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My I-pad helps to change dreaded assessments into teaching again!

OK, let me begin yet another blog by admitting that I am not writing about anything that is ground-breaking or new and I am also assuming that many other teachers have probably already used the idea of recording children's reading on i-pads.  But the elation I feel after having the dreaded feeling of losing teaching time to do assessments removedcompels me to write!

None of us get into the teaching field because we LOVE to assess, but we all come to  realize (begrudgingly) that it is an important part of the overall learning process.   I think educators even changed the name from "test" to "assess" just to make ourselves feel better.  With all of the other competing demands associated with education, actual teaching time has become a precious commodity.  And there is nothing worse than witnessing a child not do well on an assessment, only to leave your side feeling deflated.  Not only do I and all teachers feel incredibly sad for a child in such a situation, but I know that I also personally feel a sense of failure...that I didn't do my job well enough.

Enter the $.99 voice memo app on my i-pad.

While doing the Developmental Reading Assessment (DRA) with each student in my first grade class, I decided one morning to upload an app which would allow me to easily and inconspicuously (I thought) record the children reading passages.  My initial thought was that it would help me with replaying the child's reading if I missed a miscue or even help to clearly illustrate a child's reading strengths and/or weaknesses at parent-teacher conference.  What I didn't realize was the teachable moments and smiles it would provide.  Not to mention the ease.

First of all, never think for a moment that a first grader misses a trick.  They knew that I was recording them. Some liked the idea.  Others got nervous.  I explained to the ones who got nervous that I would erase the recording if they didn't like how it sounded.  Well, never let it be said that a six year old doesn't like to hear his/her own voice.  They instantly became the star of the show.  Even if they weren't reading all that well, they developed wide grins just hearing themselves on the recording.  Nobody wanted to delete themselves from this rectangular recording device.  Many even asked to see how I was storing the recordings. 

The best part, however, was the teaching that I could do after each and every assessment with each child.  We would listen to the recording while following allong in the book.  When we got to an error, I would easily pause the recording and ask the student what strategy they could have used to figure out that word.  They always knew!  And they inevitably corrected their miscue without much or any guidance from me!  The look of pride on their face when they did this was well worth the $.99 I shelled out for this app.

Of course I couldn't just stop at one assessment.  The children begged to read and record another book.  So I would take out the alternative book at the same level and administer the test and the recording again.  They always did better!  The moment they would finish the second book, they would beg to hear themselves again. 
In the end, the kids left my reading table feeling proud, I left feeling satisfied that I didn't just do a round of torture and the areas in which each student needed to address were noted by all.  Yes, students  were leaving assessments actually learning something about their own reading...and feeling good about it!

Again, I know this is not a new concept.  But the i-pad made it  incredibly simple to pause, replay or records and immensely convenient to file and store.  All this for under a dollar.

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