Assessment Tips & Tricks! [From Sassy, Savvy, Simple Teaching]


Hello Friends~

It's Dianna here with you today from Sassy, Savvy, Simple Teaching! Today I am coming from the mindset of a K-3 North Carolina teacher. So this post would be similar to anyone from another state or county that assesses beginning, middle & end of the year in Reading using Dibels, TRC, DRA, SRA, Fountas & Pinnell, a combination of assessments, or any other similar assessment kits.

If you are like our state, we have a 15 day window to complete assessments. At my school, during the beginning & middle of the year assessment windows teachers completed assessments on their own. At the end of the year, with switching assessors, my principal gives teachers a 1/2 day to accomplish most of the assessing, then the teachers are on their own to finish up. [Very nice of him, only a few schools do it! I do beg all year for my teachers to get that! LOL!] He does this because it can get tricky assessing students in a neighboring classroom with schedules. Also, there is a HUGE fidelity check in place seeing that this counts towards teacher evaluations. But the bottom line is, it comes down to $ for subs. So I ask at the beginning of the school year so that we can have $ to do this. On average a teacher can assess 5-8 students in a class for TRC. So it is greatly appreciated by the teachers! 

During all of the assessment windows my Instructional Coach & I offer to come in for a 30-60 minute window to teach a lesson or do an activity for teachers to assess during. I also offer to help classes with high numbers & our newer teachers. I make sure to always offer any type of assistance, but most of my teachers prefer to get it done alone [Then come to me the last few days asking for help if needed & freaking out! LOL!] I do keep daily checks on our completion rate to avoid last minute finishers. I like to keep everyone up to date & in the loop so we don't procrastinate. With that being said, it is very important for teachers to read 1:1 with their own students when assessing. It's the most important instructional data you can get, better than anything from paper. So I try to help teachers in other ways than doing their assessments for them. 

I'm here with you today to discuss how to organize & complete the K-3 mCLASS assessments [Dibels & TRC] without shutting down instruction. 

*BEFORE YOU CONTINUE TO READ.... This is nothing new, this is nothing teachers do not already know or should know, this is what is not always happening to be successful...


1: Prepare Materials
 Monkey Business/DollarPhotoClub
Teachers, you need everything ready! No wasting time, not even a minute. Prepare everything!

Before assessments begin...
  • Mark the Dibels assessments in student book with labeled tabs; example: NWF EOY, LNF EOY, & DORF EOY. 
  • Make the Word Recognition lists in student book with labeled tabs; example: List A, List B & List C. 
  • Pull the correct genre of books for each level needed to begin assessments.
  • Charge your tablet. 
  • Log into your tablet & make sure updates are done.
  • Keep your charger near by.
  • Have an extra tablet ready in case it is needed [like your personal iPad]. 
  • Sharpen all pencils & have good erasers ready.
  • Have privacy folders ready.
  • Talk to nearby teachers, sometimes you may need to borrow a book if you have 2 students assessing on the same book. Know where their materials are in advance so you can quickly borrow it.
All of my teachers have a master binder of all the written comprehension questions & rubrics. They are to have that out & ready to use. I also suggest flagging them by levels for easy access. 

I suggest to my teachers...
  • Copy TRC written comprehension question pages needed & have loose leaf paper ready. This way after the running record & oral comprehension questions students can begin their written response if needed. 

2: Organize Assessment Space
 monkeybusinessimages / BIGSTOCKIMAGES
Please do not be a distraction to yourself or your students. Nothing is more uncomfortable to sit & assess at a table stacked with books, papers & miscellaneous items. First of all, if you consistently meet with students at this space, it should never be a "hot mess". Nobody can focus in this type of setting. Your eyes & the students eyes will draw near the mess. Where ever you plan to assess, it should be cleaned, organized & only the materials needed visible. A small group meeting table should not be used as a shelving unit. It should be cleared for you to work with individual students or small groups of students. If you are a teacher that collects clutter, please be aware of that & for assessments do your best to keep this area uncluttered for the assessment window. Clean, uncluttered & visually soothing assessment areas only help your student focus & you to focus.

This is all you need at your assessing table:
  • Teacher assessment materials.
  • Student assessment materials.
  • Tablet to mark assessments.
  • Tablet charger & an extra device for back up.
  • Copies of students written response papers needed or loose leaf paper.
  • Sharpened pencils.
  • The "good" erasers.
  • Privacy folders.
  • Tissue & sanitizer.
  • A special treat for a job well done!
  • Don't forget to clean the space too!

3: Prepare Students
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Preparing students means a variety of things...

Tell your students...
  • You will be assessing & reading with them individually. 
  • You believe in all of them & can't wait to see how they have grown as readers.
  • You want to listen to all of them read with you alone.
  • You will be giving each one of them individual time with you.
Remind your students...
  • When assessing, we do not bother the student or teacher unless it is an emergency.
  • What an emergency is.
  • Protocol for going to the bathroom, sharpening pencils, tattling, asking group leaders for assistance & so forth.
As a teacher you should always have materials prepped... But we know how that goes, so make sure you have your materials prepped for the 15 day assessment window. Do not waste time that should be spent with students looking for things.

