Do This, Not That = Assessment Edition

Remember that time I told you about how I set out to make my own assessment program?  If not, you can read it here.  

It wasn't the most fun I have ever had... it was time intensive and not easy.  And you can bet your bottom I learned a lot.

Teachers work hard and teachers need more love!

So, I wanted to share with you what I have learned in this Assessment Edition of....'Do this, Not That' (read that with a gameshow host voice!).

When getting your assessments in order....

DO plan ahead: planning ahead can make sure that you are ready for year in regards to assessments.  You don't want to be spending your weekends during the school year figuring it out!

DON'T wait until the second week of school (like I did one year).  Not wise, I don't recommend it.  It leaves you feeling 'off' and unprepared.


DO be intentional: Don't just create assessments and/or goals because they seem like what a preschool teacher should be doing.  Be intentional. Ask yourself why you are assessing each and every skill.

DON'T wing it: it only leads to time-wasting


DO map out how parts of your assessment plan relate to one another:  this was a big way that I got my assessments in order.  I had to see a birds-eye view of how it all fit together. 

DON'T let your assessments separate into pieces that lead to a non-cohesive plan: that will for sure equal more work and/or insufficient data. 


DO consider how you plan on assessing students: is a whole group, small group, 1-1 setting best for your students? Instead of drill and practice, would playing games to observe skills be the best choice for your students?

DON'T assume all assessment processes are the same:  Some use drill and practice and worksheets which can be unappealing to young children and in turn alter your results.


DO take into consideration how you want to report the assessment results: Does a report card work for your situation, or would a portfolio be best?  Do you plan on having conferences with parents? If so, how often?

DON'T leave parents in the dark: reporting to parents is huge.  Many parents are quite concerned with Kindergarten readiness.  Therefore, it is important for you to show them how ready their kiddo is!


There you have it!  I hope you can learn from some of the mis-planning that I did when I tired to get my assessments in order.  

If you'd like to learn more about assessments, I would love for you to sign up for my FREE COURSE: Create a Preschool Assessment Plan that Works!  You can sign up by clicking below:


 

 

Teaching Shapes through Songs at Circle Time

Teaching children shapes is an academic skill that most preschools and kindergarten programs focus on. But, naming shapes can sometimes be a daunting task. How you bring shapes into your preschool world can help support identification.

We like to do a brief review of shapes during our circle (and I mean brief!). Keeping things lively at circle time is how it stays successful. To keep it lively we SING! I feel like I have said this so many times before, but singing keeps children's attention (and it also makes it fun). Plus, our brains can better remember the skill we are trying to learn when it is in song. Have you ever tried to get 'What Does the Fox Say?' out of your head? An hour later I am still like "Ring-ding-ding-ding-dingeringeding"- don't act like I'm the only one!

Yes, songs stay with us. So, we sing shape songs at circle time. After I assess each student's knowledge of shapes, I can get a better idea of which shapes I need to focus on. We usually do only a shape song or two a day. We also review them as we are waiting for the bathroom or heading outside. Wait, what's that? You want to me to just give you the shapes songs already? Okay....

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Alphabet Ideas for Circle Time

I love letters. You know, the alphabet kind.... well, truth be told I like the 'open up the mailbox' kind too. I'm not sure if it is because I am a preschool teacher or if it is because I have always excelled in reading/writing (as opposed to math... numbers + me = yikes). But, letters are my jam.

Letters play a big role in preschool. Seems like everyone is wanting those kiddos to KNOW THEIR LETTERS....parents, K teachers, administration...

Don't get me wrong, I want my kiddos to learn letters and letter sounds as well. But, I do not believe that pushing my preschoolers with flashcards and drill and practice is the way to go. I mean, they do learn best through play- God made them that way! So, why don't we have fun and play while learning letters?

So, in today's newsletter I thought I'd share some of the ideas I use to bring letter learning into circle time. These are the ways that I purposefully plan letter experiences for my preschoolers (which happens to be in circle time for us). But, please know that we do connect with letters and sounds all day long through books, centers, conversations and other activities.

Included in the link below you will find 8 alphabet ideas for circle time. You will also find my letter cards (NOT flashcards...please, please do not use these as flashcards). Letter cards are what I use to help children visualize the letters and I use them in all the activities in circle time.

Now, you may be asking yourself- so does she do all 26 letters in each of these activities? (okay, so you probably were not asking yourself this, but hey- go with me) The answer is...heck no- that might take all day! Long activity = bored checked-out children. I use the letters that my students are having the most trouble with. I get this info from the assessments I do 3 times a year. It works great for me!

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Streamline Your Assessment Process

Sooo... you know that feeling when things aren't fitting together right? It is like a feeling of disorder and it brings an uneasy feeling... like you can't wrap your brain around how it all is supposed to connect.  Please tell me it isn't just me!

