This semester, students in READ 6329.01 were asked to contribute a post to this blog.

by Rebekah Muñoz

Watching our students in the classroom is second nature to most teachers. It is through these observations that we learn from our students. Prior to this class, I did not know there was a term designated for this activity. Kidwatching, as I have learned it to be, has become a very useful tool in my teaching career. Even though we watch our students every day, this particular method gives me a more structured way to conduct it. Using the different annotated methods and recording my observations has helped me watch my students objectively and with a purpose. I find this to be very useful because I am only recording what I see, not being biased on judgments. Once I have enough information on a student, I am able to make a judgment based on what I was specifically watching for and what I recorded. This information enables me to see patterns in my student’s reading behavior, attitudes on reading, and reading strategies.

Kidwatching has helped me see things that I had never noticed before. For example, one particular student that I had been kidwatching was reading aloud and struggling with many unknown words. After a few observations, I discovered her pattern in dealing with unknown words was merely to skip them. Obviously this was not beneficial to her and this information allowed me to suggest other strategies to help her figure out unknown words. Another aspect I found very useful in kidwatching was the ability to use this information while conferencing with a child or their parents. One particular child I was interesting in was having difficulty with comprehension. My observations concluded that he was not able to comprehending during silent, independent reading because he was easily distracted. During a fifteen minute span he looked around 11 times, poked his neighbor 5 times, checked his watch 7 times; in all he looked at the pages in his book less than 6 minutes! After my second observation that week I conference with him and we discussed my findings. His face looked shocked that I had “stone cold data” to support my claim that he was not focused during reading time. After discussing the issue we came to a resolution that he would prefer to sit alone, at a quieter part of the room to help him focus on reading. The next time we had silent reading in class we tried this strategy and it worked wonderfully! If it had not been for kidwatching, I would have probably taken a different course of action and ended up with a different result. Kidwatching provides an organized method to monitor my students. Using this process has really helped me determine my student’s capabilities and areas of need, which influences what and how I teach in class.

Do-It-Yourself Item Analysis

This semester, students in READ 6329.10 were asked to contribute a post to this blog.

by I. Martinez

So, let’s say it’s the beginning of the school year and you’d like to improve on your test construction skills and at the same time you’d like to get an idea of which objectives seem to be giving your students the most trouble. What a great idea! And doing a quick item analysis of your tests will help you accomplish both of these goals!

To simplify things, let’s start from the beginning and go through the steps of how to analyze a teacher-made test for difficulty and discrimination. The first step you need to take is to do a quick plan of the number and types of questions you will ask in your test, as illustrated in this chart:

1st chart

This hypothetical chart organizes the objectives in order, links them to Bloom’s Taxonomy, and plots out the number of questions to be constructed. Notice in the “Applying” row, the students will be answering two questions for objectives 1, 3, and 4, and three questions for objectives 2 and 5. Also, make sure to keep in mind which questions on the test are targeting which objectives. For example, keep in mind that you constructed test item number 7 to cover objective 1 in a “remembering” learning domain. This will help you to discover which objectives are more difficult for your students.

The test is then developed, administered and scored. After this, the students’ names, grades and responses are plugged into an Item Analysis Worksheet like the one below:

2nd Chart

In this example, the students with the high scores are listed first and in descending order, thus automatically separating the students into high and low groups. The two groups are distinguished by the white and yellow shading for clarity. The two groups of students must be equal; therefore, in cases where there is an odd number of students, the middle scoring student must be left out.

Marking the right and wrong answers can be time consuming; therefore it is helpful to have someone assist you in calling out the students’ names (in the order of their listing) along with their “right” or “wrong” answer, so you can quickly mark a “1” or a “0” across the table. For example, in the first row we have a student named Andres who has a grade of 100, so his responses are all plugged in as a “1” because he got each one of the test questions correct. In contrast, the student named Delmar only answered questions 2, 6, and 9 correctly and all the other questions have a “0” marking because they were incorrect.

