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Tracking Student Progress

Tracking Student Progress

Mrs. Powell is reading the book Mouse Was Mad with her 5-7 year olds who have hearing losses. She decided to target the words on two levels because her students have different language levels. Her first level target words were: ridiculous (silly), mucky, sphere, echo, rumbling, inspiring. Her second level target words were mad/angry, mucky, silly, stomping, mud, and the phrase “How does [mouse] feel?”. Mrs. Powell decided that the storybook was a great meaningful context to introduce the words, but she also reinforced them during her Feelings Unit, especially the phrase ‘How do you feel?’ Using this phrase every morning allow students to engage with the vocabulary and increased opportunities to respond. Mrs. Powell used a tracking card to track student progress to observe how her students grow in understanding vocabulary (receptive) and how they use vocabulary (expressive).

Mrs. Powell likes to track her student progress using questions during her weekly storyreading session. She introduces the words to the kids during the first reading to find out if her kids know them or not through questions like “What does that mean?” or “What’s that?” while pointing to pictures from the book. During the reading she gives simple, child-friendly definitions of the words: “Ridiculous means the same as silly” or “A sphere is a ball” or “The mud was yucky and dirty—it was mucky”. During or after the final read, she asks students questions about the story like,

Mouse looked ridiculous– what does that mean?”

“Mouse looked really silly– can you tell me another word for silly?”

“Mouse tried to make himself into a sphere– what shape was he trying to make himself into?”.

Mrs. Powell also likes to use picture cards to supplement her instruction, especially for the younger children, but she uses these cards after the lesson too. When she has a student who needs more help finding an answer she presents the cards as an option.

When Mrs. Powell checks her tracking observations, she realizes that she has two students who need a bit more support because they aren’t learning the vocabulary. She decides to show them objects (ex. A ball for the word sphere) and do language activities (ex. Playing in the mud) to explain the meaning of the words. She also uses her Feelings Unit to help the children role play ideas for how they feel when they get mad.


Tracking student progress is also known as Formative Assessment; it has positive effects on student achievement, especially children with special needs (Black & William, 1998).


(Frohbieter, Greenwald, Stecher, & Schwartz, 2011)

Formative assessments monitor student performance and allow ‘wiggle room’ for teachers to adapt based on student performance to address areas of need. There are three major components:

Frequency: occurs more frequently than summative assessments (anywhere from 1x a day to every 4 weeks)

Tracking: integrated into the lesson and is lesson related

Changing Instruction: outcomes can help teacher change instruction to be more effective.


Formative assessment for vocabulary requires for teachers to integrate some of the previous strategies, namely targeting vocabulary and increasing opportunities to respond. Teachers can target 5-7 words per week (receptively or expressively) and record them based on the child. Using opportunities to respond can help teacher assess growth for particular words.

Changing instruction

Asking yourself, “How do I need to change my instruction to make sure _____ learns the words I’m targeting for him?” Changes to instruction may need to be (1) number of repetitions the child sees/hears, (2) number of ways the child experiences/engages with the word, (3) number of opportunities the child has to use the word.


Black, P. & William, D. (1998). Inside the black box: Raising standards through classroom assessment. Phi Delta Kappan, 80, 139-148.  Firm evidence shows that formative assessment is an essential component of classroom work and that its development can raise standards of achievement, Mr. Black and Mr. Wiliam point out. Indeed, they know of no other way of raising standards for which such a strong prima facie case can be made.

Black, P., & William, D. (1998). Assessment and classroom learning. Assessment in Education, 5(1), 7-74.  This article is a review of the literature on classroom formative assessment. Several studies show firm evidence that innovations designed to strengthen the frequent feedback that students receive about their learning yield substantial learning gains.  The perceptions of students and their role in self-assessment are considered alongside analysis of the strategies used by teachers and the formative strategies incorporated in such systemic approaches as mastery learning. There follows a more detailed and theoretical analysis of the nature of feedback, which provides a basis for a discussion of the development of theoretical models for formative assessment and of the prospects for the improvement of practice.

Frohbieter, G., Greenwald, E., Stecher, B., & Schwartz, H. (2011). Knowing and doing: What teachers learn from formative assessment and how they use the information. National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards, and Student Testing, UCLA.  This study analyzed three different middle school mathematics formative assessment programs, examining how features of each program were associated with the information they provided to teachers and the manner in which teachers used the information.

Urban, L. (2009). Mouse was Mad. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.  Who knows the best way to be mad? Bear stomps. Hare hops. Bobcat screams. Mouse? He just can't get it right. But when he finds the way that works for him--still and quiet--he discovers that his own way might be the best of all.  Linda Urban's story about self-expression is both sweet and sly, and Henry Cole's cast of animal friends is simply irresistible.