In2Books Assessment

Overview of Assessment:
Assess Student Learning Before, During and After

One of the most important traits of effective teachers is the thought given to the process of student assessments. As you know, good teachers not only base their assessments on grades, but also upon their observations of what students demonstrate during lessons. Good teachers listen and understand their students’ thinking. It is important for teachers to take the time to reflect upon their students’ learning before, during, and after each lesson.

Before every new lesson, successful teachers take the time to understand students’ comprehension, and plan how they will connect prior learning to a new level or area of knowledge. Based upon your students’ responses to previous lessons, consider the following questions: Were my students comfortable with the reading level of the resources? Did my students demonstrate a basic understanding of the key concepts, knowledge and skills for the previous lesson? How well did students understand the genre? Did my students demonstrate enhanced fluency and reading comprehension in their writings? Did my students contribute to class discussions or write letters that demonstrated original thought, voice, and responsiveness to their pen pals? How will I need to differentiate my instruction in order to help all my students master this unit?

The development of reading comprehension is abstract; it's a process not a product. Because of this, we at In2Books encourage teachers to focus on assessing students for how they are processing text and deriving meaning. According to Fountas and Pinnell (2001, Guiding Readers and Writers Grades 3-6), evidence of student success in reading can be seen in 6 ways:

  1. Fluency: how well students read with accuracy and efficiency
  2. Comprehension: how well students understand the texts they read
  3. Amounts, type, and quality of reading: the amount of reading students do and the range of genres they read
  4. Level of text: the difficulty of a text
  5. Attitudes and interests: how students see themselves as readers and their enthusiasm for reading
  6. Response to literature: how students respond personally to texts they read

For these reasons, we suggest a variety of ways to assess your students' reading abilities.

Record keeping of student work
As you know, it is also important to continually examine and keep records of individual student work. As you observe your students, you will want to pay close attention both to students’ oral participation in lessons and to their written work. For example, keep track of how often and how accurately students contribute to discussions. Note how engaged individual students are in group projects and homework assignments, how they do on written class work, and the quality of their emails. Looking at student work in this way to determine student learning is often referred to as “authentic assessment.” By using the information available through these authentic activities, you can continuously monitor student progress and adjust your instruction to the specific needs of your students.

Good assessment information helps you decide how each student learns best and what next to teach each of them. It also provides perspective on what the overall class has and has not yet mastered. This enables you to be efficient about the time you use for large-group, small-group, and individual instruction. It also helps identify ways different specialists in your school can provide valuable and time-saving support to individual students.

Close observation of student reactions and close study of student work product
Throughout the unit, try to find five minutes daily to reflect on your students’ responses to your lessons. Observe how students talk with one another about texts. Examine the kinds of questions they ask about texts. Look carefully at how they reflect on their reading in their Writer's Notebooks. These teacher observation  handouts are to help you keep anecdotal records as ongoing evidence. Jot down your thoughts in a notebook or consider using the one of the two charts available for each unit.

Assessment Charts and Checklists
We have provided some assessment charts and checklists that may help you keep track of students' progress during lessons as you read their Writer's Notebooks and listen to what they share during book discussions. The Assessment Checklists is a chart that identifies possible student outcomes related to specific units; while the Student Assessment Chart is more general. The Assessment Checklist suggests specific outcomes in the columns to focus on during each lesson. This is only baseline data. You will find more opportunities within the unit to assess this specific objective's development. The Student Assessment Chart, which can include up to three students per page, covers 6 different areas of assessment: social skills, oral communication, reading, writing, thinking and strategies for growth. These charts can be used during or after a lesson. Date the entries so you can continually review your students’ progress.

On a daily basis, we encourage you to monitor your students’ progress using the assessment checklist uniquely designed for each unit. Prepare the checklist by writing your students names onto the chart. Familiarize yourself with the skills on the checklist for this unit. Determine how you will complete the checklist: checkmarks if observed, yes/no, a numeric scale rating level of mastery, or descriptive terms such as NY (not yet), DV (developing), andn AC (accomplished). We encourage you to modify the checklist to meet your needs or to match the language of your school’s standards. Utilize the checklist to form small groups for re-teaching or enrichment. Continue to reteach, assess and monitor all students' progress towards proficiency throughout this unit and throughout the school year.


In the post-assessment, consider how each student answered the essential questions. For culminating activities, such as their pen pal letters, apply the rubric to their projects. Look back on your student observations and notes. Consider what students mentioned when they wrote reflections in their journal entries. How did they show their understanding of the key concepts, ideas and skills?

The In2Books Rubric 

A rubric is an assessment tool that identifies students' levels of proficiency in a piece of work. The In2Books Rubric is specifically designed to evaluate students' letters to their pen pals. Systematic evaluation of authentic student work like this is especially valuable because it allows teachers and school administrators to:

  • conduct authentic assessment outside of a "high-stakes" test setting;
  • determine on a regular basis what strategies and skills a student has achieved and what instructional steps should be taken to help the student progress;
  • maintain longitudinal assessment information across the grades for each students;
  • communicate expectations to students and families;
  • create a common learning and teaching vocabulary; and
  • identify instructional areas that may require reinforcement or a different approach.

