Planning for Small Group Instruction

Planning for Small Group Instruction

What are the instances in a day where you might need to use small group instruction?

For me, there are two different key areas where I will have small group instruction.

The first is with language and small group instruction with both reading and writing groups.

The other area that is a focus in my classroom with small group instruction is guided math.

So with all of this small group learning happening what does the planning look like?

Step One: Group Your Students

Step one is planning out your groups.  There are many ways to group your student and we discussed these in a previous blog post here.

Once your students are grouped you can begin to plan lessons that meet their needs.

Step Two: Make a Plan

Choose what expectations you are covering in a week.  In a traditional classroom, you might plan a different lesson for each day.  In this you will plan a traditional lesson for the whole group and then follow up lessons will be within small group instruction.  So for the remainder of the week, you will plan a lesson for each group to be delivered to the needs of that group.

In a guided reading setting this might look like you doing some pre-teaching the week before then instructing students to provide them with additional practice of this skill.

In writing, perhaps you have a group of students that need additional reminders of how to write within a specific form or genre.  A small group opportunity to review these skills may help students to move past an area that they are stuck.

In math, you may teach the whole group a concept with modelled and shared learning and then through small groups reinforce, reteach or extend the learning for these students.

For this plan you may want to stream your lessons providing more support and reteaching for those that need it and provide extensions to those who need it too.

Step 3: Plan Independent Practice

if you are working with a small group then the rest of your students will need to be working on independent practice.  Independent practice must be easy enough for students to complete but rigorous enough that they are actually learning and practicing skills.

For language, these activities can be together as students and respond to reading and craft a draft of writing that can be assessed as independent writing.

For math, there are opportunities for students to work through a variety of expectations that also highlight different process expectations. A variety of activities can include hands-on learning, application of skills, and key knowledge and understanding practice.

Step 4: Implement

Now that you have your lessons planned.  Make a rotation for students to complete the independent practice while also providing opportunities to meet with you.

You may want to ensure that your group that needs the most support is provided with the most of your time while the group of students that do not need your help as much get less support.

Sometimes this means I meet with my ‘high’ group first and then let them go off and explore concepts.  While with my lower group I may meet with them more often or even daily throughout the week.

Step 5: Assessment

Since you planned at the beginning what expectations (or cluster of expectations) you were looking to cover with your weekly lessons you can assess students on their mastery skills on this topic.

The method of note-taking or data collection will be whatever works for you as a teacher.  Here are some of my own favourite ways to collect data.

  1. Class list – Using colour coding or a numerical code I will write the expectation or cluster of expectations at the top of the page and then as I meet with students I will make notes of what level or skill they demonstrated with me during guided reading.
  2. Tech – There are many apps that let you take notes and anecdotal notes on student performance.  Apps like markbook, or Idocieo are all great options to record assessments of your students.
  3. A class list with open boxes that allow me to write a quick note about each student and how they are doing.
  4. A group book: if you are meeting with specific student groups you can have a different notebook or page for each member of the group and simply take notes based on just the lesson and students from that group.


At the end of the day, small group instruction does involve a bit more planning and organization at the beginning of the week. However, this is generally at the beginning of the week.  This growing pain is also reduced the more you do this.  With more practice, it becomes easier.

Small Group Instruction: How to Group Students

Small Group Instruction: How to Group Students

As teachers, we spend so much time establishing rules and routines in our classroom.  We practice and rehearse how to complete work and move around our classroom.

At some point, it is time to move on and begin our guided instruction.

Guided instruction is an effective tool to provide concentrated support to students that target an area of need.  It allows teachers to be more responsive to students and learn more about the strengths and needs of our students.

During guided instruction, the students are beginning to do things independent with less teacher assistance.  It is a great opportunity to collect formative assessment data and inform instruction.

With all that said, how do we group students in meaningful ways so that we can deliver this targeted instruction?

One of my concerns has always been that as a teacher the traditional way of grouping students goes back to basal readers.  Reading books that were colour coded and referenced birds.  These books helped to determine your identity as a student.  You were either smart or dumb based on what level book you were reading.

