What Do You Want to Know- Question #2

Christy asks,

I teach 5th grade reading/language arts. What types of activities and assignments do you take grades from?

First, let me explain that I teach using the workshop method, but I do not teach in a workshop-based school.  We grade on an A-F scale, and I am expected to assess my students on this scale.  However, I have managed to modify assignments and grading to make it work for me.

I should begin by pointing out that I grade on a point scale.  Each assignment is worth a specified amount of points.  At the end of the marking period, I add up the amount of points a student received and divide it by the number of points a student could have achieved.  This works well for me, because I use a lot of rubrics.  It also allows me to easily weight assignments.  

Now, my reading assessments are varied.  As I have explained previously, my students are responsible for one letter-essay every 3-4 weeks.  These letter-essays are assessed on a 1-4 scale, using a rubric.  Each student hands in 3 letter-essays each marking period.  I also do a lot of reader’s response and metacognitive response work.  For example, my students just finished their Holocaust/WWII book clubs.  Each book club was responsible for answering 4-6 essential questions from the unit, using knowledge from their book selection.  This was worth 50 points.  Then each individual was responsible for a reader’s response activity that focused on theme (adapted from Day-to-Day Assessment in the Reading Workshop: Making Informed Instructional Decisions in Grades 3-6).  Each question was worth 10 points on a rubric.  Together, this was added up for a 100 point grade in my gradebook.  This is just one example of an assessment I use.

I do give traditional tests and quizzes.  Vocabulary is tested using quizzes and the points earned are added to my grading book.  And while I don’t do whole-class novels often, I don’t dispose of them completely.  At certain points during the year I do give traditional comprehension tests on novels.  I try to only do this 1-2x each year, because I use so many other assessments.  However, my students need to know how to take traditional comprehension tests in order to survive middle school and high school.  I also try to use these tests to assess their writing.  For example, I include essays and literary essays after we finish those units of study.  It helps students to realize the link between reading, writing, and the content areas.

Finally, we do projects!  These are always graded with a rubric.  Always.  I DO NOT do book reports.  Please, don’t assume project=book report.  Instead, we do activities related to our unit of study.  For example, our current read-aloud is The Lightning Thief and we are studying mythology in class. (This goes hand-in-hand with their current social studies unit). Most recently, my students did a project where they modernized a Greek god/goddess. They drew a picture of their modernized god/goddess and wrote a modern myth about them. One student explained the war in Iraq as the result of a fight between Ares and Hades. Another wrote about Poseidon causing Hurricane Katrina. It was awesome! They got to have fun and be creative with art, reading, and writing and I had a great assessment.

Hopefully, this helps explain my assessments.  It’s hard to boil it down into a blog post, so please comment if you need any clarifications or have more questions!