By Brenda Overturf
Assessment for learning is part of any solid classroom design. But there is no doubt about it—planning for classroom vocabulary assessment can be tricky. Books and articles about vocabulary development often conclude with a “need for research” when it comes to assessment. However, vocabulary instruction would just be a collection of activities if we didn’t pay close attention to how our students are progressing and adjust accordingly.
So how can we assess vocabulary learning? Formal published vocabulary tests are prohibitively expensive. They are usually reserved for higher stakes assessment, and don’t test your students’ classroom learning. Commercial reading programs often lack vocabulary assessments or are based on words that are not right for your students. When it comes to formative and summative assessments to evaluate word learning, you may find yourself designing your own.
I have had the immense privilege of spending a lot of time in vocabulary-focused K-8 classrooms and thought I would share four tips for planning vocabulary assessment some great teachers have shared with me.
1. Plan formative and summative assessments that build from instruction.
Instead of teaching students words from a generic vocabulary list, Beck, McKeown, and Kucan (2013) suggest reviewing materials to decide how to plan for instruction. These researchers talk about Tier One words (words that students already know), Tier Two words (more challenging words that students will encounter across texts), and Tier Three words (words that are part of content instruction). Their recommendation for elementary students is to select Tier Two words that students will see in in a particular text or hear in a read-aloud, and introduce Tier Three words when engaging students in content area instruction.
Margot and Leslie are intermediate teachers in a high-poverty school. When planning for instruction, they review possible vocabulary words in their reading program and content area lessons. They then select five to seven Tier Two and Tier Three words (total) to emphasize, choosing words they think will be helpful to students for comprehension and that students will see in other texts in the future—what they call “bang for your buck” words. They introduce these words in context and add two synonyms and two antonyms for each word to help students build semantic networks. They then engage students in a number of active and fun activities with vocabulary.
Leslie and Margot use formative assessment techniques to gauge their students’ word learning during vocabulary activities as a natural part of instruction. Formative assessment can take the form of posing questions and inviting students to indicate “thumbs up” or “thumbs down,” asking students to write answers on white boards and hold them up in the air, or leading students to create their own questions for other students and then observing how they use the words. On a summative assessment that will be used for a grade, Margot and Leslie usually create a multiple-choice format that mimics the standardized assessment that students will take. In addition to expecting students to select definitions, they also include questions in which students choose synonyms or antonyms associated with the word. They intentionally add questions about vocabulary words from earlier in the year so learning will stay active.
Heather, a first-grade teacher, created a scaled-down version of this plan for her students. In her class, children learn one synonym and one antonym for a few Tier Two words she has selected from the shared reading text. Her students practice the words, the definitions, and their synonyms and antonyms in whole group games and literacy center activities. One section of Heather’s first-grade reading assessment is always devoted to vocabulary. Early in the year, students indicate definitions through pictures and simple sentences. Later in the year, students choose definitions or synonyms and antonyms that match the vocabulary words.
2. Teach students to use word-learning strategies, and then expect students to use those strategies on assessments.
There are three word-learning strategies we want to teach students so they will be able to figure out the meaning of an unfamiliar word: use of context, meanings of common word parts (affixes and roots), and use of reference materials (Graves, 2016).
Leslie and Margot intentionally teach their intermediate students to use these three word-learning strategies as part of their classroom vocabulary plan. When designing vocabulary assessments, they emphasize use of context. This makes sense, since their state reading assessment often requires a student to select the definition of a word in context. These teachers design part of their vocabulary assessment using a one-page multiparagraph format with blanks where the vocabulary words should go. They write the paragraphs about something that has happened in school so all students are familiar with the background of the text. The vocabulary words (five to seven for each two-week period) are listed in a word bank at the top of the assessment. This format requires the students to use context to decide which word goes into each blank. They also ask students to indicate context clues that provided evidence for their choices. As Margot tells her students, “Test makers try to trip you up. You really have to use your context clues to figure out the right word.”
3. Teach students words they are likely to see in more formal assessment situations.
All the teachers I have worked with, including middle school ELA teachers and interdisciplinary teams, understand the need for teaching students to interpret words that will be used on more formal high-stakes assessments.
