Assessment for Planning

When teaching a Literacy Support program (also known as RTI or Reading Intervention in our school), we are always mindful of our provincial curricular outcomes at each grade level. What are the students expected to learn?

We know that our children needing literacy support are not yet meeting grade level expectations for many of the reading and writing outcomes, and need more time and help somewhere along the curricular continuum. Teacher awareness of current and previous levels of the curriculum are essential, as well as a solid understanding of the components of reading/writing. As well, recognizing some of current definitions of what is means to be literate must also be considered (NCTE). In today’s classroom, that must translate into carefully planned and orchestrated learning opportunities for all students.

For our learners missing some of the foundational pieces of literacy development, what matters the most is understanding individual strengths, areas for improvement and instructional next steps. Assessment for planning works for these students. The evidence of what these learners are successful with (or struggle with) on a daily basis, determines where we go next.

At a week long assessment conference with Anne Davies several years ago, I was struck by these wise words: “Do we assess what we value or value what we assess?” That question continues to guide my decision making each day. How do we find evidence of what we value with our literacy learners? How do we use that evidence to plan our next steps? Unfortunately, as teachers, we may have “evidence” of student learning that gets filed away and forgotten, as it does not get used in any planning for learning. Unless that evidence is strictly a summative piece, used at the “end of the learning” or for reporting purposes, all other formative observations, conversations and performances/products are essential to planning for instruction.

We must know what we value, and assess accordingly. And then use that information to plan our instruction. Assessment for Planning.

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