Now, to calculate the difficulty index for question #1, I will direct your view to the first column of the chart where we will add up the number of students who answered it correctly and divide this number by the total number of students. So for question #1, 6 students out of 10 got it correct or 0.60.

It is important to remember that the difficulty index measures the number of students that responded correctly to test questions, and that it is actually counter-intuitive.  For example, at face value, you may think that a test question with a difficulty index of 90% is very difficult, but it is actually too easy, because again, it is measuring the percentage of students who got it right. Normally, any test question that is 0.90 or above is considered to be an easy, give-a-way test item and any question that is below 0.20, is considered to be a very difficult test item.

3rd Chart

Next, the questions are checked for their discrimination index. The number of “lower” students who answered a test item correctly is subtracted from the number of “upper” students who answered that same test item correctly and is divided by half of the total number of students. With discrimination scores, the higher the value the more discriminating the item, meaning that more students with high test grades got it correct than students with low test grades. Discrimination scores for test questions should be 0.20 or higher. If in case a test question has a discrimination score of 0 or close to it, it means that it was answered correctly by more low testers than high testers and is not a well constructed test question. A discrimination score of 0 signals a question that was most likely worded ambiguously and should be eliminated. An example of this anomaly is question #9. Another possibility is that both high and low groups answered it correctly, as is the case with questions #2 and #3.

In closing, you may want to pose these questions to yourself:

  1. Which question was the easiest?  Answer: Question #2
  2. Which question was the most difficult?  Answer: Question #9
  3. Which question has the poorest discrimination?  Answer: Question #9
  4. Which question(s) should be eliminated?  Answer: Question #2 (too easy) AND Question #9 (for its negative discrimination score, not because of its difficulty index)
  5. Which objectives are the most problematic?  Answers will vary
  6. Are the questions from the higher levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy the most problematic?  Answers will vary

For more on item analysis, please visit the following sites:

http://www.utexas.edu/academic/ctl/assessment/iar/students/report/itemanalysis.php

http://fcit.usf.edu/assessment/selected/responsec.html

Miscue Analysis – Listening for the Construction of Meaning

This semester in READ 6329.10, students were asked to contribute a post to this blog.

By Crystal Ramos

During this semester, we read, discussed, and learned how to implement and analyze a student’s reading by using the miscue analysis.  At the beginning of the whole process it seems rather precise and daunting, but it really gets you to view your student as a reader in a different light.

My school district enforces that we do weekly fluency checks.  This gives the wrong impression of reading to the students.  Unfortunately, many of them think reading is to read as fast as you can in a given amount of time.  The “mistakes” that they make count against them for the total number of words counted in the one minute they read.

By using the miscue analysis in your classroom, your students will see how you value them as readers and how they construct meaning when they read.

This is extremely helpful because it allows you to understand your students and figure out ways more ways to help them.  For instance, after performing a miscue analysis on a “struggling reader” in my homeroom class, I realized that majority of his miscues were of high graphic similarities.  In other words, they had graphophonic similarities.

For example, the text read:

“You?” he roared with laughter. “You’re as big as an ox!”

 My student read:

“You?” He roamed with louder. “You’re as big as an ox!”

Roared and roamed only have one letter’s difference.  The coincidence was that roamed was one of our vocabulary words of the week, so I knew that as soon as he read it aloud as ‘roamed’ he saw (and was probably thinking about) the vocabulary word.

Like I mentioned before, the Miscue Analysis Procedure III is very meticulous, but it’s completely worth it.  I plan on using it with a couple more of my students.  It gives you great insight on how your students read and how they construct meaning as they are reading.

Anecdotal Note Writing: Learning from Your Students

This semester, students in READ 6329.10 were asked to contribute a post to this blog.

By Mrs. Campos

Anecdotal Note taking was a requirement my school district had my first year teaching. I’ll be honest; I did it only once because I didn’t know how to do it properly. I did it all in one day with 25 kinder students, and after that, I didn’t do it again. It felt like a burden rather than something to learn from.

