Using Kidwatching in the Assessment
Cycle to Energize Your Classroom
Theresa London Cooper
Recommended Book of the Month: Kidwatching Documenting
Children’s Literacy Development By Gretchen
Owocki and Yetta Goodman
The assessment cycle is a critical process in sustaining student
engagement and getting students to perform at high levels of achievement.
Region Five uses an ongoing assessment cycle, which consists of
Observing students and collecting evidence of how students are learning.
Examining the evidence to analyze students’ individual strengths
3. Planning and Instruction
Deciding what to teach next and how to teach it by using students’
specific strengths to help address their needs.
4. Teaching and Learning
Teachers execute the plans they developed and students learn.
Whether we realize it or not, we assess our students on a daily
basis. However, in some instances we stop short in the assessment
cycle. We observe student behavior. We make mental notes. But how
often do we reflect on the data we collect? Do we jot it down? Do
we conceive a plan for effective instruction to improve student
learning and increase student engagement based on the data? Do we
then implement that plan?
Collecting data on how our students learn best, what their interests
are and what motivates them to learn will help any teacher energize
the classroom. As we implement the Balanced Literacy Approach and
Everyday Mathematics across the classrooms of New York City, we
have many opportunities to use informal assessments to guide our
practice. They very often yield a great deal more information than
a single standardized test. However, unless we have a consistent
method of how we will collect and use the information we glean from
informal assessments, they will not serve us well. Let us focus
on one example of an informal assessment – kidwatching.
Yetta Goodman popularized the term “kidwatching,” defined
as an informal, systematic observation and recording of student
behavior. It is one method of informal assessment that will support
our decision making in planning instruction, help us assess the
strengths and challenges of our students, note the progress our
students make and provide us with valuable information to determine
the next steps for our students.
I highly recommend Kidwatching: Documenting Children’s Literacy
Development by Gretchen Owocki and Yetta Goodman. Whether you are
an elementary, middle school or high school teacher, whether your
subject area is art or physics, I think you will find the kidwatching
process useful in your quest to energize your classroom. The authors
describe several worthwhile methods teachers may use to record their
findings – anecdotal records, field notes, and checklists.
It is also important to decide how you will document your findings.
Some teachers use a clipboard with a chart of all the students’
names and focus on three or four students per day. Others use a
notebook and assign a page to each student. After some experimenting,
you will find what works best for you.
Once you have collected and recorded the data, it is crucial that
you take time to reflect on and analyze your findings. Ask yourself
the following questions:
- What have I learned about how my students learn?
- How did they respond to the activities I provided?
- Did my students meet my intended objective(s)?
- What might I do differently and/ or next?
In the final step of the assessment cycle, you will execute your
plans and student learning will continue; and the process begins
The assessment cycle is the foundation for effective teaching
and learning for teachers as well as students. Kidwatching facilitates
the process that helps us learn a multitude of facts about our students’
academic, social and personal needs, giving us the information we
need to energize our classrooms for optimal learning. As we move
toward making assessment the foundation of our planning, teaching
and learning, it might be helpful to think about the following quote:
I Have A Dream About Assessment
I have a dream that assessment…
…will be accepted as a means to help teachers plan instruction
rather than as a contrivance to force teachers to jump through hoops;
…will be based on trust in a teacher’s judgment as much
as numbers on a page are trusted;
I have a dream that assessment…
… will become a helpful means to guide children to identify
their own literacy strengths rather than a means to conveniently
… will support each child in becoming the best he or she can
be rather than a means to sort children into groups of the best
and the worst;
And I have a dream that assessment will be put to use
to honor what children can do rather than destroying them for what
they can’t do.
If we all work together we can make such dreams become a reality
as we work to help each child grow.
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