Or alternatively the only students that sat at the guided reading table were those that needed help.   The stigma attached to getting this help was quite negative and prevented those that needed help with actually asking for it out of fear of the stigma and reaction of their peer group.

So then how do we combat this in a modern classroom?

We know that guided instruction is effective but that only happens if students actually participate and engage with the learning that happens within this small group.

So the question that remains is how do we group our students effectively so that we reduce the negative feelings associated with coming to our guided reading table.

Here are some of the many ways you can group students for guided instruction across curriculum strands.

Collect Data

The first task before grouping students is to understand the factors we may consider in grouping students together.

Collecting data is an essential way to ensure that your groupings are effective.  Ask yourself the following questions to determine how the students should be grouped.

  1. What is their level of academic proficiency?
  2. What are their interests, strengths and needs related to this topic?
  3. What are their learning needs that may impact groupings?
  4. What are their attitudes and experiences about working with small groups?
  5. How can personalities be combined across groups?
  6. Why am I grouping them? What is the learning goal(s)?

It is important to use a variety of data including standardized assessment tools, previous assessments.  Your own professional judgement is also a key factor here too.

Once you have your data your next step is to plot this out for each student.  Grab an index card for each student and write out this information about each student.  Include assessment data, notes on preferences.  Using cards will allow you to lay them out and adjust the groupings as necessary.

Once you have your cards completed decide on the factor you want to prioritize for your groups.  For example, you could group writing groups based on interest, strength and needs of the writer.  In this situation, you may want to pair students up with peers that have complementary skills.

Groupings: Academic Skill

This is one way you can choose to group students. For example, you could group all your students based on the grades they received on the last assessment you conducted.  If you use a standardized reading assessment then this could be used to determine guided reading groups.  All students within in a similar range of reading ability could be grouped together to form one group.

The benefits of this type of group are that you have similar abilities in each group which could help you with pulling and finding resources.  Generally, the assumption is that students working at a similar academic level would have the same skill deficits and that this could be addressed specifically with the teacher within this small group.

The downsides to this type of grouping also include the problems associated with the stigma that the lowest readers are in the low group.  If you have a group of students here that very clearly tie self-worth to academic performance or overvalue a narrow understanding of what smart means that this type of grouping may be problematic.  This is especially the case for those that benefit from small group instruction the most.


Groupings: Interest and Strengths

Another way to group students is to find common ground between students.  This involves surveying them and collecting data on a student’s interests and strengths within the topic of study.  Contrary to an academic skill which assesses the needs of students.  Groupings in this category focus on what the student can do well.

From here you can choose two pathways.  First, you can pair students with others that share the same strengths or you can choose to pair complementary strengths.  For example, you could pair a student who has a strong voice with writing narrative stories with an analytical student that prefers to write research reports.  Allowing these students an opportunity to learn from each other and teach others their strengths.

Overall this is my preferred way to group students.

Mixed Personality

Who says you actually need a plan to group students.

Why not group your students randomly (then adjust for personality conflicts)

Sometimes students need to work with a variety of individuals and there doesn’t really need to purpose or intention behind their groupings.

There are so many random ways to group students and sometimes the results are great and other times there are opportunities for students to learn to work better together and persevere through group challenges.

There is nothing wrong with grouping our students in ways that consume very little time.

Flexible Groupings

This is often the way people suggest that students be grouped for small group instruction however many skip on the practical ways in which this could happen.

First, flexible groupings are flexible.  This means that membership to one group or another is constantly changing.  It will change on need, opportunity, and learning goals that the teacher has set out.  It’s more like a non-group grouping.  It is preferable in theory because the groupings that are made for that short period of time are fluid and based primarily on formative assessment data collection.  However, the management of flexible groupings can be a daunting task if as a teacher you crave control and organization with a dash of consistency.

So practically flexible groupings can still be maintained, controlled, and organized if you look at them differently from a schedule of events that happen each day.

In my experience flexible groupings don’t happen on a schedule, in fact, they are often not preplanned with group members.

