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How do we know what to teach? Start with an easy assessment

You know your objectives for teaching as far as curriculum, but you also need to know what your students know how to do in relation to those objectives, right? If you are teaching for identifying main ideas and explaining textual evidence–what can your students already do to identify main idea and explain supporting details? If you are teaching to think about how text structures contribute to the development of an author’s ideas, what do your students already know about this? Etc.

K-1 and Maybe 2nd Too

Read aloud an engaging informational book like Grandma Elephant’s in Charge and then ask them to sketch and write about what they learned. See my blog analyzing kindergarten students’ written responses to this book.

grandma elephant
kindergarten response 1

2nd-8th Grade Quick Assessment

Before I arrived to give a demo lesson at a school, the fifth grade teacher asked the students to read and respond to a NewsELA article entitled “8-year-old who is blind prepares for reading competition in L.A.” (If you have some inkling of the students’ reading levels, you can print this article at different Lexile levels.) The prompt for the written response was “What is one main idea in this article? What in the article makes you think so?”

Ideally, for 5-8th grade students, I’d prompt with “What are two or more main ideas in the text? Explain how these main ideas are supported by key details in the text.”

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This article has multiple main ideas that students might notice and explain further –

  • Amare, who is blind, loves reading. (VERY SIMPLE)
  • Amare’s hard work learning to read and reading has paid off; he is going on an amazing adventure with the Braille Challenge competition.
  • The Braille Challenge inspires blind students to read and compete.
  • Children with visual impairments like Amare can excel at reading Braille.
  • Teachers of Braille are important to children with visual impairments like Amare. Without them, these children might not learn how to read or even learn.
  • Reading Braille is one way for blind children to experience the world – by reading and by traveling to competitions like the Braille Challenge.
  • Children with visual impairments experience life differently and similarly to children without visual impairments.

Sample Analysis of 5th Grade Students’ Responses

We used the students’ responses to help us determine what I should teach during the demonstration lesson. In the response below, notice that this student has identified multiple main ideas (“how Amare loves reading” and “how his life turned amazing” and even “he overcomes blindness”) and offered some textual evidence to support these main ideas. When I think about teaching this student, I’m planning for helping her with organization and elaboration. When I lean in to confer with her, I might even offer her more global main ideas to grapple with like how the author reveals that children with visual impairments experience life differently and similarly to children with visual impairments.

Screen Shot 2016-08-08 at 6.56.29 AM

In contrast, the student who wrote the response below has attempted to state a main idea and use quotes from the text to support this idea (strengths). The main idea is unclear, though, as is the relationship between the main idea and the quotes from the text. For this student, I might provide a clear main idea (from the list above) for him to grapple with or coach him in developing a clearer idea orally before he begins writing. In addition, I’d engage him in conversations explaining why a particular quote is relevant before he writes.

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For more examples of responses and my analysis, check out this blog entry.

What I noticed in these two responses helped me fine tune my lesson which I describe in another blog entry!

Hope this helps.

Sunday

REVISED 4/20/21

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