Prep everything that your students need all 15 days in advance...
  • Mini-lesson materials
  • Whole group materials
  • Small group materials
  • Center materials
  • Everything on your boards
  • Copies & papers needed
  • Charts
  • Technology.

4: Prepare Calendar
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I can't stress this enough, there is something about actually writing out a schedule just like a to-do list that creates a sense of follow through. Consider assessment time as an appointment with each student. This is a special time where you give each student a handful of your attention to hear & see them read, remember this is THE BEST DATA YOU WILL EVER GET! It is better than reading scores on paper afterwards. 

When making your schedule here are things you SHOULD NOT DO:
  • STOP mini-lessons
  • STOP ALL of your small group meetings
  • STOP ALL of your individual conferences 
  • SIT yourself in a chair all day
  • RAISE YOUR VOICE at students from a chair all day

When making your schedule here are things you SHOULD DO:

For TRC:
  • Make note of students you expect to jump many book levels. They will take longer.
  • Make note of students who write slow & write fast. When responding to reading through writing, students vary on time needed.
  • Make note of students you expect to move 1-2 book levels up. 
  • Make note of students who get distracted easily.
  • Make note of students who can read & respond during any setting.

Now start scheduling students! For TRC, you are expected to complete 2 students a day. If you follow this, you will not fall behind.

Here are my suggestions for mCLASS Dibels & TRC:

For TRC:
  • Use your morning work / breakfast time to complete a student. Primary teachers always say students read better in the morning! Plus you are not using your "teaching time" at this point in the day. Also you do not have a classroom full at this time as students are arriving. If you have rituals & routines, this is a good time to use.
  • Use "bonus resource" time. At my school, teachers have Guidance or Media Center as a "bonus resource" outside of their daily resource time [PE, Art, Music, Lab]. Of course you never want to use your planning time but this is extra. Teachers still get their daily planning time. This is the time to assess a student who is distracted easily. You can do this in an area where nobody is around that would cause distractions. 
  • Use 1 of your small group meeting times. DO NOT STOP SMALL GROUPS! Most teachers have 2-3 small groups a day for 12-20 minutes. Adjust your schedule for the 15 day window that allows students to be in centers while you assess a child individually. You are still continuing your daily small group instruction during your other rounds.
  • Use 1 of your whole group work periods. Sometimes after a mini-lesson students all have an activity to complete prior to centers. Pull a student to the back table to read to you. 
For Dibels:

These are 1 minute... My first suggestion may shock people, but I did it & so can you...
  • DURING GUIDED READING SMALL GROUP! When students come to your table they usually have a warm up activity, book walk or something similar. Ask a specific student to sit on the end or corner by you. When the other students get started, have them assess. This is a perfect time to get NWF, PSF, FSF, LNF or DORF completed. 
  • When students are lining up. Let's be serious, most teachers can take up to 5 minutes to line students up. Take a student aside for 1 minute.
  • During bathroom breaks. Again 1 minute to assess while students are standing silently waiting their turn. 
  • Use 1 of your small group meeting times. DO NOT STOP SMALL GROUPS! Most teachers have 2-3 small groups a day for 12-20 minutes. Adjust your schedule for the 15 day window that allows students to be in centers while you assess a child individually. You are still continuing your daily small group instruction during your other rounds.
  • Use 1 of your whole group work periods. Sometimes after a mini-lesson students all have an activity to complete prior to centers. Pull a student to the back table to read to you. 

5: Use a Timer
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Do I sound crazy for saying this?!?! I'm not!!! Most teachers are like, "around this time I do this" or "around this time I start this" or "I'll start this around this time"... NOPE! They never stick to a minute by minute schedule. That's a big problem with teachers on a regular day, they have wasted time & don't even realize it. Not going to work during assessments people! You have to be on a strict schedule. Set a timer for everything! Teachers normally only set the timer for centers. Set the timer for things you don't usually do, like:
  • morning work
  • mini-lessons
  • transitions
  • bathroom
  • clean up
  • whole group work period
  • lining up
  • bathroom
  • recess
  • lunch
EVERYTHING! This will help you when planning your assessment appointment calendar. You will know the exact amount of time you have allotted yourself. Also this will cut down on behavior problems. Keeping students on a "strict diet of time" is like "keeping your ducks in a row" & I'm being serious. The less unstructured time, the better for you & your students!


6: Execute! NO EXCUSES!
Iliana Mihaleva / DollarPhotoClub
If you stick to your plan, do not get sidetracked, don't waste time, you can get it done! 

BIGGEST MISTAKES: 
  1. Not starting assessments on day 1.
  2. Not having student rituals & routines.
  3. Not having student expectations.
  4. Not being organized daily.
  5. Not having testing materials prepped.
  6. Not using every minute of every day accordingly.
  7. Not using an appointment calendar for assessments.
  8. Not having clutter in your assessing area.
  9. Not having students materials for lessons prepped .
  10. Note having teacher materials for lessons prepped.
You can do this! Prepare to stay focused! Every minute counts when you are trying to assess during the regular school day! 



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