Month: December 2020

How to Grade Reading

Reading…our State and provincial standards say students should read. Therefore, we must grade reading. This is because, as we all know well, everything that can be counted matters, and everything that matters can be counted.

Here is a great question from CI Liftoff.

I have two things to say about this.

First, yes this is largely nonsense. Therefore, ignore it.

Second, here is how to grade reading. Note this: any assessment expert will tell you that there are only really three levels of proficiency:

3. Fully Meets Expectations: the job is done with only minor errors.
2. Minimaly Meets Expectations: the job is mostly done, with some significant mistakes.
1. Not Meeting Expectations: the job is not done, and/or has significant errors mistakes

In reading, the “mistakes” are comprehension errors, and “significant” means that these errors show that the student does not understand important sections– or the main idea– of the text.

Yes, you can split hairs and make a four-, five- or six-point rubric, but why bother? Kids don’t care, and feedback won’t help. Also, we don’t need to have more work.

So here is how to assess reading:
a. Assign reading that is 98% comprehended.
b. Have the students translate into L1.
c. Read their translation and assign 1/3, 2/3 or 3/3 according to the following rubric:

3. Fully Meets Expectations: everything comprehended with a few minor errors.
2. Minimaly Meets Expectations: mostly comprehended, with a few significant errors.
1. Not Meeting Expectations: not finished, and/or enough significant errors that the main messages are lost


You can also majorly speed things up by reading 3-5 sentences of their translation at random (ie you don’t have to read the entire same thing 30 times) 😊.

In my experience, reading (and listening) comprehension scores don’t vary that much among kids who have regularly attended class and done the very limited reading homework I assign. Scores for output tend to vary more.

If you are worried about copying, hand out two or three versions of the text and move two paragraphs (other than the opening one) around. It will be quite obvious who read and who got their buddy to help them out 😊😊.

Do not assess reading sentence-by-sentence, ie via Q&A. Why not? Well, how do you mark one sentence? What if the kid misunderstands the question? You might as well subdivide the ocean.

Do not mark for higher-level thinking (inferences etc) unless you are prepared for a staggering variety of acceptable answers. Yes, I just said that. Inference is complex in L1. In L2, things get even trickier. The literal and the figurative/thematic meanings of sentences also often conflict, bla bla. For me, the bottom line is, did the kid understand what was written? and by “understand” I mean can they tell me the literal meaning?