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NYC Helpline: How To: Develop as a Professional

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 four steps:

1. Assessing
Observing students and collecting evidence of how students are learning.

2. Reflecting
Examining the evidence to analyze students’ individual strengths and needs.

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 again.

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 label them;
… 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.

Roger Farr

Do you have a comment or question about this article?  E-mail Theresa.


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