Beth and Deshay’s kindergarten students don’t take the state assessment but they are required to participate in the progress-monitoring tool their district uses and they want their students to feel confident when answering the questions. Although the computer-based assessment has a read-aloud feature so that young students can hear the directions, Deshay and Beth have realized there are a number of words their students don’t know or understand. If children can’t comprehend the directions, they can’t follow the directions! These teachers make sure to embed words into their daily instruction that students may hear on progress-monitoring assessments, such as label, information, and word parts. Then Beth and Deshay use informal assessment techniques, such as observation and notes, to judge whether students understand these words and can follow directions using the words.
4. Work with other teachers to share vocabulary assessment ideas.
The vocabulary-focused teachers I know try to collaborate with other educators to create an effective vocabulary plan. Sometimes the team includes all the teachers in a particular grade, sometimes it is an interdisciplinary or small group team, and sometimes it is made up of an individual teacher with a literacy coach. Teams work together to select words, plan instruction and active practice, and design and analyze assessments to make professional decisions about further instruction. Participating in collaborative discussions can be a gold mine of ideas about assessment and student learning.
And Now for The Test!
Performance-based assessment, a method used extensively in the 1990’s, is making a comeback (Hilliard, 2015). In performance-based assessment, the assessor expects students to perform a real-life task. We know students have really learned vocabulary when we observe them using new words in speaking and writing.
Yes, assessment can be tricky, but it is an essential part of a well-designed vocabulary plan. So here is a performance-based assessment task for you: How can you assess vocabulary learning in your own school or classroom?
Beck, I., McKeown, M., and Kucan, L. (2013). Bringing Words to Life: Robust Vocabulary Instruction, Second Edition. New York: Guilford Press.
Graves, M. (2016). The Vocabulary Book: Learning and Instruction, Second Edition. New York: Teachers College Press.
Hilliard, P. (2015). Performance-based assessment: Reviewing the basics.
Dr. Brenda Overturf is currently a full-time author, speaker, and consultant. She is a career educator as a former teacher, district administrator for reading curriculum and assessment, and chair of the literacy program at the University of Louisville. Brenda’s books on vocabulary include Word Nerds: Teaching All Students to Learn and Love Vocabulary and Vocabularians: Integrated Word Study in the Middle Grades. She is currently working on a new book about K-1 vocabulary. When Brenda is not writing or speaking, she loves to read, create art, travel, and listen to her husband’s 60’s band.
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- Create a list of words. Use a graded list, take words from a basal series, or pull words from content areas.
- Ask the student to read each word, use it in a sentence, explain the meaning, or provide a synonym or antonym. ...
- Look at the results.
Often vocabulary is assessed at the end of a unit using a multiple-choice task, a fill-in-the-blank task or matching task. These modes of vocabulary assessment are shallow metrics of possible word knowledge.What is the purpose of the vocabulary assessment? ›
Assessment of vocabulary is critical for identifying children at risk for reading problems and for designing appropriate instruction. The use of oral measures is essential.How do teachers assess children's vocabulary learning? ›
PPVT (Dunn and Dunn, 2007) is the most common measure of receptive vocabulary used in early literacy research today. It is an individually administered assessment in which the examiner shows the child a page with four separate illustrations and asks him/her to point to the one that shows the target word.How do you assess fluency and vocabulary? ›
Count the number of words read correctly in one minute. If it is an initial assessment or an end of term assessment, repeat two times using an equivalent list or passage (three lists or passages altogether) and average the scores. If it is a weekly progress monitoring assessment, one list or passage is sufficient.What are the three dimensions of vocabulary assessment? ›
Three dimensions of lexical competence are proposed: (a) partial to precise knowledge, (b) depth of knowledge, and (c) receptive to productive use ability.How do you measure a child's vocabulary? ›
The WebCDI is not the only widely-used metric for assessing children's vocabulary size. Some labs use the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test, or PPVT, to test children directly. Unlike the CDI, the PPVT is not meant exclusively for children and can be used for anybody over two and a half years old.What is the core vocabulary assessment? ›
▷ WHAT The CORE Vocabulary Screening measures how well students know the meaning of grade-level words they read silently. The task involves reading a word in a box and choosing which of three answer choices means about the same as the word in the box.What is the main objective of a vocabulary activity? ›
Why: (Purpose) Vocabulary instruction aligns with deep learning by helping students make connections between words and construct meaningful knowledge. Vocabulary instruction aligns with higher student achievement by increasing reading skills and comprehension.What is the goal of vocabulary instruction? ›
Vocabulary instruction should aim to engage students in actively thinking about word meanings, the relationships among words, and how we can use words in different situations.
