Sunday, May 8, 2011

A Word about Assessments

Okay...brag moment, then I'll let it go because really, was it all me?  No, most likely not.  But it does make me feel successful! 
So, May is here and we do our final assessment of the year.  This past week, I worked 1:1 with the student going to Kindergarten this fall.  We focused on what he knew about the alphabet.  The results:
* matched upper to lower case letters 25/26!!!
* stated the name of upper case letters 26/26-lower case letters 24/26
* sounds of the letters 22/26 + missing a long vowel sound (which I really don't get into)
* beginning sounds, create a word 25/26, well, 24 out of 26 because he said socks for the x sound...but I took that one.  He heard the sound (we emphasize ending sounds for the letter x because x-ray...well, okay.  But xylophone...doesn't even make the x sound.)

Comments...I got rhyming words frequently with the statement they rhymed and the words were not "typical" symbols of letter sounds...which I really worked on these last couple of months.  I didn't want memorized ones from my kiddo going to Kindergarten.  I really wanted to know he could hear the sound and come up with various words. 

The 4 year old...we started...but I do it in multiple sessions as I want a good feel of what she knows....not her "tired" responses.  :-)  She has gone forward from her last assessment in January also.  Yeah! 

So, my opinion about assessments. 

*  Assessments are assessing how well I'm teaching as much as finding out what the child's progress is and what we need to work on.

*  A three times a year assessment is most beneficial.  Work, a little...but very beneficial!  First off in the month of helps me get a good feel for where they are at.  January, well, it's middle of the year and after break so I can find out if they "lost" anything and especially if they are heading to Kindergarten, what I really need to be incorporating.  And of course the final assessment in May gives us an end we can see where they started and where they ended.  Having it on paper where you can see the progress is so nice!  This year I'm adding pictures throughout the year to the left side of each page for the final printout for the parents.  A little "keepsake".  

*  Do I test?  I don't consider what I do "testing".  I get as much as I can setting up the environment...planning certain activities and then stepping back and observing.  If I do have to do a "sit down"...often with something like the whole alphabet...then I use a hands-on approach.  The children know that it's okay to say "I don't know" if they really don't know it.  I actually take the route that what I'm seeing how well I taught.  :-)  They think that's pretty funny!  

*  What assessment do I use?  I have created my own.  I could purchase a curriculum and they typically have the assessments that go along with it...but for my program, I can't afford to do that.  And really, I don't particularly care for many of the assessments.  Some categories are more general then I care for.  For example, the category of literacy is so broad!  In my own assessment I have broken it up into several categories and have several points within each one.  It helps me with my planning (making sure I'm not missing anything) and it really gives the adults a better picture of where the child is at.  My assessment is one created to directly correlate with what I teach.  I have been in many a program who have curriculum and assessment tools "in place" but the teacher isn't teaching accordingly so really, how can you expect a child to "make progress" if you aren't setting the environment up to help them experience all of what you are assessing?  

*  Proof?  It's always wise to take notes about why you have stated what you did on an assessment.  From a formal preschool point of are going to want to be able to tell the parent/guardian why the child is "still developing" or is at a "forerunner" still or you know the child has accomplished the goal.  From a home-schooling point of view (and hopefully a formal preschool teacher's, as well), this gives you something to jog your memory...because's easy to forget certain situations that lead you to believe that they do have or do not have a specific skill.  I also found that some teachers state that a child is accomplished at a skill at the first assessment and then instead of reassessing that, they just don't bother (time is always precious, right?).  My qualm with that is that some children are really still "developing" even if they give the right answer or show the skill every once in awhile.   I have that situation right now.  A child who "seemed" to have grasped the concept but then throughout the weeks after I can see that sometimes they do and sometimes they don't...and to me that does not equal "accomplished".  :-)  That is still developing.   But soon that child will grasp it!  She has another whole year with me.  :-P  I'm not worried at all! 

*  Repetition.  Children need after you have assessed them and they have seemingly accomplished a goal...please don't stop providing those types of activities.  Yes, seems silly for me to say that but I've seen that happen!  They need constant review so that those brain connections are firmly made! It brings to mind the "letter of the week" programs.  Yes, some people have success with that...usually home schooling parents or small group preschool...but often in a larger setting, they do that one letter a week, assess whether they know it and move onto the next with minimal to no review of the previous letter.  And really, if they are going A-Z, it's really not all that meaningful!  So if something isn't all that meaningful to a child...what's the possibility they are going to retain it?  Personal opinion of course! :-) I'm full of those!

There is so much out there about assessments and early childhood anymore!  Yeah!  And the nice thing is that all have the same general idea about what's appropriate (and I guess it's a good thing I agree :-P).  One thing I really like to do is to check out other state's early childhood curriculum frameworks.  Something you may wish to do when you have a few moments.  :-)  Just google "preschool and assessments" or "preschool and curriculum"  or "early childhood state standards" etc.  Also, remember  Have fun! 

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