Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum

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Making Meaning in Literature Grades 6-8
Conversations in Literature — Workshop

About Making Meaning in Literature: A Workshop for Teachers, Grades 6-8

Individual Workshop Descriptions

1. Introducing our Literary Community
2. Encouraging Discussion
3. Going Further in Discussion
4. Diversity in Texts
5. Student Diversity
6. Literature, Art, and Other Disciplines
7. Assessment
8. Planning and Professional Development
9. Starting in September...

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Key Points

Learning Objectives

Background Reading

Homework Assignment

Classroom Connection
Ongoing Activity

Additional Reading

Key Points

  • In the envisionment-building classroom, assessment is an on-going process that:
    • focuses on how students are thinking and how they are growing as thinkers;
    • focuses on ways students develop interpretations of texts;
    • focuses on the expression of multiple perspectives about texts; and
    • focuses on ways of going beyond the text to ways the text connects with other texts and with students' lives.
  • Students in envisionment classrooms participate in self-reflection and self-assessment.
  • Assessment helps teachers and students gauge how and what students are learning and thinking.
  • Assessment can help teachers shape timely instructional strategies targeted to immediate student needs.
    • Using many different assessment tools provides a rich picture of students' capabilities as well as a composite picture of what students are learning.
    • By tracking what students are reading, teachers can assess their growth as readers and help them choose literature that is right for their abilities as well as suited to their interests.
    • Whole-class and small-group discussions offer teachers a number of ways to assess student understanding.
    • Writing such as reading logs provides a useful tool for both students and teachers to track students' progress as readers and thinkers over time. It can reveal:
      • the depth of student thinking;
      • the quality of student thinking; and
      • the strategies students use when they experience literary texts.
    • Portfolios are useful tools to assess students as developing readers and writers over the course of a year or over the course of several years.
      • Portfolios help develop student awareness of their growth as readers, writers, and thinkers.
      • When students choose specific pieces for evaluation, they are learning to recognize quality work as they assess their own efforts.
      • Portfolios enable students to choose their best work to demonstrate their capabilities.
  • Self-assessment helps students reflect on what they are learning and pushes them to think more deeply about what they are reading, writing, and thinking.
    • Self-assessment helps students recognize what they need to learn next and set learning goals for themselves.
    • Self-assessment helps students assume responsibility for their own learning.
  • Teachers in envisionment-building classrooms often use student projects for assessment or evaluation. Offering students project choices gives them a sense of ownership over their work as they demonstrate what they know and what they can do.
  • Rubrics help students understand the criteria on which evaluation is based. Students can participate in the process of developing rubrics; doing so helps them understand the levels of mastery reflected in different grades.
  • When developing tools for assessment or evaluation, teachers should be aware of what they are trying to assess or evaluate, as well as how the particular tool connects to the instruction students have received. In addition, teachers should ask themselves, "What do students need to know and be able to do in order to succeed?" and "Do they have the tools to succeed?"
  • When developing tools for assessment, teachers might ask themselves, "What activities do I need in order to inform my teaching?" and "What activities will help students understand what they can do and what they need to learn to do next?"
  • Assessment and evaluation should be flexible and determined by what the students need.
  • Standardized tests should be used thoughtfully and viewed as one part of the assessment/evaluation puzzle and used in conjunction with other assessment/evaluation tools.
  • Students who learn to be good, thoughtful, critical readers do well on standardized tests and have abilities that will serve them well throughout their lives.
  • Because testing is pervasive in American society — within schools and beyond — teachers should help students learn the test-taking skills they need within the context of the curriculum.
  • When developing assessment and evaluation instruments, teachers in envisionment-building classrooms focus on the kinds of thinking they want students to do and develop tools that allow students to demonstrate it.

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