Best Book I Have Not Read

Writing, Reading, Teaching, Life, Attempting to Balance it All

The Art of Teaching Reading and Assessment June 18, 2009

I know I have mentioned  The Art of Teaching Reading by Lucy Calkins, but I feel it  is a book I feel all K-8 teachers would benefit from reading if they have not done so.

Last night at baseball (I’ve figured I can get one chapter of something in if I leave my finger in it and read as the teams switch for in and out field without missing anything) I finished rereading the chapter on Assessment (pp. 137-157) and it, like everything else in the book makes so much sense. Here are some of the highlights:

Assessment is the thinking teacher’s mind work.

“Have you ever tried to change the tire of your car while driving along a mountain road? That’s what it’s like trying to assess your readers in the midst of classroom teaching.” (pp. 137-138)

The chapter is not about ideal methods of assessment, but offers guidance to teachers who find it difficult to fit assessment into the very real-world of classroom teaching.

Calkins strongly urges schools to support two days of one-to-one appointments between all teachers and all children before the first day of school. Wow! Wouldn’t that be fantastic?!

Schools need to develop a gradient of assessment expectations for teachers–first year teachers might need help determining which assessments are critical.

Calkins advises starting with a lean system of assessment and then moving the world to be sure that this assessment affects teaching and learning (the spot where many assessments or assessment programs fall down!)

According to Calkins, “What is the bottom rung of reading assessment?”

Every teachers must accomplish the following goals:

  • An efficient means of quickly and roughly matching readers with books so that the class is engaged in productive work from the first week of schoo and we can begin to assess individuals more closely.
  • We need to underand and support children’s habits, values and self-perceptions as readers.  If every converstaion with every child is all about weighing and measuring the child’s place within our leveled libraries, we end up teaching lessons we did not intend to teach-that we are trying to line up children according to whether they are better or worse readers.          Children should immediately and always sense our interest in the wholeness of each of them as a reader. teaching them  to not simply get through text, but to compose richly literate lives.
  • We need to understand the strategies and sources of information individual readers use and don’t use and need to tailor instruction to each child’s strengths and needs.
  • We need to take early note of (and then understand, teach, and track the progress of) children who are failing to thrive.
  • We need to hold our teaching accountable as we work toward clear and public goals
  • We will achieve a classroom system of assessment that forces us to develop multi-level teaching plans
  • Even the above goals are ambitious.  

Here are her starter questions for getting to know your students as readers:

What should I know about you as a reader?

With whom do you share your reading?

When has reading really worked for you in your life? Tell me about that time. When as reading really NOT been a good thing for you in your life?
What are some neat things you do with reading at home?

Can you walk me through a day and tell me about the reading you generally do? 

Goals: (students help form them-not just having them set by us)

What kind of reader are you right now?

What kind of reader do you want to become?

What do you plan to do to become that kind of reader?

How did this plan help you grow as a reader? Be specific.

What is your next goal? What is your next plan?

What texts will finish your fiction standard?

“It is too easy to become lulled into believing that by suggesting, mentioning, or assigning readers to do something, we’ve accomplished the job of teaching. “

Calkins also recommends that each grade level identify certain observeable signs of reading progress and look for them across the grade, and that we systemically collect data according to these indicators and bring what we learn to meetings and study groups with our colleagues. (We would all learn so much!)

Our assessment system should provide us with a constant source of feedback on our progress toward our goals. Our teaching should be more powerful when we hold ourselves accoutnable for having a real effect on our students’ work. Instead of teaching in a whole-class fashion to a hypothetical average students, we need to take into account thte range of development within our classrooms, designing a curriculum that meets all our children where they are and takes each child further.

I LOVE Lucy Calkins and Teachers College-they just make so much sense out of a very difficult job-teaching reading and writing to a whole class of individuals.

art of teaching reading


One Response to “The Art of Teaching Reading and Assessment”

  1. Robin Gibson Says:

    Kristine —
    “Instead of teaching in a whole-class fashion to hypothetical average students, we need to take into account the range of development within our classrooms, designing a curriculum that meets all our children where they are and takes each child further.”
    what a great statement! thanks!

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