Sunday, March 11, 2012

SOLSC #11 Alphabet Assessments

I just completed my March "alphabet assessments" for my preschool class.  This is where I pull each one of them aside and have them read a mixed up list of capital letters, followed by a mixed up list of all the lowercase letters.

Honestly, for me, conducting these assessments is about as attractive as swallowing a spoon of cod liver oil.  I so don't want to do it!

Yes, you see, I am one of those teachers who loathes standardized assessments of preschoolers.  I don't really "get it." To me, the entire purpose of preschool is the social-emotional learning.  My own boys went to preschool only a couple mornings a week, to a community (cooperative) preschool that had a play-based curriculum.    ABCs? 123? Never really meant much to me...and still doesn't.

The work of a three and four year old is to play, play, play with others and by oneself, to whet one's appetite for learning, to investigate, to explore, to discover.

But, it doesn't matter what I believe in my bones.  I am teaching at a public charter school and I regularly assess their alphabet and numeric knowledge every quarter of the school year.  So be it.

I have a great relationship with my students and each of them enjoys "meeting with me" for a quiet, one-on-one discussion, much like when I pull them aside to tell me how their story begins....  The assessments are quick, not so memorable (I hope) for any of the children.  I keep a straight, welcoming face, not indicating right or wrong, just listening to them.

Here are some echoes, now that the 3rd quarter assessments are over -

  • Did that one girl notice me making small notations when she missed a letter? She seemed to stumble in her recitation afterwards?  Goodness, is this "preschool test anxiety"???  She is always so aware of her own skills and those of others...I would hate to think that I caused her any doubt about her capabilities.
  • Wasn't that adorable how my "oh so musical" student simply put his finger on each letter, and just started singing "A B C D E F G..." as if all the letters were in order?
  • And that one little fellow who just made up sounds, totally different from "letters," as he pointed...this strikes me as pretend reading.  Pretty cool, really!  Wonder where the assessment column is for "thinking outside the box"? 

It is so clear that many of my students are working on other skills.  We must remember to attend to the whole child, not just one tiny detailed part of a child.


  1. How sad that you must document the alphabet learning of three year olds. Your bulleted points are so much more rich in observation than any number could be.

  2. Ug, I really worry about what we are communicating to kids regarding learning and assessment in our current educational climate. I appreciated your comments regarding what the assessments told you as the teacher.

  3. Your post strikes me so near to the heart! As the program administrator, I struggle with giving parents what they want to know and honoring our kids as they develop at their own pace. We are always looking for authentic ways to document their learning but those core standards are getting awfully close to being a part of what and how we assess. Keep your chin up and find a way to make those observations a part of your assessment communication!

  4. Like Juliann, I've been experimenting with authentic ways to do this - but I hear you. I'm in a public school setting so "assessment" is definitely part of our year.