Tag Archives: personalized learning

For Reading Assessments, Say Goodbye to Bubble Tests and Hello to Instant Feedback

For Reading Assessments, Say Goodbye to Bubble Tests and Hello to Instant Feedback

By Tracy Cantrell

When I first started as an educator, digital reading assessments simply did not exist—and we didn’t think they would for a very long time. Today, with digital assessment tools and 1:1 devices, we now have the luxury of evaluating our students every day if we want. More frequent reading assessments allow us to get to know our students better and provide a more personalized learning experience that is customized to fit their needs.

And on the flip side, students benefit from more frequent assessments, too. Because they take pride in their ability to monitor growth and progress on their own, they’re more motivated to engage and succeed.

Reading Assessments at the Students’ Fingertips

Tracking literacy rates is extremely important in making sure students are reading at grade level, are meeting required standards, and are on the proper path to graduation. At Snelson-Golden Middle School, my students read every morning for 25 to 30 minutes. It is important for them to embrace reading as an everyday activity and to engage with all elements of the reading experience—not just enjoying the act of reading itself, but understanding it by assessing the progress they make.

We’ve made this available to them in several ways:

  • During their quiet reading time, I take the opportunity to meet with students one-on-one to discuss their reading progress and overall learning goals.
  • We give them access to a digital literacy environment to instantly track and monitor their literacy levels through quizzes and frequent in-platform Lexile assessments
  • We try to focus on “measuring reading with reading” by providing students access not only to their quiz scores, but metrics like their time spent reading, books read, and pages read to ensure that students are ultimately engaged with their reading process—not just passing a test at the end of a book.

If students are only assessed at the end of a semester or during state tests, we don’t have the time to provide remediation on specific skills and we are unsure if a student is truly learning and understanding the material.

Flipping Assessments

Using 1:1 devices and digital learning platforms not only gives students the freedom to work at their own pace, but also lets them have their school resources accessible at home.

Educators at my school can easily flip their classrooms using digital reading assessments, and many of them are. Instead of taking time during class to assess students, I can assign reading assessments to be completed at home, analyze the results, and provide feedback and remediation the next day. Doing this has provided me more time to focus on the students while they’re in my class and to see if students are grasping a concept or not.

Students absolutely love using the online assessments better than paper. Today’s generation of students are tech-savvy and enjoy the opportunity to use technology whenever they can. The assessments are quick and provide students with immediate feedback, and the best part is no more bubble forms!

Tracy Cantrell is a gifted-language arts teacher at Snelson-Golden Middle School in Hinesville, Georgia.

The Five Essential Elements of Reading…and Your English Language Learner Students

By Steven Rivera-Padilla – Guest Blogger

I began my fifth grade year in a small military town in Maryland, at a new school, knowing no one but my immediate family members, and I didn’t speak English. Most of my memories from that school year involve me sitting in front of books, of which one always included an English-Spanish dictionary. My teacher, Mrs. Diehl, knew how important reading would be to my success in learning the language and the curriculum. Reading became second nature to me that school year.

The lack of resources at that time surely made it difficult for teachers like Mrs. Diehl to work with students like me, but what has remained true throughout the years is that reading helps English language learner students learn their new language more quickly. Currently, there are *4.2 million English Language Learner students enrolled in US schools—and increasing every year—with an array of educational backgrounds. The ever increasing resources brought to us with technology has made teaching ELLs easier than in those past days.English Language Learner

Reading has five essential elements that must be understood before working with this special group of students if we want to close the language gap. They are: phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary development, fluency, and comprehension. Let’s look at each of these and how they relate to your ELL student and myON.

  1. Phonemic awareness. Phonemic awareness is the knowledge and manipulation of sounds in spoken words. They are what one combines to make syllables. This can be difficult for English language learner students because they do not know sufficient English to tell apart sounds that are different from those in their native language. How do you accomplish this? Make students familiar with the English sound patterns by reading poems, do more read-alouds, and sing songs that use rhyme and repetition. This is why the mere action of the student listening to the teachers speak on an everyday basis is just as important.
  2. Phonics is the connection between sounds and letter symbols. It is also the combination of the sounds and letter symbols to create words. This knowledge is used while reading and spelling. As one can imagine, this will be difficult for an ELL student who is not literate in their native language and/or those whose native language has a non-Roman alphabet. The lack of English proficiency slows ELL students down when reading. So what should you do? Give them extra phonemic practice or have them create phonics notebooks to aide in the automatic recognition of words to build reading proficiency.
  3. Vocabulary development. Vocabulary development is the knowledge of words, their definitions, and context. This knowledge helps them recognize words and understand them. It’s important for students to read quickly, but more importantly that they know what the words are, their meaning, and putting the correct intonations. This is the reason we have word walls and labels around our classrooms. When speaking to an English Language Learner student, attempt to use synonyms so the student may make the connection and learn a new word in the process. For example, “Students, now we’re going to work on our conclusion paragraph—the ending or closing paragraph.” Also, attempt to teach your ELL student vocabulary with every chapter, even if they are the only ones doing so in the class.
  4. Fluency is the ability to read with accuracy and with appropriate rate, expression, and phrasing. Most educators will agree that when it comes to fluency, practice makes perfect. Individualized instruction to build fluency can be accomplished in a variety of ways: read aloud in class, assign independent reading time, and help them select or navigate myON for books that will both interest them and help their fluency. Books that are too difficult or beyond their proficiency will discourage and overwhelm English Language Learner students. Once their fluency improves, less time is spent decoding words as the focus shifts to comprehending what is being read.
  5. Comprehension is understanding meaning in text. How can we improve comprehension? Provide visuals, ask questions and have them make predictions during the reading process, and/or summarize what they just read. Individually modify what the student will read based on their needs and provide background knowledge before the ELL student begins the reading assignment. Remember, an ELL student’s cultural differences and assumptions based on that culture may sometime hinder comprehension. myON offers quick, five question assessments to check for comprehension after every book. Review those and work on areas needing improvement.

I consider myON the Swiss army knife of personalized literacy for my students. The student has thousands of books to choose from and the program has tools like audio, heritage language word look up, dictionary, notebook, citation creator, writing tools, graphic organizers, and the quick assessments after every five books read to check Lexile level and at the end of every book to check comprehension. Reading is fundamental in all content areas which is why it’s imperative to make it a priority for language learners. I have a feeling Mrs. Diehl would have really appreciated a program like myON back in those days…as would I.


* According to the National Center for Education Statistics, The Condition of Education, statistic for the 2013-2014 school year, article updated May, 2016

English Language LearnerSteven Rivera-Padilla,  a Bilingual Education Paraprofessional with Hillsborough County Public Schools. He has spent years working with students from various countries and cultural backgrounds to ensure both English language skills and curriculum content is being learned.