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Curriculum Q & A Blog, Question 24

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    EL Education

Do you have questions about teaching the EL Education K–5 Language Arts Curriculum? We've got answers!

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Question: There’s so much evidence of student progress to collect: What should I focus on? (Part 2: 3-5 edition)

This is the second in a two-part series on the sources of evidence of student progress in the curriculum. If you missed last week’s post, which was focused on the Grades K-2, you can find it here. This week we focus on Grades 3-5. 

You will gather a lot of evidence as you teach the curriculum, but the reality is that you probably won’t have time for a careful analysis of all of it. This is why we are spending some time here looking at all of the various types of evidence you will gather so that you can make informed decisions (hopefully in collaboration with your administrators, instructional coaches, and teaching teams) about what requires a more careful analysis. Of course, you can and should focus on the summative assessments in the curriculum as a key source of evidence for further analysis, but beyond that it is up to you which of the ongoing/formative assessments to focus on more closely. Not every note-catcher, for example, will require analysis; however, those that ask students to demonstrate skills they have struggled with in the past, especially if they will be featured on an upcoming summative assessment, may be worth a closer look.

Sources of Evidence in the 3-5 Content-Based Literacy Curriculum

In the Module Lessons, formative assessment opportunities are explicitly identified in the Ongoing Assessment section of each lesson. Within the lesson, this section is adjacent to the Learning Target section so that you can easily see how progress toward learning targets will be assessed throughout the lesson. Though you will not formally assess students in the ALL Block, students will continue to work toward the same learning targets as in the Module Lessons. You may wish to use the assessment checklists from the Module Lessons to help you observe and keep track of student progress as they work in the ALL Block.

What follows are examples of summative and formative assessments in the 3–5 content-based literacy curriculum (Module Lessons plus the Additional Language and Literacy [ALL] Block). This is not an exhaustive list, but it includes some of the more frequently occurring sources of evidence.

3–5 Summative Assessments


Unit assessments occur twice per unit. The format varies, from written response to graphic organizers to multiple choice. These summative assessments are on-demand and often mirror a format from previous lessons (e.g., the assessment is a note-catcher similar to one students have completed previously).


Every module has an anchor writing standard—narrative, informative/explanatory, or opinion—and each is taught and assessed twice over the course of the module. Students either write essays—to inform or to express a claim—or they write narratives. As a summative assessment, these writing tasks are independent and on demand. Sometimes, but not always, these on-demand writing tasks serve as a draft for the scaffolded performance task.

3–5 Formative/Ongoing Assessments


Checklists in Grades 3–5 serve a similar purpose to those in Grades K–2. They are a tool to help you collect evidence of progress as you observe students working. However, unlike Grades K–2, where the checklists serve as formal assessments of certain standards, at this level the checklists are informal. They are designed to provide you with formative information that can inform instructional decisions going forward. The informal checklists in Grades 3–5 include:

  • Reading Fluency (used most frequently)
  • Writing Process
  • Collaborative Discussion
  • Presentation of Knowledge and Ideas
  • Speaking and Listening Comprehension


Text-dependent questions are an important part of close reading lessons. However, those text-dependent questions are not usually counted as formative assessment evidence because they are heavily scaffolded. Students also complete text-dependent questions beyond close reading lessons. These are done independently while reading additional sections of text—after practicing during a close reading—and can serve as formative assessment evidence.


Writing routines, such as exit tickets, note-catchers, and graphic organizers, are repeated multiple times in a unit, often coinciding with chapters of an anchor text (see photo). For example, the Character Reaction note-catcher is used repeatedly throughout Grade 5, Module 1, Unit 2. As students read each chapter of Esperanza Rising, they write a character reaction paragraph using evidence they have captured on their note-catchers. Routines like this appear frequently in Grades 3–5 because of the lengthy chapter books students read.

Sample informational writing from Grade 3


Tracking Progress forms are self-assessments that students in Grades 3–5 complete after each summative assessment. To complete these forms, students review their assessment for evidence of mastery of standards and add sticky notes to their work to point to this evidence. After students track their own progress, the teacher then reviews and adds to the form. At the end of the year, students review previous tracking progress forms and work to recognize the progress they’ve made throughout the year. Tracking progress forms include the following:

  • Reading, Understanding, and Explaining New Texts
  • Opinion Writing
  • Informative Writing
  • Narrative Writing
  • Research
  • Collaborative Discussion

What about the Performance Tasks?

Technically, the performance tasks at the end of every K–5 module are neither formative nor summative assessments. They are not formative since they come at the end of the module, concluding students’ learning about the module topic and the literacy skills they have built over eight or nine weeks. However, they are also not summative because they are heavily scaffolded to help students create high-quality work, and so are not a strong measure of what students can do independently. For these reasons, we do not recommend analyzing performance tasks with the same lens you might use to analyze assessments.

Of course, performance tasks can give you amazingly rich insight into what your students are capable of with support and scaffolding. Consider looking at students’ performance tasks through the lens of the attributes of high-quality student work (authenticity, complexity, craftsmanship). For more resources on analyzing high-quality student work, see Models of Excellence: The Center for High-Quality Student Work.

For more general information about our curriculum, check out our website or our book Your Curriculum Companion: The Essential Guide to Teaching the EL Education K–5 Language Arts Curriculum. If you have questions related to this blog, please email us at: