________________ CM . . . . Volume XII Number 17 . . . . April 28, 2006


Informal Assessment Strategies: Asking Questions, Observing Students, and Planning Lessons That Promote Successful Interaction With Text.

Beth Critchley Charlton.
Markham, ON: Pembroke, 2005.
128 pp., pbk., $24.95.
ISBN 1-55138-181-8.

Subject Headings:
Educational tasks and amusements.
Elementary school teaching.


Review by Christina Pike.

*** /4


For formative assessment to be a regular, useful part of a classroom routine, and not just one more thing to do, teachers need a sensible organizational model. Otherwise, they may feel overwhelmed and stressed to the point where achieving a state of “flow” is not on their mind - survival is!


Beth Critchley Charlton in Informal Assessment Strategies has put together an instructional manual that takes teachers through a step-by-step process that will enable them to incorporate various assessment strategies into part of their day-to-day classroom lesson planning.

     In Chapter One: Getting to Successful Lessons, Charlton lays the groundwork to, as she writes, “What’s the secret to really good teaching?” She then goes on to link the answer to formative assessment. In Chapter Two: Approaching Informal Assessment, Charlton highlights the importance of good listening as a way of getting to know the students and their individual strengths and weaknesses. She includes a quick quiz that helps to determine the kind of listener the reader may be, as well as a sample of September Notes to help organize the information gained from listening to each student. Chapter Three: A Formative Reading Assessment, describes Charlton’s version of the “reading record.” She begins by defining reading and then goes on to discuss how to use the reading record and the information that can be gained form the reading record. Once again she provides a sample Reading Record. In the next chapter, Chapter Four: Observing and Recording How the Student Processes Text, Charlton goes into detail about how to analyze the mistakes that a student may make. She uses conversations with students as examples. Chapter Five: Assessing Comprehension focuses on “how a student approaches a text, interacts with a text, and uses the information in the text.” It presents a cross-curricular approach with sample assessments that help determine the students’ strengths and weaknesses in each of eight areas of focus. Recognizing that there is not always time for a full blown assessment, Charlton has also included a short form that can be administered based on one selection. In the next two chapters, Chapter Six: Daily Opportunities for Classroom Assessment and Chapter Seven: Independent Reading as A Time for Assessment, Charlton outlines how the “talk” can be incorporated into practice. She provides sample guides and examples from the classroom to highlight how informal assessment can be a meaningful part of the classroom experience and can help to guide the instruction. This leads into Chapter Eight: Using Assessment Results to Make Instructional Choices. In this chapter, Charlton shows how to put it all together and make it work for each of the students so that they can become ‘active thinkers’ while reading. Finally, in the last chapter, Chapter Nine: Next-Steps Lessons, Charlton shows how to effectively set up “independent reading time as the time to carry out formative reading assessments.”

     Informal Assessment Strategies is a good read for all teachers trying to incorporate informal assessment strategies into their daily teaching. This book works because it uses everyday examples and is written by someone who has been there -- ‘in the trenches’ so to speak. For this reason, it can speak to the teacher. It also provides ready made samples that teachers can use in their classrooms. Charlton’s encouraging tone and classroom examples make this more than an academic read. It is a manual from a practitioner of what works and what doesn’t. It provides the groundwork and a starting place for teachers to begin. There is nothing new in this text, but it does succeed in laying the foundation upon which to build. With the growing emphasis on accountability, this type of literature will only grow in importance.  


Christina Pike has been seconded to the Department of Education, Newfoundland and Labrador.


To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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