In a flexible grouping scenario, you have a few choices.

Each week regroup students based on the data you collected from the previous week.  Based on the tasks from the previous week you can give students a code: Re-teach, Review, Continue, Jump Ahead (colour codes are better than codes that resemble assessment categories).  With this assessment, you can identify what type of lesson each student needs based on the groupings from the previous week.

Another method is to not assign students to a group at all and have the students self identify (with perhaps some help) that they need more assistance.  Begin your week with your previous weeks learning goal.  Ask students to provide you with a self-assessment on how well they understood this concept.  Give students each a card and have them put their name attached to a level.  Use a stoplight visual to help students identify this for self-assessment.  Depending on each student’s classification (and your own data monitoring students can identify if they need more teaching or can move on) If this type of flexible groupings students will identify their own needs as learners and your small group instruction will be determined primarily with their own self-assessment.  In this scenario, students who identified themselves in red will meet first and more often than those who identify as green.

Grouping Multiple Ways

If you are looking for ways to group the same students in multiple ways such as grouping by ability and strenth one effective strategy is to use colours, numbers and letters.

If you have 25 students in your classroom you can put them in three different types of groups

  • Academic level
  • Mixed Personality
  • Interest and Strength Pairing

So to start, choose five colours and randomly assign students to one of these colour groups.  Have a look at the results and adjust if there are major issues with personality or ability.  Although these are random you don’t want there to be an unfair advantage in one group over another.  These random groups should still contain a nice cross-section of ability and mixed ability.

Next group your students by academic ability and assign these students each with a letter.  Thow them off a bit by choosing random letters of the alphabet not only A, B, C, D…

Finally, group students based on strength and need making sure that you have paired students with a partner and within a group where there is a friend that has a strength with their area of need.  Assign each of these groups with a number.

Now each of your students will have a colour, a letter, and a number.

When using groupings you can simply ask students to get into their _________ group.

This means that you are using flexible groupings across subject strands and these are preplanned ahead of time so that you do not have to constantly group and re=group students.

Which way is best?

There isn’t one way to group students and this list isn’t exhaustive.

Your own assessment of student need and your own needs as a teacher are the best determining factors in deciding how you will group your students into small group learning teams.

Your ability to group your students will be based on your experience and sound professional judgement.  When in doubt go with your gut and trust that you have a reason for your decision and that if it doesn’t work out you can always change it.


Good luck with your next groupings.


Want to read more about small group learning in the classroom.  Read more here




How I Teach Writing

How I Teach Writing

I used to teach writing like everyone else.

I would

  • pick a writing form
  • break it down into steps
  • focus on the process of how to write within a form
  • repeat this for a few weeks
  • have students write within that form
  • evaluate their work to see if they could write in the form

Honestly, it worked. I was able to get my assessment data and cover my curriculum.

But…it was boring and my students were less than engaged. Especially those students that had no interest in writing in their form.

Their creativity was gone, stifled, and hidden underneath a bunch of systems and rules that had to be followed. Robot writers were being created.

However, writing is personal. For anyone who had ever written outside of the confines of school can tell you writing is a creative and personal process.

You pour yourself out onto paper and take risks to share your ideas with others.

So why then as teachers do we take this out of writing to focus on covering the various forms of writing instead of simply letting kids write and experimenting with different writing forms?

Just because it is how it has been done in the past doesn’t mean that it needs to be done like that forever.

We do it because it is easy, linear, and allows us to teach from a checklist of expectations. Its better for us as teachers, but is it better for students?

I changed how I teach writing 4 years ago.

Faced with a group of boys who refused to write for the previous year, and coming from a feeling that my writing program was hitting expectations but I was spending more time pleading with students to write anything instead of helping them to write better, I looked for an alternative.

Writing Needs To Be Student-Centred

For so long teaching writing has been focused on what the teacher wants to do and what the teacher needs students to do.

This is not student-centred.

Since writing is so personal, we need to give our students more autonomy over what they write. The more autonomy we can give the more engaged students are and the less we need to worry about managing their behaviour.

So what can we do?

