There are two kinds of assessments that are pertinent to teachers of reading and their professional decision making about children and learning. We hear about “Summative” assessments through news outlets. These yearly tests of achievement also end up on the transcripts of our students / children. They are used to gather evidence of a child’s progress toward grade completion and school graduation.
“Formative” assessments on the other hand may or may not be a test as such, but they are much more frequently done and are much more valuable to the parent or teacher. These are the measures that indicate the direction that instruction / experiences should take to enhance the education of a given child or group of children, right NOW.
Today I would like to suggest a one item formative assessment that every teacher should be using every week for every child. In fact this “test item” should be used by all parents with children, from preschool through high school.
That blanket recommendation is because this assessment will offer the clearest insight into a child’s progress toward actually becoming fully EDUCATED.
What do you love to read, right now?
It’s an open ended question that invites the child to let the parent or teacher know both whether a child has come to value reading, and what kinds of books or periodicals will KEEP a youngster on the path to the wonderful, lifelong education that avid reading provides.
Children who answer from a heart full of love for reading, show it in their eyes as they light up in recollection of where the love came from and in anticipation of the next interaction with that beloved text or that kind of book. They may excitedly pull this week’s “love” from their desk or backpack. From this single answer, parents and teachers know immediately what kinds of reading material those children must have within easy reach … at least for this week.
Children who don’t love to read will pause dramatically, stammer or wave around the same still-unread title every week.
As a parent or teacher who is confronted with this kind of response I would drop just about everything and begin the process of finding the book or other reading material that will connect (or reconnect) the children with a joyful ownership of their own learning.
Sadly, while this may very well be the single most important assessment that we adults can make of a child’s progress toward success in life and work, its statistics are never reported in the newspapers nor do they appear on their transcripts. That’s because this single, valuable formative assessment item is asked by only the few truly great reading teachers in this world … and rarely, if ever, shared beyond fellow teachers and the children’s parents.
That’s something to think about, especially if as parents and educators we really are more serious about providing a good education for our children than we are about competing for some fleeting school, state or country status or rating.