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NYC Helpline: How To: Teach Literacy

How to Use Assessment Data to Meet the Needs of Your Students
Arlyne LeSchack

As teachers we spend a lot of time assessing our students. In the early grades we are required to administer the ECLAS (Early Childhood Literacy Assessment System). Our schools may add other assessments, such as the DIBELS (Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills) and the DRA (Developmental Reading Assessment). If we're teaching using the Reading Workshop/Writing Workshop Model we also have our notes from conferring with our students. That’s a lot of data about each of our students.

But data is useless if we just collect it and go on teaching exactly as we did before. We may teach what a child already knows well, or teach so far over a student's head that they can't get anything out of the lesson. The point of collecting data, it seems to me, is to use that information to modify instruction to meet the needs of our students.

Start with the results of your ECLAS. Use this information to make sure your students have the correct leveled books in their book baggies. You want to have about a third of your classroom leveled. Students should know their levels so that when they "shop" for books they can choose books at their own level. (Rule of thumb: A book is at a student’s level if he or she can read between 85-100% of it accurately.)

Don’t guess at the levels of the books. Many people have invested years of work in studying book characteristics. Here are some resources you can use:

  • The Reading Recovery Booklist by Marie Clay and colleagues ;
  • Guided Reading by Gay Su Pinnell and Irene Fountas ;
  • Barbara Peterson and her work with characteristics of text;
  • Developmental Reading Assessment (DRA) by Joetta Beaver ;
  • Jeanne Chall and her work with qualitative leveling of books.

Everything works better if children are reading books they can read. Your children will make progress, and using the assessment data will have paid off for you.

If you have comments or questions, please contact me at aleschack@aol.com.


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