The first journal assessments for my students can be discouraging. Many of them struggle with the basics of drawing a figure or they they lack finger strength to apply pressure with the crayons or colored pencils I insist they use.
Assessing students I’ve had before is also a mixed bag. Sometimes they revert to drawing pictures of their family for the first few “stories.” Only one or two hold all the work they did the previous year in them like a daffodil bulb, ready to burst.
Leopoldo bloomed in his assessment last Thursday! He still has problems with his grip and applying pressure – and he and I will continue to work on his fine motor skills, but I was excited because his journal entry showed me a real understanding of story.
The students have a few entries in their journals so we always begin our conferences by walking through each page and I can evaluate what they remember about their work and remind them of the work I’m going to ask them to do. I open the session by asking “What is going to be your story today?”
Leopoldo had a story ready: “It’s about my heart hurting when I was running on the track.” What an amazing sentence for an ELL student! He continued to impress me by changing colors to draw the different parts of his figure. Then he asked about how to draw a heart. When his figure was done and he paused, I asked, “Is there anything else you want to add to your story?” “The bubbles!” he exclaimed and proceeded to draw little circles above the figure’s head to show that he was thinking about how his heart hurt.
This soon-to-be-five year old is just beginning to make connections of letters to sounds so his writing below the line was a mixture of letters from his name and copied letters of the alphabet that hangs near the work table. But he knew that it was important to add written words to his picture.
The only rewards I use in my classroom are gold star stickers that I sparingly choose to put on student’s nametags when I see exceptional quality.
Gold stars for Leopoldo today – in fact, he was my guest author the following day to reinforce the skills he demonstrated and to model for everyone else. I think I’ll take a gold star for myself too!