Optimizing Formative Assessments for the Inclusive Early Childhood Classroom

I’d previously thought of assessments as exclusively being straightforward, sit-down tests: something that doesn’t have much of a place in an early childhood classroom. However, this week’s activities have showed me how the little check-ins that I do with students on a near-constant basis have been instrumental in shaping my lesson plans and how I can hone in on aspects of these check-ins to make them more productive for and inclusive of all my students.

My first formative assessment strategy, Hand Signals (thumbs-up), is the assessment I will modify the least going forward as it covers as essential component of formative assessments: “provid[ing] a chance for both [students and teachers] to reflect on the material covered and how it was presented.” (Roesser, 2018) Because of the dual opportunity for student and teacher reflection, I wasn’t surprised to receive mostly positive feedback on this assessment from my classmates.

Although my feedback from my cohort-mates on my next two assessments was generally positive, it was brought to my attention that my efforts to differentiate my assessments for students with special needs or who are learning English were insufficient. This is, admittedly, a weak area for me, as I have not had much experience needing to differentiate, as all of the students I have had experience teaching have been identified as gifted and talented and all of them are English language learners.

I went back and looked at my assessments from all angles and, while I do still think that some of the ways I planned to accommodate students with special needs would be inclusive, I realized that I did not address students with physical disabilities or students whose understanding of English isn’t quite as high as their classmates’. This is a critical area to improve because students with special needs are often the population in the biggest need of assistance. Well-designed assessments will help these students’ teachers have an accurate idea of their students’ strengths and challenges and to design lesson plans around them.

Reading and hearing my cohort’s discussion on the different apps and websites they’ve found has been instrumental in helping me understand how to design, implement, and even assess my own assessments. Right now, I’m teaching very young students in a low-tech classroom, so I don’t have many opportunities for utilizing 21st century technology in my lessons, but reading about the tools that Mandy and Lindsay use in their classrooms was enlightening, especially Mandy’s use of Kahoot, which allows for both complete anonymity and for struggling students to take additional time with the activity at home. Along with Hoda’s recommendation for using something like Coggle to create mindmaps with my students in my brainstorming assessment, I’ve absorbed so many useful assessment strategies this week.

This unit also brought up the importance of sharing data with students. In my research for this activity, I read a few cases where teachers shared formative assessment data with their students, then encouraged the students to re-take the assessment. In one case, the students studied “became enthusiastic about improving their results, and after retaking the formative assessments, they clamored to have their new scores posted.” (Drabkin, 2015) I can definitely see the importance of letting students know how they’re doing. It paints a realistic picture of the classroom for everyone, allowing them to celebrate their triumphs and it can motivate them to improve upon challenging topics.

References:

Drabkin, R. (2015, August 05). Sharing Formative Assessment Results in the Classroom. Retrieved August 20, 2018, from http://www.gettingsmart.com/2015/08/should-teachers-share-formative-assessment-results-in-the-classroom/

Roesser, A. (2018, January 31). Formative Assessments and Their Role in the Data-Driven Classroom. Retrieved August 20, 2018, from https://www.schoology.com/blog/formative-assessments-and-their-role-data-driven-classroom