Assessment: fast and easy tools

Authentic Assessments like story retells, reader’s notebooks, and student conferences take more time than traditional tests.  Even so, low-accountability, no-test/no comprehension question stories and books make love of reading possible.  Here are some free, easy-to-use authentic assessment tools to save you time.

 

Rubistar

With the exception of sheltered instruction, 90% of my assessments require just 2-3 rubrics (here) which I use again and again.  For those rare times I need a new rubric, I don’t re-invent the wheel; I browse the free rubrics at Rubistar and adapt them.

 

Digital Reading Logs

Biblionasium and Bookopolis are two great tools for digital reading logs, and they are both alternatives to GoodReads.com (which I would not recommend for K-12 as student information is not secure).

 

SpokenText

Since my students have switched to digital readers’ notebooks (readers’ blogs) and digital Story Listening journals, I just copy and paste to create an mp3 to listen to on my daily commute.  The audio support is also helpful if your students prefer to write in L1 and your espagnol is no bueno.

 

Speechnotes

Sort of the opposite of SpokenText, this app takes speech and turns it into text for you to analyze.  Lower accountability for students by testing the input, not the child.  Simply click the red record button, tell your story as you normally would, then you end up with a text 1. to modify and read with students and 2. to evaluate using the Lextutor tool below.

 

Lextutor

This site has amazing tools based on Laufer and Nation’s Lexical Frequency Profiler.  Besides the quantitative text mentioned above, you create Cloze tests for occasional bench-marking or classroom research.  Another great feature is the recycling profiler, which I demonstrate here.

 

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B0nMIYjHI-FOcE9iYXBvVHhCRUU/view?usp=sharing

 

Advertisements

Learning Strategies

Since “No Child Left Behind…Strategies entered everyday practice in classrooms” where students maintain “deliberate control, goal-directedness, and awareness” of what they are reading (Afflerbach, Pearson, & Paris, 367).  The message: reading is work and explicitly learned strategies help us read/work more deliberately.

My message to my students is very different: reading is fun.  You should not notice how you are reading except when something’s wrong and you don’t love what you read. When you find books you love, you will naturally predict, draw conclusions, evaluate characters, etc.  No need to put the book down to fill out a diagram when you’re lost in a good book.  No need to chop up text to “turn and talk.”

Krashen’s “Din in the Head” Hypothesis states that students acquire best when so engrossed in a message, they are not aware of the language (Krashen, 1983). Getting lost in a book is not only more pleasant, it allows implicit acquisition of “the strategies …that we do anyway, that we are “wired to do” (Krashen & Brown 2007, 4).

Only occasionally can learning strategies help students who can’t seem to get lost in a reading “flow.”  Even so, strategies are not skills to build but rather ways to deal with obstacles to compelling, comprehensible input: 1. What do I do when I don’t understand? (Brown, 2006) or 2. What do I do when I can’t find a good book?

1. What do I do when I don’t understand?

Stephen Krashen and Clara Lee Brown write that explicitly-taught strategies are effective only if they “make input more comprehensible, e.g. narrow reading, obtaining background knowledge” or “help content learning” (2007, 4).   However, “study skills” or skills that would have developed naturally (ex. predicting or drawing conclusions) “…should not be taught” (Krashen & Brown 2007, 4).

 

2. What do I do when I can’t find a good book? 

A_child_reading_a_book_by_Pratham_Books_-_Flickr_-_Pratham_Books

Janet Allen notes her students did not feel genuine “wonder” using a K-W-L.  They truly engaged with the text only if I did something to build background and create an emotional connection to the topic” (13).  Give students strategies that help them seek out and build interest in books: talking about books with friends, putting down boring books or skipping difficult passages, reading in a series, or asking a librarian for a read-alike.

Once students have found the perfectly compelling, perfectly comprehensible text that activates “Din in the Head” do not pull out a diagram.

