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Friday, May 21, 2010

Alternative Assessments for Reading Comprehension

Joe Bower wrote a nice post on an Alternative to Traditional Multiple Choice Reading Comprehension Exams at his For the Love of Learning blog. If you're a teacher in any way responsible for assessing student reading comprehension, read on!

In his post, Bower provides a simple diagram illustrating the recursive relationship of Reading, Questioning, and Thinking. But too often our students' take on assigned reading is that they will read the assigned text, and we (the teachers) will assume the role of interrogators, firing a barrage of questions to evaluate comprehension.

Bower says questioning is, in fact, important, but it's the self-questioning function of the reader that makes the difference. Students must read with "mindfulness." That's because "Questioning brings on an acute need for more reading, which causes more questioning, requiring more thinking."

And as far as assessing reading is concerned? Joe says
I provide reading excerpts with zero questions because I ask my students to read and show their thinking. I double space the text and remove the left-hand margin almost entirely so that I can double or triple the right hand margin. This provides students with the space they need to show their thinking.
And to support this effectiveness of that strategy, he provides some pretty convincing student samples.

So if you haven't jumped over to Joe's site, do so now. He's got some original thoughts on grading and testing which are worth a read, and might even influence your own classroom practice.

If you're looking for a professional resource which might help you "make the jump" to connecting reading with metacognitive written responses, I recommend Nonfiction Mentor Texts: Teaching Informational Writing Through Children's Literature, K-8, by Lynne R. Dorfman and Rose Cappelli (Stenhouse). Using the strategies in this book, students become much more conscious of their own thoughts as they read, and the authors provide many excellent resources to serve as starting points for these approaches.


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