Instead of focusing on specific forms of writing such as an adventure story or fable look at more general forms of writing including

  • Narrative
  • Expository
  • Persuasive
  • Descriptive.

Allow students to choose to write anything within these general forms of writing.

You can brainstorm different genres of writing the fit under each umbrella of writing forms but the flexibility to write here is important.

Junior students (grades 4-6) are just beginning to find their voice as writers. This is a time of great importance because we can shape how they feel about themselves as writers.

I am quickly approaching 40…I am not the best person to decide what a 9-11-year-old is interested in. They are fascinated with bottle flipping, spinning toys, codable robots, weird arm-swinging dance moves and video games that make absolutely no sense to me.

How could I possibly know them better than they know themselves? Do I really know what topics will excite them tomorrow?

Moreover, with our class sizes ballooning above 30 students with an increasing number of unsupported special education needs, what works and engages one student will not work for another.

So the keys to my writing program here are

  1. Allow students to choose what they write
  2. Use choice boards to help them narrow down on topics across these four general categories.
  3. Using student-teacher writing conferences with students to talk about each student’s individual next steps as a writer.
  4. Focus on developing each student’s individual voice as a writer
  5. Build writing confidence through consistent feedback cycles

Writing Needs To Focus On The Writing Process

In the Ontario Language Curriculum, there are 13 expectations that focus on the writing process, not including spelling and grammar skills.

There is only one that mentions specific writing genres. However, it is not the expectation that states these forms it is the example text that follows the expectation.

Examples are not our curriculum.

I know that many instructional coaches and leaders over the years have provided lists of all the different forms we should cover at each grade level. I would agree that these are great forms to explore cross strand through oral texts, read alouds, modelled and shared writing task by looking at the various elements,

However, they should not serve as our limitations that restrict student creativity and exploration of their skills as writers.

I would argue that these forms should be taught and encouraged but not be mandated writing forms or used to restrict students in their ability to write authentic texts.

The focus on the curriculum is much more on the process of writing and steps writers take to write.

Focusing on this major element of the curriculum will be far easier to differentiate and allow teachers to be responsive to student needs than simply commanding that all students write a fairytale.

Focus on developing skills that follow the writing process instead teach them how to write instead of what to write.

Focus on:

  1. Brainstorming and generating ideas – for students who are not used to having this type of control over their own learning this is initially very hard for them. Teach them how to dump out their ideas onto a page in no particular order.
  2. Organizing Ideas – this is a hard one for students because sometimes they just want to write down the story. However, the key to a good piece of writing is a plan. This organizational planning step is universal for every form of writing. How you plan and organize your writing will change depending on your purpose for writing. But instead of walking students down this path, and telling them what to use and how. I feel that giving them a purpose for discovering this is far more meaningful. It also helps them to apply this skill to all areas of writing. We want students to have a method and organization tool to use when writing. Allowing them to know and select the best tool from their toolbox to write more successfully is a far better skill.
  3. Drafting – Too many kids are worried about their ability to spell words correctly the first time and this fear will often prevent them from trying. The last thing I want as a teacher is for a student with great ideas and a strong voice to believe that they are not a good writer just because they can’t spell. Being a good writer and being a good speller are two different skills. The purpose of drafting is to get your ideas down on paper.
  4. Editing and Revising – This step is key to getting students to fix their spelling and grammar errors. They need to know what to look for and fix these. Combined with explicit lessons on spelling and grammar rules students will learn to be better editors themselves. Spelling and grammar are best learned in context. What better context than their own spelling and grammar errors.
  5. Finally, there is publishing. In this final stage, I believe that it is important to recognize that not every piece of writing is worthy of being published. Some are simply not worthy. Allowing students to look at their body of work and select only their best work to be published allows students to think critically about what they have learned as writers and to choose samples of this growth.

Students Need More Time For Mastery

I used to think that teaching a form of writing would take me 6 weeks.

I now realize that writing takes more time.

Students need to write every day….every day! They need to write for a significant amount of time each day too. According to the guides to effective instruction, this means that students should be writing up to 30min a day.

