Assess - Analyze - Teach - Repeat

By on September 19, 2016

Even though LiteracyTA just released its first version of a totally awesome assessment tool that auto-grades close reading (mind blowing I know), I have been testing the assessment tool in my classroom since last spring. That means I have had some time to play with it and come up with some practical ways to use it to inform my instruction. Here is what I have learned so far.

I started the year teaching poetry. Instead of starting with a lesson and pretending my students didn't know anything about poetry, I decided to use LiteracyTA's new assessment tool in the LTA Classroom to assess what my students already knew. I wrote a simple 6 question test. My goal was to give one small quiz a week to drive what I would teach next.

My questions were a mix of multiple choice and digital text marking. Text marking? Yes! LiteracyTA's assessment tool can auto grade digital marking, so I didn't need to worry about hand-grading each test. Students mark the text and the computer grades it!!

The assessments were very revealing. I was actually surprised. My class averages were around 60%. That is low. I reviewed the data and realized that students missed most of the text marking questions. This led me to think about multiple choice. Maybe students don't need a deep knowledge of something if they can see possible answers. They just need to know it well enough. When I remove possible answers, they have trouble selecting one word, or phrase, or line in the poem that answers the question. I was giving authentic, highly rigorous assessments and my students were struggling. 

After I reviewed the data, I went to my curriculum and pulled lessons that I have taught in the past. After a few days of direct instruction and group practice, I gave my students another exam. Their scores went up.

I wrote another small test that mixed in new questions with review questions. Their scores improved and I had more to teach. I just finished four weeks of this type of teaching: assess - analyze - teach - repeat. My students are comfortable because they know that they are learning. They see it with every new assessment. In a few weeks after students have learned what I want them to know, I will give a summative assessment that will go into their grade book. My students are so excited. They have enjoyed making mistakes risk free. And they know that I will teach what they don't understand.  

My instinct--when I started all of this--was to write a 30 question comprehensive exam (benchmark test) because that is what was modeled for me when I became a teacher in 2002. Benchmarking was the big push. But there was too much data and I got results that basically said students don't know anything. I wanted to be more scientific and exact with my formative assessments. I wanted bit-size tests that I could give frequently. The tests were not threatening to my students and they didn't take two class periods to complete. Smaller, more frequent tests also allowed me to test and re-test specific information.

Lee Ramsey and I built this tool to help teachers produce actionable data when they need it so that they can immediately respond to their students' learning needs. And we accomplished this. But what I didn't realize is that this tool would change my teaching methodology forever. 

Want to get started with the assessment tool? Sign in and click "LTA Toolkit." Then, click "Classroom." Click "Assessments" and get started.

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The Conversation

Mrs. Piguillem Mrs. Piguillem 9/20/2016

There is no sub menu under Classroom? LTA Toolkit, then Classroom, which opens Student Sign in?

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Mr. LeMaster Mr. LeMaster 9/21/2016

Hi. Students use Student Sign In at the top of any page. Teachers get to the LTA Classroom by Clicking LTA Toolkit in the navigation then Classroom. If you are signed in to LiteracyTA, you will automatically be signed into LTA Classroom. To get started, click the edit pencil icon on the top right.

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