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Thursday, July 10, 2014

Hit the Road Running: Step 5

Don't put the cart before the horse. Prior to planning a unit, find or design the assessment. A summative unit test should be based on unwrapped standards and reflective of questions students may encounter on standardized tests.

As an example, let's go back to the standard that was unwrapped in my July 6th post.

The standard asks my students to compare and contrast similar themes and topics in stories from different cultures. When I unwrapped the standard, I interpreted it to mean that my students would identify elements in each text (characters, setting, plot, and theme) then find similarities and differences. I knew from experience that the state tests require a constructed response for this type of task. Since I didn't have a test like this, I would have to make one myself.

The task itself wouldn't be too hard. For the assessment, I'd just have to ask students to compare and contrast two pieces of literature. I chose a well-known fable, "The Tortoise and the Hare," and a Native American version, "The Race Between Hummingbird and Crane." (You can find public domain literature at Project Gutenberg.)

For this standard, I had to create my own assessment. This is not always true. Some of the tests that come with your textbooks can be used as-is; some require only a little tweaking. You can find other tests online or at sites such as Teachers pay Teachers. The important thing is to make sure the test reflects the standards and questions that may be asked on standardized tests.

Here's a handy tool for creating ELA tests. Lexington School District Four has created an Instructional Toolkit. Templates for each grade level have unwrapped Reading Literature (RL), Reading Informational (RI), Writing (W), Speaking and Listening (SL), and Language (L) standards in order to concisely describe types of questions that should be asked and/or what students must know or be able to do.

Evaluating every test you use and revising/creating as necessary may seem like a daunting task, but it can be conquered. Just take it one test at a time.

Good luck!