Teaching writing is a slow burn from the beginning of the year to the end.

I let my students make small baby steps with gradual improvement from one draft to the next. We look at where they start and then what they will do next to improve.

Slowly students will gain the confidence as writers as they believe in themselves to do more of what they are capable of.

Everyone can write and everyone has something to say. It is my job as the teacher to focus on each students strengths as a writer to help them improve areas of weakness.

Each student will be different in what they need and what they are stong with. They can learn from me, learn from peers, and learn from experience.

Validating their voice is key to engagement in writing. Students will do more of what they feel they are successful in. They will work hard to achieve their goals. Many times they just need a cheerleader in their corner cheering them on.

  1. Meet with students regularly to discuss their strengths and needs as writers. Provide timely feedback that supports and guides them towards their next steps as writers.
  2. Have high expectations and a belief that your students can do hard things and you will be there along the way but you believe deep in their soul they have the potential to be amazing writers. Some will need permission to fail (even though they won’t), others will need a push to do more, some will need a soft place to land full of encouragement, some will need failure before growth and some will need a clear target to hit. You as the teacher will determine what each student needs from you to move ahead.
  3. Focus on the process, not the product – worry less about which forms they write in and focus more on the path they take to get there. Allow students to experiment with different forms and push and guide them along the way.
  4. Expose students to different writing forms through modelled and shared reading, oral language, and media texts. Identify the features of these texts, analyze them, replicate these in shared writing activities. Remember students simply have to write in a variety of forms, but the exact forms that they should write are not prescribed in the curriculum. Stick to a wide variety of specific forms within the four categories I mentioned above. Allow students the freedom and flexibility to choose a form within these categories that best suit their style as a writer. Let them hop back and forth between forms and build on one skill over time.
  5. Use a spiralled approach to your literacy program. Revisit topics over time. Link ideas together cross strand so that students can see the connection between reading, writing, oral language and media.

So in summary…

Stop being the only one who decides what students should do during writing time. Instead, allow students to choose what they write about so that they can develop their own personal voice as a writer and embed their interests and personality into what they write.

Stop focusing on specific writing forms and start focusing more on the process of writing.

Stop expecting students to master writing skills in short windows of time. Instead, look at building small areas of skill growth over time.

Wondering where to even get started with how to plan out your language arts program that embeds students voice and choice, focuses on the process of writing and allows students to master skills through a spiralled approach? Sign up for my free training or check out the program.

Student Goal Boards

Student Goal Boards

What is a goal board?

A colourful picture of a classroom bulletin board that has student writing goals on it.  Writing goals are organized into categories that align with the writing process.  This would be used in Ignited Literacy or with Writer's Workshop.

It is a visual guide used for students that helps them keep track of what their individual goals are for a particular subject area.

On and off I have used goal board in my classroom. I first started using goal boards with Daily 5 and Cafe but quickly realized that what they presented just didn’t really fit with how I was teaching. It was like fitting a square peg into a round hole. It was good but just not right.

I have had student groups that have used it and student groups that have not.

As I move through the year with my students I realize that setting clear goals and making path to achieve these goals will be paramount to helping the achieve success.

So a goal board will be going up in my classroom very soon to help my students set and acheive goals.

Where are goal boards used?

Goal boards can be used in any subject matter but I do think that it is important to start small and stick with one subject area. This then can be moved into other curriculum areas as students are ready and get the hang of the whole process.

For my classroom I will be beginning with a goal board for writing. This is a huge focus of student voice and choice in my classroom and an area where students can begin to take on more ownership of their own learning. Together we have conferenced many times about their previous writing samples so they are familiar with where they need to go and what they need to do.

Why the goal board then?

Well the specific purpose of this is to make learning visible and to have a visible board that serves to hold students accountable and keep students organized.

If you have students that are

  • visual learners
  • struggle with organization
  • have executive functioning difficulties
  • struggle to respond to feedback to make improvements
  • want more autonomy and control over their learning

If you as a teacher want

  • your students to keep track of their own learning
  • students to be responsible for their own learning and progress
  • a simple visual way to track students (status of the class)
  • to show student voice and choice in your classroom
  • to not be the only one tracking all the data in your classroom

Yep that is exactly what I want and need. You?