Stage 1—Never having seen the term before. Stage 2—Knowing there is such a word, but not knowing what it means. Stage 3—Having context-bound and vague knowledge of the word's meaning. Stage 4—Knowing the word well and remembering it.What should an assessment plan include? ›
The assessment plan should detail what will be assessed, how the assessment will take place (i.e. what assessment method will be used), and the Assessor requirements. It should also include what exactly is required in order to pass the End Point Assessment.What are the four steps in planning a classroom assessment? ›
- Step 1: Define the Relevant Content. ...
- Step 2: Appreciate the Pros and Cons of Different Item Types. ...
- Step 3: Match Learning Objectives with Item Types. ...
- Step 4: Plan the Assessment.
- Plan individual instructional intervention. ...
- Develop daily instructional strategies. ...
- Determine targeted goals for students and teachers. ...
- Monitor student and teacher progress. ...
- Discover professional development gaps.
- Take a student's perspective. ...
- Try using a word wall. ...
- Create vocabulary notebooks. ...
- Connect word meanings with semantic mapping. ...
- Make word cards. ...
- Encourage reading comprehension. ...
- Use visuals and situations.
Difficulty recalling the names of words. Difficulty finding the correct words to use. Using the wrong words in utterance. Having fewer words than children of similar age.How do you measure vocabulary? ›
To find your vocabulary, count how many words you know among the words numbered 1 through 40, and multiply by 150. Then count the number of words that you know among words 41 through 70 and multiply by 600. Add the two subtotals together and this is your vocabulary.How do you assess fluency in the classroom? ›
Educators can assess students' fluency by using grade-level passages that have been controlled for level of difficulty and having students read aloud a new passage for one minute. Accuracy: Notate which words students misread, skipped, or substituted with another word.What three things must a fluency assessment include? ›
Assessments are discussed in terms of three components of fluency: Accuracy, or accurate decoding of words in text; • Automaticity, or decoding words with minimal use of attentional resources; and • Prosody, or the appropriate use of phrasing and expression to convey meaning.What are the 5 principles of language assessment? ›
principles of language assessment, i.e. practicality, reliability, validity, authenticity, and Washback.
The principles include establishing efficient, rich routines for introducing target word meanings; providing review activities that promote deep processing of word meanings; responding directly to student confusion; and fostering universal participation in and accountability for vocabulary instruction.What are the three types of vocabulary instruction? ›
listening vocabulary-the words we need to know to understand what we hear. speaking vocabulary-the words we use when we speak. reading vocabulary-the words we need to know to understand what we read.What are the levels of vocabulary skills? ›
This handout discusses the three tiers of vocabulary, Tier 1—Basic Vocabulary, Tier 2—High Frequency/Multiple Meaning, and Tier 3—Subject Related. Tier one consists of the most basic words. These words rarely require direct instruction and typically do not have multiple meanings.How do you assess word finding difficulties in children? ›
Formal assessment of a student's Word Finding difficulties is implemented by using a norm referenced battery of tests designed specifically to assess Word Finding. These standardized assessments should evaluate a student's retrieval skills in both convergent and divergent retrieval contexts.What is a vocabulary knowledge scale? ›
The Vocabulary Knowledge Scale (VKS) is a 5-point self-report scale developed by Wesche & Paribakht (1996) that allows students to indicate how well they know items of vocabulary. It measures small gains in knowledge in order to compare the effectiveness of different vocabulary instructional techniques.What are the two types of vocabulary are tested? ›
In completing, there are two types of test, contextual and collocation.
Those with mature vocabularies and age-appropriate literacy skills understand and use words from all three tiers. This handout discusses the three tiers of vocabulary, Tier 1—Basic Vocabulary, Tier 2—High Frequency/Multiple Meaning, and Tier 3—Subject Related.What are smart goals for vocabulary? ›
Smart Goals for Vocabulary Development
Any IEP goal should be a SMART goal, which means it should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Goals should be Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic and Time Limited.
Vocabulary-learning strategies are a part of language-learning strategies which in turn are a part of general learning strategies. In general, the findings of research on vocabulary-learning strategies agree with studies of more general language-learning strategy use.How to write a lesson plan? ›
- Identify the learning objectives. ...
