Assessment and Evaluation of Content Literacy for Grades K-6 (Part 1)
Timothy G. Weih, Ph.D.
University of Northern Iowa, USA
This is the first part of a two part article intended to familiarize the beginning teacher with how to plan and implement content literacy (i.e., reading and writing activities infused into social studies, science, language arts, and math) assessment and evaluation. It is not the aim of this article to train beginning teachers how to follow a teaching manual or textbook, but instead, to give them the background and tools to think, create, develop, and design their own content literacy-based assessments and evaluations.
Assessment and Evaluation: What is the Difference?
Assessment and evaluation are very different activities on the part of the teacher. Assessments are the student work samples or evidence that demonstrate what students know or are able to do as a result of engagements with the content literacy curriculum and instruction created and taught by the teacher. Assessment samples can take many different forms, some of which are as follows:
• Art work
• Written Pieces
• Oral Readings
Evaluation is the process in which the teacher analyzes, or in other words, makes judgments about the students' performance on the student work sample assessments. These judgments connect back to the ABCD of writing student objectives (see Weih, T.G. . Content Standards for Curriculum and Instruction in Grades K-6 [Part Two]. Saching.com). Teachers continually assess and constantly evaluate their students in order to make knowledgeable decisions about their curriculum and instruction. Planning for the content literacy assessments needs to be part of planning for the content literacy instruction. There needs to be a one-to-one correspondence between the content of what teachers teach and the content of the assessments being used. Teachers must make it very obvious to their elementary students that their assessment work samples are directly related to the instruction taking place in the classroom.
Content Literacy Assessment Methodologies: Student Reading
The act of reading can be categorized into three main areas of student behavior that can be observed by the teacher, and since they can be observed, they can also be assessed and evaluated. These three main categories are as follows: when students read words aloud, and this is called decoding words; when students read "text" aloud (text stands for all written material, i.e., material found on paper (books) and material on a computer of any kind (digital), and this is called oral reading fluency; and when students demonstrate or show that they understand the meaning of what they read, and this is called reading comprehension. Writing is also part of literacy, and student reading and writing go hand-in-hand with each other, i.e., they are taught together and learned together, rather than being separated from each other.
Content Literacy Assessment Methodologies: Student Writing
The act of writing can be categorized into three main areas of student behavior that can be observed by the teacher, and since they can be observed, they can also be assessed and evaluated.
These three main categories are as follows:
• Mechanics, which includes punctuation, capitalization, and spelling
• Expression of ideas, which includes grammar usage, i.e., clauses, phrases, sentence structure, paragraphing, and word usage
• Organization of the written material, which includes adhering to rules of the type of writing or genre of writing the student is creating, e.g., if it is a narrative story, the writing follows the rules for writing narrative stories; if it is piece of expository text, then the writing follows the writing rules for writing this type of text
The organizational rules of writing, i.e., style, conventions, content, type, patterns, and form are the same rules that identify different genres of reading material. Teachers must teach them together and not apart from each other if they expect elementary students to learn to write for meaning.
The next subsections explain and describe specific content literacy assessment strategies that teachers can create, develop, design, and use for content literacy student assessments.
Content Literacy Assessments for Students' Reading of Words Aloud
Most children (and adults for that matter) experience fear and embarrassment when reading aloud in front of others, including the teacher, therefore it is difficult for teachers to obtain an accurate assessment of the child's word reading abilities, however this is one of the best methods to actually observe their word reading behavior. To assess and evaluate the word reading abilities of their elementary students, teachers can create lists of words from the content literacy materials, i.e., science materials, social studies, math, and novels that they have in their classroom, library, or are available in digital format. Teachers select 10 words that represent key concepts necessary for understanding the materials from a section, chapter, or lesson. Teachers then individually test each student in a cold read, i.e., not practiced, over the list and score him according to correct or incorrect. Teachers analyze the assessment results and create evaluative notes about the specific difficulties students are demonstrating and use this information for developing instruction aimed at supporting students' word learning skills.
Content Literacy Assessments for Students' Reading of Text Aloud (oral reading fluency)
As addressed in the previous subsection, most children experience fear and embarrassment when reading aloud in front of others making it very difficult for the teacher to ascertain an accurate assessment and evaluation of children's oral reading abilities of text, however, this is one of the most effective methods to actually observe their performance. To develop the assessment, teachers type passages of 100 words each from the content literacy materials that they plan to teach. Teachers select passages that represent key concepts necessary for understanding the materials. Next, teachers individually assess each student in a cold read, i.e., not practiced, over the passage and score him according to word accuracy, speed, and expression. Teachers analyze the assessment results and create evaluative notes regarding the specific difficulties students are demonstrating and use this information for developing instruction aimed at contributing to students' success in reading aloud text.
Content Literacy Assessments for Students' Understandings of what they read (reading comprehension)
Reading comprehension is the degree to which students understand the texts that they are able to read on their own, accurately, and with minimal help. They read this material silently, not orally.To assess and evaluate the reading comprehension of elementary students, teachers type passages from the content literacy materials that they plan to teach, and select passages from sections, chapters, or lessons that represent key concepts necessary for understanding the materials. Teachers create their own questions over the passages using Blooms Taxonomy (see Weih, T.G. . Content Standards for Curriculum and Instruction in Grades K-6. Saching.com), for the sake of asking different kinds of questions that require increasingly more difficult thinking on the part of the students. Next, teachers individually test each student over the passages. This is done by teachers passing out the passages, and students reading them on their own and writing their own answers. Teachers then score the tests according to correct or incorrect responses. Teachers analyze the assessment results and create evaluative notes addressing the specific difficulties students are demonstrating and use this information for developing instruction aimed at promoting students' understanding of content area literacy materials. When teachers are done with the assessment and evaluation, it is vital to show students the passages with the answers and discuss them together for the sake of giving the students constructive feedback.
Note: See the second part of this article for the remaining information.
About Author / Additional Info:
Timothy G. Weih is an associate professor of education at the University of Northern Iowa, USA, and teaches elementary teaching methods courses.