What do you need to get started?

To make a goal board you need some of the following materials.

  1. bulletin board space or a tri-fold board
  2. coloured paper
  3. printer
  4. sticky notes

1st Choose your subject area.

I have picked writing as a good place to start.

Now look at different categories that students can work on within this subject area.

Math: Solving Problems, Choosing Strategies, Computational. If you follow the Ontario curriculum using the process expectations here would be great categories to follow. They could be combined and reduced to 4-5 categories as goal areas. Alternatively you could select the 4 most needed areas for students to focus on.

Science and Social Studies: Look at the overall expectations of your curriculum or the big ideas. These will be great goal areas or areas to focus on for a goal board. Alternatively you could use the categories of the achievement chart that include Knowledge and Understanding, Thinking, Communication, and Application.

Language: You can look at writing goals such breaking apart the writing process into sections and have students focus on one area specifically of the writing process. For reading you can look at areas such as fluency, decoding, and comprehension.

Use I Can Statements

For each of your goal categories, you will want to put them in student-friendly language.

Using I can statements to frame your specific goals will help to make these relevant to your students.

Think like a students and try to avoid teacher-speak. Unless you have made teachery phrases part of the language of your classroom then you should avoid putting these on the goal cards.

Track Student Progress

So you post the goal board and students look at it once and never again…

This is what I try to avoid. If I am putting it up then I want it to be used because I feel that it will be valuable.

So how do I do that?

It starts with routine. For a while now I will conference bi-weekly with students on what they are writing. Before they conference with me they fill out a feedback form. This form asks them for their goal. So in part they have been making goals all along. But this hasn’t been a focus.

With the goal board, we will physically identify which goal they are working on. We use a marker, like a sticky note, magnet, etc. that has the students name on it. This name card will go next to the goal that that student is working on. If you are lacking horizontal space this can also be done by putting an area below your goal cards for students to put their name. This will signal which of the goal areas they are focusing on instead of the individual goal card.

Ready to make your own?

Are you ready to try a goal board in your classroom?

If you would like to try the pre-made one that I have for my Ignited Literacy Language Program you can find that here

Helping Students Solve Math Problems

Helping Students Solve Math Problems

Are your students struggling to understand, work through and correctly solve word problems? Does the method you are currently using fall short of actually finishing the problem or only get your students to understand parts of the problem but not actually how to solve it.

This was the problem that I was facing with my students.

There are many problem-solving strategies out there but I found that they simply dealt with comprehending the problem.   Sort of like a finding Waldo within a word problem.  But one of the biggest problems was not finding the information but in communicating ideas and making a plan on how to solve the problem.  I needed more than simply circle….underline…and box some words inside a word problem.

Circle the Question

This is a key step was defining what the actual problem was and what it was asking a student to do.  This step was still important to me as I wanted students to understand what the question was asking them to do.

Hunt for the Clues

Unlike previous strategies I had used, I didn’t want students just to look for specific things within the story I wanted them to pull them out and list these out.  Moving beyond keyword hunts and other shortcut strategies.  I didn’t want students to just memorize the patterns that most problems follow but I wanted them to think critically about the facts that were presented inside the question.

This is also important as you begin to add irrelevant details to the questions being asked.

When real life problems are presented they are ways so nicely organized in a way that can be easily solved by looking for key words on a nice neat package.

Now this is where most solutions finish.

Assemble An Action Plan

One of the biggest difficulties is not identifying the first two steps but that students don’t know how to choose a strategy or make an action plan.

In this stage student combine two things.

First they need to ask themselves a few questions.

– How will the facts help me answer the question

– What do I not know

– What do I need to do first…second…etc

– What strategy do I need to use

I often find students get easily overwhelmed thinking they need to do everything at once. I often ask them “If you had a pool party would you grab a sandwich and jump in the pool at the same time?” This idea grosses them out. This works for this example. Students need to realize that there be multiple steps to solving a problem and that they should do these things one at a time.