 


Afflerbach, P. Pearson, D., & Paris, S. (February 2008). Clarifying Differences Between Reading Skills and Reading Strategies. The Reading Teacher, 61 (5), 364–373. Available at: http://deepblue.lib.umich.edu/bitstream/handle/2027.42/88049/RT.61.5.1.pdf?sequence=1

Allen, J., & Landaker, C. (2005). Reading history: a practical guide to improving literacy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Allington, R. & Gallagher, K. (2009).  Readicide : how schools are killing reading and what you can do about it.  Stenhouse Publishers: Portland, ME.

Brown, C. (2006). ESL Methods. Lecture, University of Tennessee.

Krashen, S. & Brown, C. L. (2007). What is Academic Language Proficiency? Singapore Tertiary English Teachers Society (STETS) Language & Communication Review: 6(1), 1-4 Available at: http://www.sdkrashen.com/content/articles/krashen_brown_alp.pdf

Krashen, S. D. (1983). The Din in the Head, Input, and the Language Acquisition Device. Foreign Language Annals, 16(1), 41-44. doi:10.1111/j.1944-9720.1983.tb01422.x

Synonyms, Antonyms, and Asides

Watch the first 3 minutes of this intermediate Story Listening demonstration.  In it, Dr. Beniko Mason makes use of the antonyms, synonyms, and asides.

A man “was poor, not rich…he had little”

“He longed for , wished for, wanted to have”

“a small house, a tiny hut”

“He lived a lonely life; he lived alone…He lived a quiet life.”

Something fell in a bush. “A bush is a small true, not a tall tree…like a rose bush.”

It was “wounded,” “hurt,”  “injured”

 

In the Story Listening Toolkit, Dr. Krashen and Dr. Mason suggest building on words students already know as you introduce new, rich and unfamiliar words. antonyms, synonyms, and asides builds the schematic constructs linking new messages and language to language we already understand.

The following diagram visually represents this strategy, but if this diagram seems confusing, ignore it and just follow Dr. Mason’s example above.  The end result should be natural, not formulaic.

 

Easiest

(ex. cognate)

Moderate

(not a cognate but high frequency)

Hardest

(not a cognate, low frequency)

synonym X X X
antonym X X X

 

Example 

 

Story 1:  Turandot  (English / French)

Easiest

(ex. cognate)

Moderate

(not a cognate but high frequency)

Hardest

(not a cognate, not high frequency)

romance love (they aren’t ready for harder words)
detest hate (they aren’t ready for harder words)

“Turandot wants love… she wants romance.  (Romance is the same in Spanish).”

“Turandot hates the princes…she detests them.  (Detest is the same Spanish)

…She does not love the princes.  The princes say they love her, but she hates them.”

 

Story 2:  Sweetheart Roland

Easiest

(ex. cognate)

Moderate

(not a cognate but high frequency)

Hardest

(not a cognate, not high frequency)

romance love sweetheart
detest hate loath

“She loves Roland.  Roland loves her.  It’s a serious romance. (serious and romance are the same in Spanish).  They are sweethearts.”

“The witch hates her.  She loathes her!  She wants her to die.”


Extra Activities: Simplify, Simplify

At the end of class just before Labor Day vacation, my students reflected on how much they had learned in just 8 class periods.  They knew words like “says,” “go” and “goes away forever,” “love,” “feels sad or happy,” and their favorite “die!”  The students spontaneously decided they wanted to list the words they knew on the board for the last few minutes of class.  They felt empowered watching the list grow.

Did this or any skill-building or vocabulary activity help them acquire language?  No, but it felt fun and generated interest in hearing more stories. Story Listening may be used with occasional fun, low-accountability activities, but when the story itself becomes just an “extra activity” it is no longer Story Listening.

Story Listening is telling stories in a comprehensible way, sometimes using targeting 2 to clarify.  According to Dr. Beniko Mason, “A story-listening lesson should not include dictation exercises, should not be accompanied with fill-in-the-blanks, or match-the–short-dialogs-and-the-pictures exercises. It’s the story that counts.”

