Formative Assessment Ideas for Reading

Instructor: Maria Airth

Maria has a Doctorate of Education and over 20 years of experience teaching psychology and math related courses at the university level.

Casual assessment is imperative to keep track of student progress through the year. This lesson offers ideas for formative reading assessment activities.

What Is Formative Assessment?

There are many types of assessment in schools. Formative assessment is designed to be an informal method of documenting a student's progress in a subject or with a concept. It is not designed to assess acquired knowledge or skills like summative assessments. In formative assessments, it is most common to avoid giving formal grades of any kind, opting only for casual documentation of student progress and noting areas of struggle.

Purpose of Formative Assessment for Reading

The ability to read fluidly with high levels of comprehension is one of the most important aspects of a student's successful progression through their education (and life). English courses are not the only courses in which reading ability is a key factor in success. If students cannot read and comprehend instructions, they will suffer in math and science just as much as they will in any English based course. Thus, assessment of reading skills is imperative.

Often, if a student knows he is being judged, as in summative assessments, his nervous reaction can alter the assessment. Many students get nervous and trip over words or forget meanings when being tested. If only summative assessments are conducted, then the teacher does not get a good picture of the student's real abilities and areas of struggle.

Formative assessments allow for informal, thus theoretically less anxiety-inducing, scenarios for ascertaining a student's reading level and their progress through reading struggles. You can conduct formative assessments in many ways. Some methods include group or whole class activities while other methods involve one-on-one engagement with each child.

Multi-student Formative Assessment Activities

Formative assessments are intended to be casual and avoid inducing anxiety. A great way to take attention off the idea of an activity being an assessment is to orchestrate the activity to appear to be just a fun group or class-wide activity. The following activities are designed to allow you the opportunity to observe your student's abilities without the student being directly aware of the assessment taking place.

Group Discussions

For this activity, divide your students into groups of students at roughly the same reading level. Tell students that they will be listening for content with the purpose of discussing the action in each passage read. Then ask them to take turn reading different passages from their group's selected reading material. After each reader, the group should discuss what was read and its meaning. Conduct the formative assessments of your students as you travel the room observing their reading and discussions. This activity is suitable for all age groups.

Act it Out

This activity may require you to conduct your set formative assessment over a number of sessions in order to assess every child in the class. To start, you will need one or more scripts for your students to act out. The simpler the action in the script, the more reading assessment you will achieve. Divide students into groups to match the number of parts in your scripts. Call up the groups to read and act out their scripts in front of the class. Do not give them the scripts early so there is no rehearsal time. They must ad lib any action.

By disallowing rehearsal time, you can assess the students' ability to read with inflection. Being able to read new material with correct inflection is an additional reading skill that is sometimes difficult to assess. In this activity, you can assess this ability in a fun and active way.

Individual Formative Assessment

Some students are more confident when reading in isolation. They may feel intimidated by what they perceive as their own inferiority. Conducting some assessments on a one-to-one basis is important to ensure that you are using a well-rounded formative assessment. It is still imperative to create a casual and calming environment to help students who might feel nervous.

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