Literacy stations are ideal opportunities to determine if students are mastering skills and strategies. But be careful not to be overrun with grading by trying to assess everything students produce. The key is to wait until students have had ample time to practice a skill/strategy before assessing their mastery of it.

Each skill/strategy taught during the reading block should run through “the cycle.”

Smekens Education The Cycle in Reading Block

The cycle honors the gradual release of responsibility and will likely take several days or even weeks per skill/strategy. However, once a skill has been integrated into a station for repeated practice, then a teacher can collect some specific assignments to assess for mastery–essentially, take a grade.

In the book Practice with Purpose, literacy expert Debbie Diller reminds teachers that most of the work done at stations should be completed for the purpose of repeated practice; students are still learning the skill/strategy. For this reason, periodically collect some products only to perform a quick check for understanding. (NOTE: If this check reveals students are struggling with this independent work, re-teach the skill/strategy within the cycle of large and small-group instruction.)

Once students are showing understanding, then assign a new specific task to be completed during independent literacy stations.(Be sure you have predetermined the evidence you will use to evaluate the skill/strategy.) Use this product to “take a grade” and assess students’ levels of mastery.

With this approach, teachers need to determine which literacy-station assignments will be completed for practice and which ones will be completed for assessment. Debbie Diller recommends teachers:

  • Identify the minimum number of grades needed in a marking period. (Check for district expectations.)
  • Identify which skills/strategies should be mastered by the end of that marking period. (Look for skills/strategies that have gone through the full “cycle” and have been taught in mini-lessons for multiple days.)
Article originally posted February 17, 2016.

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