This method was developed over many decades of research showing that “stories plus activities” contributes to second language acquisition less efficiently than stories alone (Mason 2013, 2007, 2004).  Yes, telling stories in any form will provide the input needed to show growth, but choosing to cut out “extra activities” for time’s sake is more efficient.

c69c3cc204072652dcf5c19a7436e79d--coco-chanel-little-black-dresses

Craftsman who create something elegantly simple and streamlined would be frustrated to then see the clutter re-appear.  They would want to distance their work from those who seek to add back in the unnecessary extras.

Some “educational consultants” are no doubt hoping to use Story Listening as the latest buzzword activity at their next conference, but Story Listening is more about what we chose not to do than what we are doing.  Story Listening is unburdening teachers from too many extra activities, and finding time for stories.  Story Listening is simply reminding ourselves that although it is not as flashy as the latest Breakout activity and it won’t get you as many re-tweets: “It’s the story that counts.”

 

“A child sitting in a quiet room with a good book isn’t a flashy or marketable teaching method. It just happens to be the only way anyone ever became a reader.”

-Nancie Atwell


 

Cited:

Mason, B. (2013). Efficient use of literature in second language education: Free reading and listening to stories. In J. Bland and C. Lutge (Eds.), Children’s literature in second language education (pp. 25-32). London: Bloomsbury.  Available at: http://www.benikomason.net/content/articles/the_efficient_use_of_literature_in_second_language_education.pdf

Mason, B. (2004). The effect of adding supplementary writing to an extensive reading program.  The International Journal of Foreign Language Teaching (IJFLT), 2(2): 12-15.

Mason, B.  (2007). The Efficiency of Self-Selected Reading and Hearing Stories on Adult Second Language Acquisition s, more efficient.  “Selected Papers from the sixteenth international symposium on English Teaching.” English Teachers’ Association / ROC, Taipei: 630-633.  Accessed at: http://beniko-mason.net/content/articles/the_efficiency_of_self-selected_reading_and_hearing_stories_on_adult_second_language_acquisition.pdf

Reluctant Pleasure Readers

Pandora_by_Arthur_Rackham
Pandora by Arthur Rackham

Dr. Beniko Mason tells her students to “just enjoy the story” to provide low-affective-filter, low-accountability comprehensible input.  Most students won’t need convincing to “just enjoy stories” and books.  But how do you convince that rare skeptic teen, or the studious, over-achiever to keep an open mind when they hear their first story?  How do you convince students accustomed to a textbook to simply read for pleasure?

The answer is to empower them with what they crave: knowledge.

  1. Inform students about the SLA process.  Beniko Mason has created this great resource explaining SLA for parents, but you can explain the same ideas to students too.
  2. Use books and stories that give students special world knowledge.   Hansel and Gretel, Little Red Riding Hood, etc. are just as engaging for adults as for the very young.  These stories never lose their charm.  But stories like Prometheus Brings Man Fire or Pandora’s Box (especially if told as a series) may catch the attention of those students who are reluctant to enjoy less “academic” stories.  Similarly, students who turn their nose up at Diary of a Wimpy Kid may enjoy high-interest nonfiction or historical fiction.  My favorite are Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales or the I Survived series.
  3. Offer feedback on their growth.  Periodically show students the assessments you have done and how you are monitoring their progress.  This kind of student may want to know how many words per minute they are reading.
  4. Give in a little. If “practicing language” really makes them feel better, let them. Dr. Beniko Mason suggests allowing students to take notes in class if they want; or send home a prompter or word list with them to “practice” on their own time.

 

 

Avoiding Reader’s Conference Hell

In self-selected reading, “teachers holding regular conferences with students to discuss what was read” is a primary form of formative assessment (Krashen, 1993, p. 2).  A common mistake is to make reader’s conferences so formal students feel put-on-the-spot.  Beniko Mason avoids the word “conference” and thinks of these exchanges as “story talks.”  Here are some ways to avoid stressful readers conferences and inspire more genuine and joyful “talks.”

