Testing is one of those things that as educators we are told to do and realistically need to do, but it often brings with it stress from students (and parents!) and only shows a fraction of a student’s ability.
Of all the testing types we are mandated to participate in during the year, the one that I genuinely enjoy doing is Running Records. Stick with me here because there are a few reasons that you just might relate to:
One on one time
While we always try so hard to have one on one time in class with ALL students during each and every day, in hindsight it’s simply not a reality. There will always be a student who needs more help than others and often the more capable ones miss out. When I announce to my class that I will be calling on them to come and read to me to do a Running Record I always get a little cheer. It’s a chance for students to have some direct and designated one to one time with me. The students know I respect them, as I know they do me; and I enjoy giving them my full attention so they know they are being heard.
When was the last time you read out aloud to yourself (other than a story to the class)? I know I always read quietly to myself in my head. Students often forget what their reading voice sounds like and it’s a good chance for them to listen to themselves. They may think that they sound fine (in their head) but it is extremely important to practise read out aloud to work on infliction, expression, pausing appropriately at punctuation and pronunciation, just to name a few.
One of the best things about listening to a child read is the ability to give feedback to help them understand their strengths, the areas they need to work on and them have them know that I appreciate their efforts. I always finish off a session with an individualised discussion based on what I’ve just heard. It is important for students to be in control of their own learning but also understand their strengths and areas for growth. For example, I would start the conversation off with… “I really like the way you … used expression in your voice / sounded out the words you didn’t know / went back and self-corrected when you realised you’d made a mistake” etc etc. This opens up the dialogue and lets the child know that I appreciate their efforts. Secondly I let them know what their personal goal should be and what they need to work on. For example, “Your goal to continue becoming a better reader is…… pausing when you see a full stop or comma / adding some energy into your voice / visually scanning ahead to the next part of the text to help increase the flow of your reading’ etc etc. I will then also model directly what I am suggesting they work on with a small piece of text.
I believe that by giving personalised feedback then puts the control back in the hands of the students. They are aware of what they are doing well and what their next step is to become a better reader.
This is the area most students struggle with – especially the inferential questioning component of the tests! By building inferencing into our daily lessons, my students are becoming increasingly stronger in being able to answer various question types. It also allows me to have a bit of a snapshot on how students are progressing in this tricky area of literacy.
For many teachers, Running Records are simply a thing that need to be done and done quite quickly for a snapshot, however I like to take my time and use it as a chance to compliment what is already being taught in the class.
I’d love to know – what do you think of testing? Is there a particular test that you enjoy doing?