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Lessons Learned from Assessing and Teaching Online

I listened to a third grader as he read a list of CVC words.  (Yes, I realize how much this first sentence reveals about the amount he needs to learn.) As he reads, I repeat, “Come on. You’ve got this,” in my head, somehow hoping to will him to success.

YES! He reads the list with relative ease.  Now, I take notes as he reads his book. I listen to see what happens when he approaches an unfamiliar word.  I hold my breath in excitement as he uses the sounds and the meaning to figure words out.  He even rereads and self-corrects independently.

The data I collected indicates that he has mastered this content, but I still feel unsure.  I can’t pinpoint why, but we teachers know when to listen to our internal voices.  I ask him to type some words in chat as I say them aloud.  I ask him to write the word “vet.”  He pauses and asks, “Now wait.  Is that an “a” or an “e”?”  I’m not sure which vowel to write?”  His questions and his responses let me know that I need to stay the course.  He has grown as a learner but hasn’t internalized these phonetic concepts as a writer yet.

What made me stop and assess again?  Why was I so unsure?  And then I realize.  I don’t have eyes on this student all the time.  I don’t see him reading day after day, and his work does not surround me.  There isn’t a writing notebook, responses to reading, or even a published piece.  Learning started online, and all  I have is the data I collected through a screen.  The hours of kid watching are gone.

I used to feel so confident assessing and triangulating data to determine teaching goals, but online I feel less sure. I used to feel confident about knowing when to move on, and now I question this knowledge when it is online.  The hours of watching students browse the classroom library,  read independently and hear their interpretations of the books we read aloud aren’t part of learning right now.

What I do have are my conferring notes, and although always important, these notes feel like gold to me now.  They are my memory of the brief teaching moments, the quick insights I glean as I watch and listen, a compilation of what the student loves as he talks through a screen or shows me things in his house, and the results of the formal assessment data I can collect online.  These little notes are my connection, and when I teach online, I need them now more than ever.

I’m joining an open community of writers over at Sharing Our Stories: Magic in a Blog. If you write (or want to write) just for the magic of it, consider this your invitation to join us. #SOSMagic

5 thoughts on “Lessons Learned from Assessing and Teaching Online”

  1. Your internal voice is strong because of your knowledge and experience. Lucky guy to have you to help him. A less experienced teacher might have missed the voice. It’s tough to assess during distance learning. It’s hard to piece together the story of the child when we only see them through the screen.

  2. Tammy,
    I’m a little envious of your ability to make me feel like I’m right there in the moment. The way you weave the outside story with your internal reflection is sophisticated. I’m so glad to get to know you more through your writing. You are a gem!
    Shine on,

  3. Your students are lucky to have you. Online learning is so full of challenges, but teachers like you make it so much easier for the students.

  4. So much informal data is lost by being virtual. I worry for the new-to-teaching teachers. There is so much life in a classroom that drives instruction. Best of luck to you and all teachers as you navigate this difficult year.

  5. Your reflection captures the voice of teachers in such a gentle way. You demonstrate the insecurity of so many of us forced into a foreign environment feel. Thank you for your words – keep doing what you know to do – listen to that internal voice. 🙂

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