I know I keep preaching that September is only about two things: routines and reinforcement so when I jump in with a post that has the word ‘assessment’ included you all get scared. Assessment is a scary word. It sounds time-consuming, complicated, and intimidating. But really an assessment is just gathering information. That’s it. You are gathering information about your student. Information that you can compare later on to see if growth has been made. Every time you hear the word assessment, replace it in your brain with ‘gather information.’ It makes the whole thing way more doable.
Yes, I do advocate for the start of the school year to be focused in teaching your students the important routines of the class and establishing yourself and your classroom as a reinforcer but while doing that we can sneak in a little assessment. And this assessment is so easy and valuable. It’s easy because all you need to do is watch. That’s it. We are such busy bees in our classrooms that we rarely just observe our students. You can learn so much from observing. You can learn about reinforcers, you can learn about which skills are independent, you can learn about communication obstacles.
This assessment is a checklist that you can create based on the common expectations in your room. After you create the checklist, observe your students and mark if they can complete the activity independent or with help. Pick a student a day to complete the assessment on and you’ll have your whole class done this month.
Included below is an editable and non-editable version of this checklist. You can type or hand write in the skills. I liked the idea of breaking up the day into a few categories: entering school, navigating classroom, problem solving, lunch/recess, bathroom, and leaving skill. Pick 3-5 major skills that your student needs to accomplish in that area. Don’t get too detailed. Look for some overarching skills like “clears lunch” or “checks schedule.” For students that are not independent in those skill areas, you can get more detailed later. If you are having trouble thinking about which skills to include, spend one day just observing and writing down the skills as your see them or see them being prompted. This will give a great idea of which skills are important to include. This list creates your individualized school based functional skills list. These are the specific skills that your students need be independent within your environment.
Complete the checklist for each student. This will be easy to do. Observe the student and simply mark independent or some help for each skill. Once you are done, you now have an overview of the student’s school based functional skills. You can create a percentage of independent skills by adding up how many skills in total and dividing by the total independent skills. Then you can say well, Johnny can do 89% of our school based functional skills independently.
Use this checklist to show growth. Complete it in September, then again in January, and again in May. Track how many new steps can be completed independently through the year. Show the increase in the percentage of independent skills. Put some data and numbers to all of those transition times that your students consistently improve on.
Data based instruction.
Now that you have given this ‘assessment’ (aka gathered this information), you know what to focus on with each student. Johnny needs to work on washing this hands. Jenny needs to improve on asking for help. You are basing these focused goals on data. You gave an assessment and made instructional decisions based on that assessment. How impressive! It’s only month one. (Psst. Don’t tell them how easy it was, let them be impressed).
Justify your staff.
In our field, sometimes we are forced to be part teacher and part lawyer. We need to defend why our students need the amount of support and staff that they do. Some people may look at your classroom and think, she doesn’t need 2 paraprofessionals, I can borrow one to do this task for me. Nope. You have data and an assessment on your side. When someone tries to pull an aide from dismissal or recess, grab this assessment and show exactly what your aides will be helping your kids with. Having data and things on paper seems to always quiet everyone down.