- Plan the specific learning activities. ...
- Plan to assess student understanding. ...
- Plan to sequence the lesson in an engaging and meaningful manner. ...
- Create a realistic timeline. ...
- Plan for a lesson closure.
- Reading: Reading habits are directly proportional to vocabulary growth. ...
- Review: ...
- 3) Recycle ♻️: ...
- 4) Reflecting reading journey. ...
- 5) Research.
Direct instruction of specific words can include teaching the multiple meanings of some words, different word associations (such as antonyms and synonyms), and word concepts (such as related concept words and categories of words).What are the 7 C's of vocabulary development? ›
The students are also expected to master the English business. The indicators of a good letter are completeness, conciseness, consideration, concreteness, clarity, courtesy, and correctness. These are called the Seven C's. Some students found that writing is hard for them because they have a limited vocabulary.What are the three main elements of vocabulary development? ›
There are three very important aspects of a new word that you should be sure to learn: denotation, connotation, and collocation.What are the benefits of learning vocabulary? ›
Focussing on vocabulary is useful for developing knowledge and skills in multiple aspects of language and literacy. This includes helping with decoding (phonemic awareness and phonics), comprehension, and also fluency.What are the goals of an assessment plan? ›
ASSESSMENT PLAN PURPOSE
The Assessment Plan documents a project's approach to measure outcomes and align accountabilities for evaluating the success of a project and ongoing results delivered. Outcome focused delivery assessments keep us focused on our goals and provide feedback when corrective action may be required.
An assessment plan is a document that outlines the student learning goals to be assessed during the term, a brief description of the assessment methods including the sources of data and intervals at which the data will be reviewed.What is an outcome assessment plan? ›
Outcomes assessment involves systematically collecting and analyzing evidence to determine how well the unit is accomplishing its intended purposes and – most importantly – using the findings to improve performance.What are the 4 basic elements of successful classroom management plans? ›
According to researchers, classroom management is a core strategy for effective teaching, four components of classroom management were identified and analyzed, which included: rules and regulations, disciplinary interventions, teacher-student interactions, and mental sets.What is the first step in planning for assessment? ›
- Step one: Clearly define your needs assessment objectives. ...
- Step two: Be realistic about your resources and capacity. ...
- Step three: Identify target audiences and data sources. ...
- Step four: Think small and big when summarizing results. ...
- Step five: Get feedback.
3-2-1 Format is a quick and simple student writing activity. Focused Listing is a quick and simple student writing activity. Muddiest Point is a quick and simple technique where students identify a challenging or confusing concept.What are the three types of classroom assessment? ›
There are three types of assessment: diagnostic, formative, and summative.How do teachers use assessment in the classroom? ›
Student assessment enables instructors to measure the effectiveness of their teaching by linking student performance to specific learning objectives. As a result, teachers are able to institutionalize effective teaching choices and revise ineffective ones in their pedagogy.What is the best way to assess a student's phonics skills? ›
One way to assess these skills is by asking questions like “How many sounds do you hear in the word bake?” Another is to segment the sounds in a word and ask students to tell you the word. Then give the student a word and ask them to segment out the sounds like you were doing.How do you assess students speaking skills? ›
- Create a Rubric. Most teachers will be familiar with the concept of grading with a rubric, a table with different criteria and a grading scale. ...
- Pronunciation. Pronunciation is a basic quality of language learning. ...
- Vocabulary. ...
- Accuracy. ...
- Communication. ...
- Interaction. ...
An example of formative literacy assessment might involve a classroom teacher checking how many letters and sounds her students know as she plans decoding lessons.What type of assessments can be used to assess phonemic awareness? ›
Phonemic Awareness skills can be assessed using standardized measures. The Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS) assessment system provides two measures that can be used to assess phonemic segmentation skills, Initial Sounds Fluency (ISF) and Phonemic Segmentation Fluency (PSF).How do you assess oral language in the classroom? ›
Teachers can use tools like oral prompts, picture prompts, role playing, oral summary, and oral interviews as part of students' oral language assessment. Teachers can assess the language development of their students via the use of oral prompts, or asking students an open-ended question.What are the 5 types of speaking assessment? ›
There are five types of speaking assessments based on Brown (2004, p. 141). They are Imitative speaking tasks, Intensive speaking tasks, Responsive speaking tasks, Interactive speaking tasks, and Extensive speaking tasks.