Wrapping Up #CyberPD: Assessment and Connections Between Home and School


#CyberPD is an online professional development learning community where teachers read and discuss a common professional development text. Visit Reflect & Refine for more details and links to connect with the group. This year’s book is Digital Reading: What’s Essential in Grades 3-8 by Franki Sibberson and Bill Bass.

digital reading

The last chapters in Digital Reading focus on assessment and on building connections between home and school literacies.

Ch 6: Assessment: Keeping Our Eye on the Literacy

Common sense and good solid workshop practices are the foundation of the assessment practices recommended by Sibberson and Bass. In fact, the workshop approaches and techniques we’re already using represent best practice and we need to build on those as we integrate technology into our assessment.

Solid literacy assessment remains the same with or without digital tools. (90)

Sibberson shows how easy it is to integrate a focus on digital reading into the standard beginning-of-the-year literacy survey simply by asking questions about students’ digital and online reading lives.

There are also digital tools that can help us “gather real artifacts from a child’s learning and collect and organize the artifacts over time” (93). They give a run-down of a few tools that teachers may find helpful: Evernote, Google Docs, photos, ebook annotations, screen captures, kidblogs, and video and audio files. They also talk a bit about student-led conferences and digital portfolios.

Assessment has become a four-letter word at my institution, largely because we are so frequently asked to do things in the name of assessment that benefit no one and actually detract from effective teaching and learning. Assessment is not a numbers game. I love the approach to assessment here: it’s about documenting our students’ growth as learners, collecting evidence of their learning, and using that evidence to refine and revise our own teaching.

Ch 7: Beyond the Classroom Walls: Connecting Digital Reading at Home and School

This was one of my favorite chapters because it presents practical solutions to a problem that I constantly hear teachers talking about–how to involve parents and connect students’ home lives and learning. This is where digital tools can really have an impact. Parents have a window into what their children are doing in school when children blog and tweet about their learning. Many digital tools–Google docs, for instance–invite much more integration between home and school learning and literacy. Sibberson and Bass share a few ideas for whole-school programs that can involve parents in digital learning–Internet safety night, for instance, or my favorite, tech petting zoo, where parents can come in for demos of the different tools and technologies that are available for their students to use. Finally, they list ways that teachers can individually invite parents into the classroom through their online presence on a class website, blog, Twitter account, Pinterest, or other digital bulletin board.

Big Takeaways:

Intentionality and authenticity. Have a rationale for what you do that is linked to what you’re trying to accomplish. And make sure that you’re not asking students to do things that “real” readers and writers would never do.

I also loved the spirit of invitation that informs this book. The classrooms described here are places of invitation, not coercion, and Sibberson and Bass extend that invitation to teachers. There’s no sense here of “this is what you should be doing.” Rather, it’s always, “this is what you might think about” and “this is what others have found helpful.”

A final note:

One thing I found very interesting about this book is that it assumes a deep familiarity and experience with workshop classrooms. The argument really is how digital reading fits into what teachers are already doing in their workshop classroom. I hope that workshop is the norm where Sibberson and Bass teach, but it’s definitely not the norm where I teach. In my eight years of teaching pre-service teachers, not one of my students has ever experienced a workshop classroom in their K-12 education. Only one has come into my classroom with any familiarity whatsoever with workshop (she did some observations in a middle school that had recently implemented workshop).

This is a problem.

What is going on in our education programs that pre-service K-8 teachers are graduating with no knowledge of Donald Graves, Lucy Calkins, Nancie Atwell? With no understanding of what actually works to develop and grow readers and writers?






7 responses to “Wrapping Up #CyberPD: Assessment and Connections Between Home and School”

  1. margaretsmn Avatar

    In my area, very few teachers are left who use workshop style and know of the wonderful menotors you mentioned. I connect online for that reason. Our writing projects are no longer being funded. This is not taught at all in education programs around here. What can be done to spread the word?

  2. Cathy Mere Avatar

    You make great points here. Digital tools do offer new possibilities for our students, assessment, and connecting with families. It was interesting to read your comment about workshop. It doesn’t seem that workshops are the norm. I always find it interesting how wide the variation is among definitions of what a workshop is and should be. I know that what makes weaving digital possibilities into our day is my workshop. Without it, it would be impossible to find opportunities to make this work naturally.

    Thanks for joining the conversation once again. I’m going to link your post to our Google Community as I think more people will see it.


  3. Linda Baie Avatar

    Wow, Elisabeth, that makes me sad to hear that pre-service teachers aren’t aware of Atwell, Calkins, Graves, etc. or aren’t sure about doing a workshop. It takes a lot of trust and knowledge to make a workshop work well, & I’m sorry that those new teachers are not gaining experience in it. I like that you spoke of ‘invitation’, & I read ‘choice’ in that. Choosing what is good for one’s learning is important from the youngest to the oldest, teachers, too. Your point is well said. I’m glad to read your thoughts.

  4. Cathy Veldhuizen Avatar

    I feel your pain, Elisabeth. My district just purchased a “canned” program after years of learning and growing with Calkins, Graves, F & P, Pam Allyn, etc. Fortunately, my principal is very supportive of the workshop model and is encouraging us to dip our toes into personalizing learning. The workshop is a natural step in this process.

    So, hang in there. Maybe connect your students digitally with teachers/districts that do use a workshop model? We’re still out here!

  5. weberhe Avatar

    Elisabeth, you comment about workshops is scary. I cannot imagine running my classroom any other way. Yet I fear it is a reality. I feel that flipped and blended learning make workshops even more possible. After all, isn’t the goal student-centered learning? That is how I always viewed my reading/writing workshops well before technology tools made things possible that weren’t “back in the day”. I completely agree with the need to ensure the work and lessons from Graves/Calkins/Atwell (and others :0) should still be alive and thriving in every school today.

  6. […] The final installment of #cyberPD’s reading response […]

  7. Stephanie Affinito Avatar

    I so enjoyed your post, Elisabeth! As a literacy teacher educator in a graduate program, I am continually surprised by the varying content and pedagogical knowledge they come with based on their undergraduate institution and student teaching experiences. I have learned not to assume anything and instead, to focus on the workshop approach in my graduate classes, sometimes disrupting what they have previously learned. I am working hard in my neck of the woods and through this group, have already connected with others doing the same. Hopefully, our work will continue and students will be able to implement their new thinking in the classroom. I appreciated your honest reflections!


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