn to advocate for themselves by asking for clarification if needed.  The student can have a glossary of pre-taught vocabulary and important terms to use as a reference.  A word bank can be used to help support written expression.  You can expand their vocabulary by restating their statement with a more sophisticated word or explanation; thus, you are modeling this skill for them.  Students can use a thesaurus to expand their spoken and written vocabulary.

These strategies are supported by research.  I want to hear from you as the experts in the classroom dealing with real life schedules, curriculum, standards, and students on what strategies you have found to be the most beneficial in working with the students who struggle in this area!

Assessments and Data Organization

Assignments Collection & Organization

March 31, 2017

We all knew that part of our job as a teacher would be grading students’ work. We amped ourselves up as interns thinking we would never be one of those teachers who got tired of grading papers. We’d make it “fun” with stickers and colored pens and encouraging notes on every page. Right? Then reality set it… You’re finally sitting down to grade Mt. Paperwork and update your gradebook the night before grades are due. Your stack is huge so surely you have full class sets of assignments. Until you see the dreaded “holes” in the gradebook and you just want to cry. No more, friends. No more.

Collecting Assignments

My secret weapon for staying on top of collecting papers and making sure there were no horrid gradebook “holes” was this handy checklist below. {Click on the picture to download this editable list for FREE in my TPT store!} If I already knew that an assignment would be taken for a grade or I really wanted to assess the skill before we moved on, I would have students turn it in directly to me or my desk. I didn’t want to risk papers getting lost in my turn-in tray or shoved in students’ desks. As assignments came in, or at least by the end of the day, I would highlight students’ names. This helped me see who was missing work and quickly remind them to get it finished within a few days. By progress report time, I had very few “holes” in my gradebook because we had tackled missing work early on.

Organizing Graded Assignments

While my checklists helped me save time and manage assignments before they were graded, I still needed something to help me handle the tedious task of returning graded work to students. Walking around the room dropping off graded assignments to each student became such a chaotic ordeal. Papers ended up all over the floor, crumpled up in backpacks, and didn’t always make it home to parents. I decided to streamline my organization of graded papers with a hanging file bin and it made a world of difference! Each student was given their own hanging file in the bin. After I graded a class set of an assignment, I would immediately file the papers with their owners. These papers stayed in the bin until the end of the week. During special area, I would quickly grab students’ take-home folders, load them up with assignments, and put them back on students’ desks. Done. No walking around the room for 15 minutes while kiddos shouted their grades across the room or followed me around asking for why they got a certain grade. It was so easy!

I know I can’t be the only teacher who struggled with collecting and organizing student work. Did you find a different solution that works for you? I’d love to hear about it! If not, I hope this helps you relieve some stress!

Assessments and Data Featured

Making Exit Tickets Meaningful

January 31, 2017

Have you ever taught a lesson and thought, man, I nailed that…but the post-test showed that no, you actually didn’t? I know I have! Some students are masters at making us think they are following our instruction, but they’re actually thinking about pizza, recess, or that pencil that keeps tapping.

Quick Checks

Exit Tickets or quick checks have helped me be able to find even the smallest hole in my students’ learning. They are an essential part of my assessment process. I prefer to call them quick checks because I don’t always use them at the end of a lesson. Sometimes I use them before the lesson begins so I can see what misconceptions my students have prior to the lesson. In that case, it serves as a super quick pre-test.

Keep It Simple

This assessment requires minimal preparation. All you need is a class set of index cards and a question. Yes, that’s really all you need. Well, besides students and a pencil. Simple, huh? You don’t have to spend any time at the copier either. Hallelujah, right?! Write a question on the board and have your students answer it. This doesn’t need to be 10 questions. The purpose of the check is to guide your instruction, not to give a grade. So, it’s totally fine if there are only 3 or 4 questions.

