The author, Kristina Acevedo is a 6th grade ELA teacher at Hudson Charter School in Kearny, NJ. Connect with Kristina on Twitter 

By Kristina Acevedo

Formative assessments can help teachers in a variety of ways. Depending on the data collected, teachers can utilize that data to group and regroup students as needed to work on skills and concepts. One way we use formative assessments at Hudson Arts and Science Charter School is to conduct biweekly skills checks to help teachers form guided reading groups based on skill mastery.

Using formative assessments in the form of skills checks to assist in creating guided reading groups can be a huge benefit to your students. Here’s how our ELA department uses digital formative assessment to inform our guided reading instruction.


1. Focus on Skill-Based Instruction

In class, we teach a daily skill/strategy related to a specific standard, and provide students time to practice the skills during independent reading and stations activities. It is important to continue reinforcing the skill throughout the two-week period, to give students as much exposure to and practice with the standard and skills being taught.

Using Edulastic as a station to practice skills has transformed one of my stations into a skill-based digital activity that keeps my students engaged in their learning.


2. Conduct Biweekly Skills Checks

After a two-week period, students sit down to take a short, standards-focused formative assessment, which we call a “skill check”. The purpose of this assessment is to determine the level of mastery our students can demonstrate for a given standard or skill. For this assessment, the most important thing to remember is quality over quantity.

Students answer no more than three passage-based Part A/Part B questions. These questions mirror our state assessment (PARCC), and are designed to not only assess student mastery, but also to help prepare students for when they have to take PARCC in May. These high-quality, rigorous questions are related specifically to the standards and skills taught over that two week period.

Students take this quiz on Edulastic, using the Passage-Based Question option. This quick, easy skill check on Edulastic yields real-time data, instantly revolutionizing the way we obtain relevant data.


3. Analyze the Data

Next, we review the data we have collected. While we do review the number score each student receives, we also look for patterns in answer choices. Do we have students who struggle with questions asking for evidence from the text? Is there a chunk of my class that only partially mastered the skill? By finding patterns and reviewing student mastery through the skill check, we can begin to form guided reading groups based on significant data.

Through Edulastic, not only can teachers review data real-time as the students are taking the quiz, but we also utilize the Question Analysis report to view overall which questions students struggled with, and the average amount of time they spend answering each of these questions.


4. Form Guided Reading Groups

Forming guided reading groups can seem like a daunting task, especially for the middle school grades. You may have students on a multitude of guided reading levels, or several students all on the same level. Rather than trying to group students by guided reading level, try using the data from your bi-weekly skills check to form guided reading groups based on skill mastery.

These groups can be fluid, changing every week or even every few weeks depending on their levels of mastery for each particular skill. By forming groups this way, teachers are using current, relevant data to form guided reading groups that will target the skills students struggle with.


Using Edulastic once a week or even once every two weeks for these short skills checks can truly reframe how you look at forming and maintaining guided reading groups.

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