Strategy Guide

Making the Reading Process Visible through Performance Assessment

6 - 12
Strategy Guide Series
Differentiating Instruction

About this Strategy Guide

Effective differentiation begins with purposeful assessment.  In this strategy guide, you'll learn how to construct an authentic performance-based reading assessment that will give you access to students' thinking before, during, and after reading.

Research Basis

The NCTE/IRA Standards for the Assessment of Reading and Writing contend that “reading very short passages and answering a limited number of multiple-choice questions is not a good measure of what literate people normally do when they read. Authentic assessments of reading employ tasks that reflect real-world reading practices and challenges” (p. 46).

Teaching when informed by well-structured, authentic assessments  “feels very different from our typical approach because it takes gaps in and variations of student development as a given, not something to be afraid of or surprised by. Assessing ‘for the gradebook’ therefore naturally takes a backseat to assessing to improve teaching and learning” (Filkins, 2012, p. 53).

Strategy in Practice

  • When getting to know a group of students as readers, select a manageable passage from a text they will be reading in the future.  Use the Reading Performance Task Template to format the text.  The text itself will go on the second (and following) page(s).
  • Decide whether wish to leave the prompt for annotation relatively broad (e.g., “Tell me what you're thinking as you read”) as in the Template and Sample Reading Performance Task.  Alternately, you may wish to frame their annotations around a specific purpose for reading and learning (e.g., “Share your developing understanding of the character's internal conflict”).
  • Next, construct a few pre-reading questions that will ask students to generate background knowledge and set a purpose for reading.  See the Sample Reading Performance Task for ideas.
  • Finally, develop some post-reading questions that ask students to summarize and reflect back on what they expected to learn or glean from the text.  If you chose a specific focusing question for the annotations, they should synthesize a response to that prompt or question somewhere after they read.
  • When you are satisfied with the assessment, give it to students one section at a time:  the pre-reading section, the text itself, and then the post-reading section.  Ahead of time, encourage them to share as much of their thinking as possible by annotating in the margin as they read.
  • After students complete the assessment, use their work (in addition to everything else you know about them as readers) to decide what skills and habits to model in full-class think-alouds or how to group students based on different strengths they showed.
  • You may also wish to return the assessments to students and ask them to analyze their annotations.  Where were they summarizing or restating?  Where were they making connections or drawing conclusions?  When did they ask questions?  And did they ever answer the questions they asked?  Have students share their observations in small groups and then write reflectively about the kinds of thinking that supported their understanding as they read.
  • After a unit of instruction, construct and use another Reading Performance Task to look for growth in understanding and the habits of effective reading.

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