I remember the time at the beginning of the school year, last year, when I felt this feeling.  I struggled to map out how my assessment pieces would fit together.  Like, I knew I needed some sort of sheet to record data and I also knew I wanted to have student portfolios.  But, how they connected and the pieces that were missing were bring me that 'disorderly feeling'.  

Unfortunately for me, I drive myself completely crazy until I find a 'map' to the problem that makes sense for me.  So, last school year, at the beginning of the year, I was driving myself crazy!

But folks...I got it done and I feel so.much.better.

Want to go through the same process I did to get my assessments streamlined?

Let's go!

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SECTION 1: Your Goals and Standards: Learning Goals or your State's Standards are at the center of the assessment process.  These goals are what you are working towards helping your students learn by the end of the year.  These standards are the EXACT skills you should be assessing and reporting on.  

Think it Out: What Goals/Standards do you use? Do you use your State's Early Learning Standard?  Or do you use a set of goals given to you by your administration?

SECTION 2: Collecting and Recording Data: This is where you will take the Goals/Standards you are using and decide which skills you are going to collect data on.  In my state, the number of standards was a bit overwhelming, so I had to narrow them down to make my data collection realistic (here are the goals I use).  You will need to decide how you plan on collecting data for the goals that you have established. This is where you find out from students what they know in relation to the standards. Recording the data you have gained is the step that I was struggling with the most.  I knew I needed an all-inclusive list of the skills I was assessing for each student.  Finding the right one for me was what was giving me a problem.  Eventually, I had to create my own.

Think it Out:  Will you complete some whole class assessments? Will you do individual assessments?  Will you try to make your assessments as play-based as possible?  How will you record the data that you gained during your testing? Will you have individual student recording sheets?  Or, a class recording sheet?

SECTION 3: Using and Communicating Results: This last section (I feel) is the most important. Now that you have data on your students, it is time to use it!  Finding discrepancies of a certain skill in all or most of your students may mean that the skill needs to be brought to light again (and probably several more times) in whole group.  If you are finding just a couple of students struggling with a particular skill, it may mean that a small group time with those students, focusing on that skill, may be in order.  You may also find that one student is struggling with multiple skills.  Choosing one skill to focus on and working with that child one-on-one may be the best route.

The last step is to decide how you plan on communicating the results with parents and caregivers.  Our preschool uses portfolio-based reporting, so the decision was easy for me.  Perhaps you have a certain way to report to parents as well.  But if not, go through the 'think it out' questions below.

Think it Out: How do you plan on using the results from your assessments?  Will you use results to guide whole group instruction?  Will you create small groups or work with students one on one?  When do you plan on working with the groups?  How do you want to communicate results with parents?  Will you use a report card style info sheet?  Will you use portfolios to show progression?  Or will you just report to parents during a conference?

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Streamlining your assessment process is a lot to think about.  But, I hope this post has helped you get your thoughts in order for a successful year of using assessments to guide instruction!  

Facebook Groups for Class Communication

My phone goes DING! and I know it is another Facebook notification. Sometimes it feels as if social media is taking over our lives!!! But, in all honesty... this year in my preschool class, Facebook has been a blessing. I know, you don't hear Facebook and blessing in the same sentence often.....but, hear me out!

At the beginning of the year I started a private Facebook group for the parents and guardians in my classroom. I wasn't sure how well it would go over- if people would check it or if it might end up in the graveyard of good ideas. BUT, I am here to tell you- it has been amazing!

Here is why...

  • I am meeting parents on a platform they are already hanging out at (not trying to implement a new platform to remember to check).
  • With a little help from me and a lot of love from parents, we have created a community where we can share photos and classroom happenings in a safe and positive environment.
  • Parents aren't just 'hearing' from me about what we are doing in the classroom through a newsletter- they are 'seeing' through photos of the things we do everyday.

But, you may be thinking... I have that one parent who just doesn't do social media. Yep, that is fine- I still send info via email if needed (although I have found that when they hear how amazing the group is, they end up joining us).

You may also be thinking... What if I have a parent that doesn't respect the privacy of other families? Yep, had that same thought. So, I wanted to make sure the expectations were stated before jumping into this. I even created a Release Form so that both parties knew what was expected.

In fact, I included that release form in this email. It makes it clear to parents that they may NOT share/download photos of children other than their own. Go check it out to find the specifics. You will need to add your name to the second bullet on the list.

**Serious Sidenote: I am not a lawyer and this is not a legally binding document. This document basically informs parents of the expectations when joining the Facebook classroom group.

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Let me know if you have a class Facebook group and how it is going at this post on my facebook page: