Monday, September 28, 2020

Assessing Elementary Readers Digitally: Thoughts & Questions

It's been awhile, friends.  I hope that this blog post finds you well!  Or at least persevering through the challenges.  Because there are plenty of them.

I could make lots of excuses of why I haven't been writing on this blog.  Eventually I'll write a blog post about some of my personal challenges, taking a deep dive into the importance of healing.  (I would love it if you followed me on *favorite* social media platform.)  Nonetheless, I'm here now, and I've got some deep thoughts about assessing children's reading via purely digital methods.

Some context for you:  my district is doing full-time remote instruction for the first trimester of the 2020-2021 school year.  Then, the plan is to go hybrid, splitting the school into two teams who will come to school on alternate weeks.  Of course there are students whose parents have opted for a complete year of remote instruction.  No matter how we slice it, instruction and learning will be on a digital platform at least 50% of the year.  As an interventionist, I need to be able to teach children how to read and comprehend through virtual means.  But before I can do that, I need to assess and screen my students.  

My supervisor has provided us with a online leveled texts and we have been told to administer running records.  {I know that many dyslexia specialists and interventionists are not big fans of running records -- as I've come to realize, they are not always a true reflection of students' reading profiles.  However, I follow district directives, and I try to focus on the positive aspects of this methodology.}  After spending the last two weeks administering these assessments, I have noticed some patterns:

  1.  Students are lacking stamina.
  2.  Students are getting tired more quickly.
  3.  Students are craving that individualized attention even more than usual/past years.
  4.  Student decoding accuracy seems to have decreased slightly.
  5.  Running records are taking a much longer time.

Why are these trends happening?  I guess I could blame everything on the pandemic, but I think the answer is more multifaceted.  And I feel as though that if I can figure out the why, I'll be able provide appropriate interventions that support student learning and growth.  Here are some hypotheses addressing these patterns in reading behaviors: 

My biggest concern is that screen fatigue is not allowing for a true measure of students' reading capabilities; regarding their instruction, it will also impact their retention of skills and ability to think critically.

Possible solutions and positive vibes

I know I need to look more into the science of reading:  I've been wanting to read the Maryanne Wolf's book, Reader Come Home, in which she talks about the impact of digital reading on our brains, specifically children's brains.  Maybe she talks about some best practices when reading digital texts . . .

Second solution is to get physical texts in the hands of learners for independent reading in order to cut down on the screen time.  That will require time, resources, monies, and approvals.  With everything being so strained right now, we'll see what happens . . .

While it hurts my inner core to think that I can't support these children with what they need right now, I'm pushing myself to think positively:  I know that kids are resilient, and there some rock-star teachers pulling off the impossible.  Here's hoping that the positive vibes get us through the craziness . . . 

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