Just a quick post to share a formative assessment strategy from one of the greats. This is from Carol Jago’s fantastic book With Rigor For All and is one of the more interesting ways I’ve come across to assess student understanding of reading. Since it’s now almost March, it’s also that time of the year when a new teaching strategy can energize you and your classroom. So, here’s a quick one for your teaching toolbox.
In With Rigor for All, Jago describes a method she has used to check for reading comprehension without resorting to a conventional multiple choice quiz. She starts class by telling students to “close their eyes and visualize the most powerful image they remember from last night’s reading” (58). Then she has students fold a piece of paper into four squares and quickly complete a four-step process to describe the scene.
- In the first box, students draw a picture of a powerful image from what they read;
- In the second box, students put their picture into words;
- In the third box, students imagine they are professors of literature and write a brief lecture to a college class describing the scene they drew;
- In the fourth box, students write a poem describing or responding to the scene they selected.
It’s clear that for students to be able to complete this task, they will have had to read the text. More importantly, questions like the four Jago used with her students will give a teacher a more complete picture of student understanding than they would have acquired from a standard quiz. A teacher will be able to see what scenes resonated with students and how they are responding to the action in the story. Teachers can then adjust instruction based on this robust student feedback. An activity like this might also get students to engage a little more closely with a text since they are the ones determining what is important in the story, not the teacher. Indeed, for Jago, this kind of assessment empowers students with choice. “Students,” Jago writes, “explored a scene from the level that they–rather than I–found powerful” (59). Choice, creativity, artistic interpretation, analysis, informational writing, poetry–all in one simple formative assessment.
Jago, Carol. With Rigor for All: Meeting Common Core Standards for Reading Literature. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 2011. Print.