It is important for them to make a plan of action to solve the problem one step at a time.

Solve the Problem

Another decision they need to make is how they will solve it.

Clearly and explicitly showing students different ways to solve problems is important to help them better understand strategies to use when solving problems.

  • Students will choose what operation to use
  • Students will also have to decide which strategy or algorithm they will use.
  • Finally students will need to show

This is also the time where the dreaded debate with students on showing work. This year I am not using the phrase “show your work” instead I am using “make your thinking visible”. I am finding that this is helping students to realize that I want all of the great math being done in their heads somehow represented or explained on paper.

Justify Your Answer

Finally students will summarize what they have done and answer the word problem by explaining what their answer is in the context of the problem.

This is a statement of their answer using the keywords from the question.

I use this strategy regularly in my classroom with students to remind them of the steps they can follow when solving a problem.

Want to try it for yourself?

Try it here

How to Track Student Assessment

How to Track Student Assessment

There are so many ways to track student learning.

But the goal here is that you have to do it.

That is true my the hardest part. To get it out of my head and on to paper (even digital paper) where I can manipulate the data and make it make sense to me.

If we are using an inquiry approach, we may have moved beyond the pencil and paper assessment as the final culminating task. But we still need a definitive way to track learning.

So here are a few tips that help me to keep on top of assessment.

Old School Paper

Yep it’s true I know that many of you know that I have a love-hate relationship with paper but it is often still my go to …. quick grab that to jot down some info at the moment… type assessment paper.

I have many different ways that I layout my assessment pages depending on what I need.

  • Checklist
  • Checklist with note space
  • Anecdotal Note box
  • Seating plan notes
  • Conferenceforms

Except for this year (since I returned mid-year)  I am always behind the eight ball. I usually have these copied and ready to go easily accessible whenever I need them.

I also have one of those compartment clipboards that has storage, and this is great for tossing assessment pages into so that I can eventually import them into digital when I’m ready.

Want to take a look at my tracking pages?   Here —> Inquiry Assessment Notes

Or see my class list examples here —>  BLANK Classroom assessment pages

Keeping It Digital

I lose everything…because I am forgetful and in 10 years cannot for the life of me find a system that keeps all my paper organized in a way that doesn’t overwhelm me. So I keep it all digital.

  • I take photos
  • I do quick exit checks
  • I have students self-assess. I snap a class picture with their fingers up.
  • I jot notes
  • Writing reflections
  • I take photos of conference forms (because sometimes my students lose them)


Feedback is an integral form of assessment.

With all assessment, it must go together with feedback. Assessment without it is pointless.

It also has to be feedback that allows students to respond to it so that they can make improvements.

For this, I go back to paper.

Conference Forms – students fill out conference forms with me after they are done writing a draft. I have done this both digitally and in written form. Students self-reflect on what they need to work on before they begin to talk with me. Feedback is the one crucial thing that has the most significant impact on student growth. It is the feedback loop at the end of an assessment.

Digital Student Self Evaluation Writing Survey

Get a copy of my digital student writing self-evaluation form here ->

Labels: if you find and order the large Avery labels of 6-10 labels on a page you can use Microsoft word to make labels with rubrics on them. Just a single point checkbric that allows you to give a quick assessment.

I mark all the work right there on the label page fill them out, photocopy the label page with the marks recorded then peel them out and attach them in each book. (I also take a photo of this page for when I lose it)

Home School Communication

So this is a big one

Parents seem to like knowing how their child is doing.

Feedback conference forms and the labels are helpful to keep parents in the loop

So I use a classroom blog. Now I don’t blog every day,but I do try to keep it updated most of the time.

One of the key ways I do this is to use an email service provider like mail chimp or MailerLite to automatically send all of my blog posts directly to the email of my parents. It is set up to use it like remind. All of my posts are pushed out to parents at 4 pm on school days.

I know that this is t technically assessment but keeping parents informed of the assessment you are doing help to keep them better prepared and informed if they choose to be.