Nuts & Bolts: Assessing Intermediate Grade Literature Logs

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Assessing Intermediate Grade Literature Logs

by Martha Hitzel

Meaningful assessment in a diverse learning environment can be challenging, especially for newer teachers. In December of 2001, Martha Hitzel posted on the national multiage listserve a description and rubric showing how she assesses children's reading comprehension. It is an excellent example of using assessment as an integral part of reading instruction. With her permission I have reposted it here.

I am a second year teacher, new to the intermediate grades, as well as to teaching in a multiage classroom. Last year, I taught third grade. Much of my reading instruction was based on teaching the reading comprehension strategies I had read and learned about in Mosaic of Thought, by Ellin Oliver Keene and Susan Zimmermann. Most of my evaluation was based on observation during class discussions and on individual or small group conferences. My main record keeping was anecdotal notes.

My goal this year with my 4/5 multiage class was to implement literature circles and journal response. The main source that I used in planning how to get started was Literature Circles and Response, by Hill/Johnson/Noe. To initiate literature circles, I used a whole class novel, Night of the Twisters, by Ivy Ruckman. It was one of the books suggested in Literature Circles and Response and fit well with our first science unit, Natural Disasters. I gave the students a list of possible ways of responding to the reading section which they pasted inside the front cover of their journal. I also gave them a copy of the Literature Log Grading Rubric printed on card stock. They kept this, along with their book, in a large zip-lock bag. I wrote the rubric based on the comprehension strategies that I wanted to see my students developing and implementing. I didn't score the first few journal responses but instead wrote notes in the journals to the students addressing the positive things I had noted about their response, possibly asking a question to try and extend their thinking, and a suggestion for what they could do to improve their next entry.

After the first three or four entries, I began to score the student responses. During class discussions students would occasionally, voluntarily share entries and the score they received. This isn't necessarily what I think is best but I found that many of the students seemed completely comfortable sharing their score, even those that had received a 2. It did allow some discussion about what made a good entry and what could be done to improve others. With this being my first year working with this system, I don't have copies of journal entries from previous, anonymous students to use for this type of discussion. I also began having students score their own entries. I did this with the hope of having them use the rubric more as they completed their response. Most of the time they were very accurate in their evaluation. If there was a discrepancy between their score and mine we were able to sit together and discuss it.

Generally, I was pleased with the student responses and did see growth over the course of the novel. One problem I encountered was that it took too long to get through the story. Our routine was to read a chapter and respond on Mondays and Thursdays and meet and discuss on Tuesdays and Fridays. Wednesday we do current events. This pace allowed the slower readers to keep up but frustrated my more proficient readers, especially during the height of the action. I also believe, in retrospect, that responding to every chapter was too much. Instead of being enjoyable and enhancing their reading of the story, responding had become an assignment to be done.

After we completed this novel we took a break and did a Tall Tale Unit with different types of response. Following the winter break, I plan to spend about two weeks using picture books to review the comprehension strategies and then begin literature circles again. This time, the students will have choice in the book they read, and will have a voice in setting up the reading, responding, and meeting schedule for their group. I will continue to use the grading rubric to score their entries.

Intermediate Literature Log Grading Rubric

Score 4 Points

  • My response shows I understand what is happening in the story completely.
  • I use more than one example or piece of information from the story in my response.
  • I ask questions that show I am thinking deeply about the story.
  • I make predictions based on information from the story or from something similar that has happened to me.
  • I make clear and understandable connections between the story and things that have happened in my own life or in another story I have read.

Score 3 Points

  • My response shows that I understand what is happening in the story very well. There may be a part that I don't completely understand.
  • I use one example or piece of information from the story in my response.
  • I ask a question that shows I am thinking about what is happening in the story and why it is happening.
  • I make a prediction that uses information from the story or from something similar that has happened to me.
  • I make connections between the story and something that has happened to me in my own life but I may not express it very clearly.

Score 2 Points

  • My response shows that my understanding of the story is incomplete. There are several things that are confusing to me.
  • I try to include some information or an example from the story but it is hard to understand why I included the information in my response.
  • I ask a basic question that is answered clearly in the story.
  • I make a prediction, but I don't give any reason for why I think it will happen.
  • I write about something that has happened to me but I don't connect it to what is happening in the story.

Score 1 Point

  • My response shows that I didn't understand the story at all.
  • I don't include any information or example from the story.
  • I don't ask any questions or make any predictions.
  • I don't connect the story to my own life at all.

Martha Hitzel

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