Time Saving Tip

Have your students fold their card or just simply turn it over to signal that they are finished. Grade them as they finish. This is a win-win. Your students will LOVE the immediate feedback, and you don’t have to take it home! Let’s be real, if it comes home, it will likely stay in your school bag for at least a day or two.

What’s Next

As you walk around and grade, you will usually begin to see a few trends in your students’ misconceptions. I usually take this opportunity to begin sorting them into three different groups. Most of the time, there are three to four clear-cut groups. I use the common misconceptions that I see in their work to guide my instruction within their small groups. For example, I recently worked with my students on comparing fractions. After the lesson, I wanted to see if they were capable of ordering three fractions from least to greatest. From the quick check I gave, I was able to see that one group didn’t have a model drawing, therefore their answer was incorrect. Another group had a model drawing, but the drawing was incorrect. The last group was able to correctly order the fractions. From there, I am able to have meaningful instruction based off of their misconceptions.

My favorite No

Quick checks also allow me to pick my favorite no. I learned this strategy at a math training that I attended a couple years ago. You choose a student’s card that has a common mistake on it. I don’t share out which student’s card I have, but I make a big deal that this is my favorite thing to help my students with. I have found that this shows students that everyone makes mistakes and that it is part of learning! It also helps to create a classroom that isn’t afraid to say when they fail or make a mistake.

What are your favorite ways to assess your students’ learning? I would love to hear your ideas!


Assessments and Data Featured

Simplifying Data- It’s As Easy As 1-2-3

December 24, 2016

As teachers, we’re constantly assessing. Whether it’s phonics, math, or emotionally- we’re analyzing what each student needs next. This can become an overwhelming task when it comes to organizing what you have assessed so that you can make meaning of it. I needed a way to have concrete data to reflect after the lesson/day. So, I stumbled across Ladybug’s Teacher Files amazing checklists. She has created a document that contains anything you have ever thought about having a checklist for… and more. The best part is, you only have to write your students’ names on one checklist, and it will transfer to all of them! That’s right, all ONE HUNDRED OF THEM. I loathe excel formulas, so this was an added bonus for me. You can check them out here.


At the beginning of the week, I print 3-4 checklists off depending on what we’re covering. Each checklist is used for a specific subject area. Mine tend to be phonics, math, and writing. I staple them together, and I’m ready to quickly assess for the week.


I am a huge fan of whiteboards. Whiteboards and quick assessments go hand in hand. When I first started using whiteboards in my class, it was a game changer for me. Kids LOVE them. There’s something about using an Expo marker that is magical to them. Who am I kidding, I totally had a whiteboard and marker set on my Christmas list as a kid.

In Action

At the beginning of the day, I have my clipboard with my checklists and pen ready to go. Let’s pretend it’s math time and I am teaching multiplication word problems. I have the following question written on the board, “Nick has five baskets of candy to pass out to his friends. Each basket has 7 pieces of candy in it. How many pieces of candy does Nick have in all?” I tell my students to, “write it and hide it”. This keeps those little eyes from wandering around. When time is up, everyone puts down their marker and holds up their board, so that it faces me. This allows me to quickly assess each student. The first time you do this, it may seem like it takes an eternity, but it really only takes about three minutes.


I use a three-point scoring system to keep it simple. However, depending on your grade level this part may look different in your classroom. A simple check and minus system could work as well. Below you will find a breakdown of my three-point system.

  • Three- This tells me the student got the question correct with zero prompting.
  • Two- This can mean one of two things. Depending on the question, it can mean that the student only got part of it correct. Or, they made one error that resulted in a wrong answer. This group of students can usually be caught up to speed with a quick small group modeling lesson.
  • One- This group either didn’t write anything, or they have no connection to the skill. These students need the concept/lesson retaught.

Using the Data

If I’m being honest, before I started using the checklist, I would quickly look at their whiteboards in that moment and forget the next day who answered what. Now, I don’t use this system for every question I ask. I would be standing up there all day! However, I do use it at least once throughout the lesson. Then, the next day I can follow up with a similar question.