If there’s one thing I’m constantly reflecting on, changing, and rethinking, it’s my assessment practices in the classroom. I’m not sure I’ll ever feel like I’ve found a way to track my students’ progress that works for me 100%, but I’m getting close! I’ve spent some time recently chatting with colleagues about how I assess my students, and based on the feedback I’ve gotten from them, I decided I would share my general assessment practices here in case anyone might find them helpful.
My assessment binder has a variety of components: class lists with a bunch of little checkboxes where I track completed work, marks, and so on; class lists with a comment box after each student where I write anecdotal notes about specific tasks; a large table where I keep sticky notes with anecdotal observations throughout the week; other pages I find helpful along the way. I’ll try to address these all specifically in this blog post.
I start every day with a discussion or a small task designed to reinforce something my students learned the day before. Discussion questions provide my students with the opportunity to practice their language skills in a relaxed way. Questions range from silly what-if situations to more serious topics like bullying. While my students are discussing the topic, I make notes about their speaking and listening skills on small post-it notes (one per student). These notes not only record students’ strengths and areas of need, but also inform my teaching in the sense that I can target my lessons to common areas of need or errors being made by many students. I try to focus on different students each day so that by the end of the week, I’ve noted something about every student in the class. When I have a moment, the post-its go on a laminated table I have.
The table has a box for each student in my class. Throughout the week, as I write down notes about students, I keep the post-its on the table in my assessment binder. At the end of the week, I transfer those notes into an electronic document for each student. I have one document for each student, which allows me to look back over the year and see my observations for that student all in one place. After I’ve transferred the notes to my computer, I usually shred the post-its. Sometimes the post-its are about specific subjects rather than learning skills or behaviours, and in those cases I may choose to keep them elsewhere rather than my computer files. I have an area of my binder for each subject, so it’s easy to keep the post-its in the appropriate part of the binder when necessary.
Sometimes I have a question or two on the board which I ask students to answer in writing rather than having a discussion. For example, this past week I have been teaching my students about light, so occasionally when they come into the room in the morning I have asked them to answer questions about what we’ve learned. This shows me who is understanding the material, who needs a bit more guidance, who is totally off-base, etc.
When I want to keep notes about students’ achievement relating to a specific task, such as a project or presentation, I use a class list with a comment box next to each student’s name. I keep notes on feedback I provide to students, collaboration with peers, etc. in those boxes. This way, when I provide feedback to students, I still have a copy of what I said to them on-hand and can see the whole class at a glance. I keep those sheets divided by subject/strand in my assessment binder. They’re used for reporting and evaluation of student progress in specific subject areas.
I do GB+ evaluations (the French equivalent of PM Benchmarks) every two months with my students. These running records get placed in alphabetical order in a section of my assessment binder specifically for them. I like to keep all of the running records from the beginning of the year to the end.
Those are the three primary ways in which I track student progress. It works reasonably well, though there are definitely improvements I could make to my system. I find it easy to find information when I need it, which is handy when meeting with students’ families or trying to look back on the feedback I’ve provided to a specific student over the past few months.
One last piece of advice, regardless of what system you use to track student progress: back everything up. Whether you use a paper system, an electronic system, or a combination thereof, make sure you have a copy of your notes somewhere. You never know when something might go awry with your binder, your computer, your files… speaking as someone who has lost a term’s worth of data unexpectedly? Don’t be that person who has to scramble to figure out student marks and comments at the last minute when your hard drive fails!