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​The long Minnesota winter is finally over! The snow is gone, the air is warmer, the sun is shining (sometimes), and now that daylight savings is here, the days suddenly feel longer. As much as I love spring (and truly I do!), it causes me some dismay, because I know how its arrival can negatively impact the work ethic of some students.

​In my last post, I shared the many assessment mistakes I’ve made over the years. Blunders aside, I actually love spring assessments for one simple reason. The spring assessment gives me an opportunity to show my students the big picture and remind them that the best reward of all is taking ownership of their own progress. This is usually just a short conversation, but it’s one of the most important talks I will have with them.

​Is it really assessment season again? It feels like yesterday that I opened the lab at this new school, met my students, and screened them for reading difficulties using Benchmark Assessor Live. The winter assessment window seemed to arrive just a short time after that. And now it’s springtime already, and the April 23 to June 11 Benchmark Assessor Live assessment window is almost here. It is time to prepare to assess the students yet again.

​Imagine you purchase a new workout machine for your home. It’s a top-of-the-line machine, with all the bells and whistles, and it works like a dream. You’re so enamored with the machine that you’re actually motivated to work out! At first. A few weeks or months later, the machine loses its luster and working out doesn’t feel quite as exciting anymore. Does this sound familiar? I hate to tell you this, but it’s not the machine’s fault!

It was the first week of February, and I was just completing the winter benchmark assessment of my Read Live students. I celebrated the student’s fluency gains, and I reminded them that their improvement was due to their own efforts. But, even while celebrating, I noticed something alarming that my students couldn’t. The amount of improvement among my students was far from equal.

Last week, my second-grade son’s teacher wrote the following in her weekly email to parents: “February is the time of year that we all get a little ‘too comfortable’ with our friends and the routines.” She encouraged us to remind our children to listen to directions and to make kind, respectful choices. It is wonderful that the students are feeling comfortable at school—but when “too comfortable” leads to loss of focus and waning respect for the rules, teachers and parents need to help the students find their way back.

“Everything is going so well,” I thought to myself. “This job gets easier every day!” That’s when the trouble began...

Today I have some thoughts and resources to share on the topic of comprehension. In my last post, I mentioned that the checking initial placement process alerted me to a student—let’s call him Connor—whose average comprehension score was 60% correct. Another student—let’s call her Lucy—was averaging 72% correct. These scores don’t fly in my reading lab. What’s the point of reading if not to comprehend? I want to see all of my students averaging 80% correct (4 out of 5 questions) or better on their first attempt at answering the questions.

Our culture celebrates an abundance of choices. When the stakes are low, we can simply decide that these choices are not worth agonizing over. But what happens when the stakes are high? What happens when you’re sitting across from a struggling reader and you don’t know the best way to help him? Thousands of programs claim to “work,” but many don’t—and making the wrong choice could waste the precious little time this struggling reader has to catch up. Help!!

It’s almost winter break! Are you counting down the days? Your students probably are! Their plans may include quintessential winter break activities like building snow forts (climate permitting), sipping hot chocolate, and having plenty of good old-fashioned fun. Before you release them to their holiday mischief, it’s always a good idea to remind them to incorporate plenty of reading into their plans.

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