Book study! Starting with Science: Chapter 4, Assessing for Understanding

Book study Chapter 4 I admit it. I am horrible at assessing. Not that I never do it. I feel like I am testing and assessing all the time - in math and literacy. But assessing science, in kindergarten?? Not something that I am super comfortable with. I tend to teach a science unit, and then move on to the next unit. No rubrics, no final projects, just lots of activities and experiments and conversations. No culminating demonstration of knowledge. I feel like kind of a bad science teacher. But that's what this whole book study is about, to become better at teaching science effectively. So! I was excited to read this chapter about assessing for understanding of science concepts. And it didn't disappoint. Some take-aways:

Assessment should be about three different components of inquiry: content, science practices, and attitudes towards learning.

I loved seeing this! Having a curious attitude, being persistent in problem-solving, and understanding the science practices (observing, predicting, questioning, etc) are just as important as learning facts and information.

Assessments are throughout the unit, not just at the end.

Since assessments are on-going, this means I need to make a plan for how I will assess as the unit develops. They made a note that children's conversations count as an assessment source - this is something that I often forget. But how can I tell that a child understands something? Because she talks about it! They also suggested observations of children using materials and drawing/writing in their notebooks as another source for assessment. Kids' responses to Know-Want to Know-Learned (KWL) charts (or, as this book suggests to use Know-Learned-Evidence-Wonder) charts are a great way to notice what understandings children have.

Teachers should provide feedback to their little scientists.

The author suggests giving feedback to children about their drawings, their observations, and their data collection. She stresses giving non-judgmental feedback, such as "I'm curious about why you decided to ____" instead of the more judgmental "Why would you ____?" Giving feedback can help students grow as scientists - they can learn more effective ways of sketching an animal using details, or how to label a drawing.

Documentation is important.

This is the aspect I am most excited to start! I really want to have a documentation board, as the book suggests. It's a big area on the wall (or elsewhere) that shows work samples, photographs of kids working, questions that children have, and other representations of the learning process. I might call it the "Learning Wall," and change it regularly depending on what we are studying.  Below are three examples of documentation walls - from two of my teacher blog crushes, Inquiring Minds: Mrs. Myers' Kindergarten and The Curious Kindergarten.

documentation walls

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