However, now I am on my fourth year teaching, and I have taken up anecdotal note taking as a way to monitor my students in their learning and behavior. This semester in my graduate course I have learned how to use anecdotal notes correctly to benefit from them. I have created a matrix with the names of all my students to keep track of how many times I observe them and write notes about them. This helps me stay on track with my goal of writing notes on each child at least three times within a six-week period. I write down my notes on a notebook where I have designated 2 pages to each child in my classroom. I don’t always have my notebook with me, but I always carry post-its.  At first, I didn’t like the post-its because I was sticking them on the notebook pages, and it was too messy for me. Now, I make sure to copy what I write on the post-its on to the notebook page. This makes it neater, and as I transfer my notes, I get to internalize exactly what I wrote and jot down any other comments I might have.

During my anecdotal note taking, I look at specific things for each individual child. When looking at progress in their learning I, take into consideration what the child is able to do and how well they are doing it. I make notes of what they need more help with or what they have mastered. This helps me when I do my small group instruction because I am able to focus on the skills that I know they need more help with. I also look at behavior because I have several behavioral problems in my classroom with a few students. While I am watching them and making my anecdotal notes, I make sure to write down what triggers their behavior and how the situations arise. I try to remove any triggers to avoid these behavioral situations; which seems to be working because these particular students have decreased their behavioral problems.

Anecdotal notes have become a regular part of my classroom and I have learned so much from my students thanks to them. Now that I have learned strategies to help me manage the note taking, it is easy to acquire notes. I sit down at the end of each six-week period and analyze what I have written. This has helped me meet the needs of my students either with instructional matters or with behavioral issues. I highly recommend the use of anecdotal notes in the classroom. Once you establish your routine and methods, it will become second nature.

Subjective Reader/Objective Teacher

This semester, students in READ 6329.01 were asked to contribute a post to this blog.

By J. Zambrano

Becoming aware of the variety of forms to test a child subjectively, I come to the realization that we fail our students dramatically when it comes to analyzing a reading story or article. As educators, we push for our students to select books that they have a personal interest in. Through this process the student will be reading for enjoyment rather than for measurement. Through discussion, we then probe for the child to analyze the story by making connections either in their personal life or using their inference skills. I have come to the understanding that students truly enjoy giving their opinions about how they feel in the reading. Granted, we still have to help shape and mold so they can think at a deeper level. For example, give student the awareness expressing at a higher level phrase such as “Anne has an amazing way of taking care of her pets” rather than “Anne is good with pets.” The element of discussion is so enriching and fundamental in a young reader. The element of observing gives the teacher the opportunity to take mental notes of the student. Giving the child the chance to develop their point of views is priceless when we test the child subjectively. Spending time with the student and getting to know them gives us educators an advantage of fully seeing what the child is capable of doing. Such assessments range from KidWatching to creating a rubric. Yes, these types of assessments require much time from the teacher.

However, standardized testing is also an assessment tool that is needed when you are a student. Unfortunately, it is overpowering the other assessments that can help a student become a better reader. It amazes me how polar opposites KidWatching is compared to a standardized test. We focus much attention to the percentage and what it means in terms of pass that we overlook the student holistically. In doing an assessment such as KidWatching, I have been able to help my students zone in on what he or she can do to be a successful reader.

We want to create a well rounded student that will be able to analyze real world readings. Allowing them to be subjective to the world around them, but when we continue to test them on standardized test that forces a teacher to be objective, we are sending our students crossed signals. We cannot continue to stifle their judgment through a multiple choice process. Otherwise, we are going to create students that will always second guess their judgment and rely on someone to give them the right or wrong answer. By means of doing other forms of assessments, we can help the child expand their thought process.

Over the Shoulder in Under 15

This semester, students in READ 6329.10 were asked to contribute a post to this blog.

By Delma Martinez

Reading comprehension is the foundation of all subsequent education.  Without it, reading is just reading words that make little or no sense.  So, with teachers being so busy teaching and inundated with paperwork, how can they find the necessary time to check their students’ reading and comprehension skills?  This semester, I have learned of a relatively quick way to assess a child’s miscues.  This assessment is called the Over the Shoulder miscue analysis, or OTS, and it takes between ten to fifteen minutes to complete.  This analysis focuses on a reader’s miscues and their impact on comprehension.  I think this is a great tool for teachers because it provides a view into a child’s reading process and responses to unfamiliar or confusing words.

To begin this assessment, a teacher should have the child bring a book he/she is presently reading.  As the child begins reading, the teacher looks over his/her shoulder and for each miscue, writes what the reader reads and what the actual text said.  The teacher then checks whether the miscue was corrected and if it was not, then the teacher should determine whether the meaning of the text was changed.

Photo credit: 123RF ©
Photo credit: 123RF ©

During the Over the Shoulder assessment, the teacher may stop the child to ask the child what he/she is thinking or to clarify the meaning of the text if needed.    At this time, the teacher should also make anecdotal records of the child’s comprehension.

After the reading, the teaching conversation takes place during which the teacher discusses the student’s understanding of the story, clarifies and unfamiliar or confusing.  The teacher also discusses the miscues the child made, and any patterns that may have surfaced.   Reading strategies should also be discussed at this time.   It is also important to celebrate what the reader has done well.  Like anyone else, children like to receive compliments and teachers should focus on an aspect of the child’s reading that he/she did well.

The Over the Shoulder miscue analysis also requires a cover page for scribing notes from the teaching conversation, a miscue page for tallying the miscues but this page also serves another purpose. There is a space for noting the graphic similarity of the miscues to the correct text.  I like this part very much because it provides additional insight into the child’s reading by asking ourselves: Why did the child read a word completely differently from the text? Or, we can note that the child made a miscue but it has high graphic similarity.   The final page, the insights page provides a space to make the final observations notes and instructional suggestions.

The ultimate goal of the OTS analysis is to provide the child with the strategies to become a better reader through comprehension. This analysis, then, with the written observations and notes, works well because of the short time required and the great benefits it provides for the emergent reader.

Photo credit: 123RF ©
Photo credit: 123RF ©

Kidwatching

This semester, students in READ 6329.10 were asked to contribute a post to this blog.

By Garcia

One of the most important tasks that we have as teachers at the beginning and throughout the school year is to know our students. Every interaction that we have with them helps us learn the depth of their funds of knowledge, their strengths, and their needs, which gives us information about them as human beings, learners, and members of our class. The more we know about our students, the more we can help them and build the foundation of formative assessment.

There is a very effective way to know and learn our student’s strengths and weaknesses, known as Kidwatching, which occurs as a natural part of the instruction. Kidwatching is a naturalistic valid and reliable assessment. This process involves not only looking at the children, but also observing them intelligently, listening effectively, organizing a rich environment for learning, taking anecdotal notes, and analyzing the data collected. It is a direct, intentional, and systematic observation of how children learn and the goal is to use the information collected to refine our instruction as teachers. Moreover, Kidwatching is to help children build their capabilities to use language to communicate and learn. Interactions with our students as they engage in learning experiences play an important part in their growth as well.

When we start kidwatching, it can seem very tedious because we want to capture every moment of each child during the day, and by the end of the week, we have piles of notes everywhere. However, as we keep doing it we learn that the quantity of notes is not what matters, but the quality of information. We can start by writing a single sentence daily about each child and read them at the end of the week, and analyze them to see the growth in that student.

For taking anecdotal notes, a teacher does not need to set up a special place for the students to stay or to put it in the daily schedule. It is as simple as walking around the classroom at different times of the day, observing, listening, and writing at the same time. We can take notes from any subject, when students are reading alone, when they are working in pairs, or when they are working with their team. There are many ways of taking anecdotal notes like writing on Post-it notes, having a journal assigned for that particular task or write notes on a sheet of paper, or we can even record our students. Personally, I prefer to write notes, make a table with twenty cells (the number of students that I have) on a sheet of paper with the name of each student on each cell, write the date and very descriptive notes, and keep the sheet of paper on a clipboard assigned for that specific task.

Successful kidwatching builds a deep view of the students and the culture within a classroom, and provides teachers with information to understand how language and literacy develop as well.