  1. Don’t grade readers conferences.
  2. Avoid “factual” questions.  Ask students  how they felt about books.
  3. Use Post-its while reading. As they read, students may use a post-it to bookmark their favorite part(s). Afterwards, use the flagged passage as a talking point.  Students may write on the post-it or let you write an important reflection for them.
  4. Don’t over-do the Post-its while reading.  Gallagher and Allington explain, “…no student ever achieved reading flow from placing a blizzard of sticky notes in a book” (65).   Allow students to stay lost in a book during reading,  then later add a Post-it or two afterwards.  Encourage students to simply record ideas at natural pauses in reading- at times they would have turned to a friend to exclaim “Wow, look at what just happened!”
  5. Chat in a natural setting.  Don’t march students across the room to conference at the teacher’s desk.  Keep it casual by going to where they are; sit on the reading rug with them or pull up a beanbag as needed.  If you can catch a confused student browsing the shelves, go to them and chat informally as you browse books.  Make it a natural part of the lesson to circulate around the room discussing books.
  6. Don’t use rigid timetables. You may have set “check in” times for the class, especially at the end of the class period.  But don’t mark your calendar for individual student “conference days.”  That is nerve-wracking, inauthentic, and not responsive enough to support students when they need help.
  7. Allow non-response as a response. Some days they will have less to say.  This may tell you they are not inspired by their book.  Don’t press them to talk, but do use this to decide how to guide them to books.
  8. Less paper. The less paper in front of you, the more relaxed and genuine the discussion.  After the conference, you may record notes to show parents or administrators, but not while talking with students.

 


Cited:

Allington, R. & Gallagher, K. (2009).  Readicide : how schools are killing reading and what you can do about it.  Stenhouse Publishers: Portland, ME.

Krashen, S. (1993).  The Power of Reading. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, and Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited (1st edn.).

Gross-Out Books

Why are blood and guts, gross out humor, and enormous spiders so endlessly fascinating?  Because they’re cool, that’s why.  And the idea of pursuing your curiosity despite it being taboo or displeasing to adults is empowering.  

As students gain knowledge about the gross and weird, they proudly think, “‘Listen to me.  I know what adults know too, and I am brave enough to speak of the unspeakable!’ They are pushing the edges of their knowledge as they push the edges of acceptability,” according to Jobe and Dayton-Sakari (73).

Students feel empowered as they build a special knowledge base through narrow Specialized Reading or academic reading. Encourage students to find a single subject to read narrowly (yes, even if that subject is the later stages of digestion).  

Single-Topic Gross-Out Books

  • Gross-Out Animals That Do Disguisting Things by Ginjer Clarke 
  • Bugopedia by Discovery Kids
  • That’s Disgusting series by Connie Colwell Miller
  • Poop: a Natural History of the Unmentionable by Nicola Davies
  • Sanitation Investigation Series by Capstone
  • Icky, Sticky Gross Stuff series by Pam Rosenberg (warning, the Icky, Sticky, Gross Stuff in Your Food book is in fact quite gross)
  • Real Scary Spiders by Animal Planet

 

*The following books jump from subject to subject.  They don’t have the same effect as true narrow reading in a content area, however, they allow students to browse until they find exactly what they are interested in reading.

  • Grossology by Sylvia Branzei
  • Almanac of the Gross Disgusting and Totally Repulsive by Eric Elfman*
  • National Geographic’s Ultimate Weird but True series*
  • The “Guiness Book of World Records” series*
  • Oh, Yikes! History’s Grosses Moments by Joy Masoff

 

 

Free Voluntary Websurfing:

 


Cited

Jobe, R. & Dayton-Sakari, M. (2002). Info-Kids: How to use nonfiction to turn reluctant readers into enthusiastic learners.  Ontario, Canada: Pembroke.