The most effective teachers look closely at student work and base their next steps for teaching on each student's needs. The In2Books Rubric allows teachers to see those next steps laid out in a continuum of development on each of seven characteristics of writing, critical thinking, and reading comprehension. You can use the rubric to "assess for teaching," determining what is next for each student in your classroom and your class as a whole in reading comprehension, critical thinking, and communicating through writing. By looking at the information provided from assessing students' letters with the rubric, you can target mini-lessons, tailor writing conferences, and focus book activities on the areas that each student needs most to make progress in literacy achievement.

This guide introduces you to the In2Books Rubric and to In2Books Student Checklists derived from it that set clear, high expectations in a non-threatening way and help your students become partners in their own learning.

One Rubric for Grades 3-6

In2Books uses  a single rubric to cover grades 3-5 because students develop their literacy skills at different times. One rubric for all the grade levels provides a developmental continuum that accommodates the range of students, from second graders who struggle with comprehension and writing, to "typically achieving" children at each grade level, and to older students with highly developed literacy skills. Another important advantage of one continuous rubric is that it creates a common vocabulary for teacher-to-teacher communication from year to year and creates a writing portfolio for In2Books students, making it more specific and more useful for individualizing instruction and monitoring the literacy achievement of individual students. 

Six-Point Scale

The In2Books Rubric measures student achievement in reading, writing, and thinking by scoring the following characteristics: comprehension, thinking about the book, connecting with the pen pal, organization, sentences, work choice/vocabulary, and mechanics on a 1 to 6 scale. To understand the developmental progression outlined in the rubric, think of a score of 6 as the achievement level of the best writers when they finish fifth grade, and scores of 1 and 2 as the level of many students at the beginning of second grade.

Even though some school districts use standards and rubrics with four categories, after much deliberation we have settled on six points for the In2Books Rubric because of the wide range of age and literacy levels of students across grades 3-6. This extended six-point scale makes it possible to provide specific instructional guidance to students as they evolve from novice to stronger readers, writers, and thinkers.

The six-point scale applied to seven characteristics of student performance means that you can pinpoint where students need help. The rubric lets you see where your students are in relation to each aspect and where they should be able to progress to when they are given more assistance. A major benefit of the six developmental points is that they help you identify "next-step teaching" for each student. 

Expected Scores at Different Grade Levels

A question teachers often ask is how "well" their students are doing when they obtain a specific score on the rubric. The score is assigned to a piece of work independent of grade level, but its interpretation depends on the students' grade. The following table gives a general guide to score bands for students in grades two through five. The lower scores in the band indicate beginning points and the higher scores indicate expected scores by the end of the year. However, students in each grade level have achieved scores at each of the levels. That is, some second- and third-grade students are scoring 4s, 5s, and a few 6s, and some fifth-graders are scoring 2s and 3s.


Scoring Points





























Examine the table to identify the expected score range for your grade level. Notice that a score of 3 is a good score for a second-grade student, but a score of 3 for a fifth-grade student indicates that supplementary instruction is needed to raise achievement to be within the grade-appropriate performance band (4-6). Thus, this table helps you determine which of your students are performing above, at, or below grade level. You can then plan instructional interventions and lessons accordingly.

The purpose of the rubric is to be able to determine where a student needs instructional support to progress throughout the year. Most students need instructional support to move beyond 3 of the rubric. 

Characteristics of Reading, Writing, and Thinking Assessed

In each cycle of the In2Books program, a student (a) reads a book, (b) thinks deeply in a variety of ways about what he or she has read, and (c) writes about the book to an adult pen pal in order to build an ongoing intellectual dialogue. The In2Books Rubric provides a systematic way of looking at each student's letter to determine what he/she understands about reading and writing and is able to communicate in the context of writing a letter about a book.

We assess two major dimensions of students' letters, Communication of ideas about the Book and Language and Organizational Features. The first dimension is Communication of Ideas about the Book. Three specific characteristics of reading, writing and thinking are assessed within this dimension:

  • Comprehension of the Book the information the student includes about the book's main ideas/themes and important details
  • Thinking about the Book: the kinds of connections the student makes to the book.
  • Connecting with the Pen Pal: the extent to which the student engages in a meaningful dialogue about the book and its themes with the pen pal.

The second major dimension we consider is Language and Organizational Features, with four specific characteristics that address the major structural and linguistic demands of letter writing:

  • Organization: how the student organizes the letter as a whole and in parts by using paragraphs to manage content effectively.
  • Sentences: how the student uses a variety of sentence structures and lengths to express ideas and feelings effectively.
  • Word Choice/Vocabulary: how the student uses general vocabulary and book-related vocabulary to express ideas and feelings effectively.
  • Mechanics: whether the student uses spelling, punctuation, and grammar correctly.

As you examine the rubric, notice that the features of each score point of these seven specific characteristics describe what it takes to move a student to the next level of performance. For example, if a student is a score point 3 on Thinking About the Book, the rubric specifies that the student needs to learn to make meaningful connections that relate to the main ideas of themes of the book in order to advance to score point 4. This information helps you look at individual students' work and create groups for targeted mini-lessons and conferencing that are part of the writing workshop in your classroom.

Learning how to relate each student's assessments with instruction takes time and experience to master, but, once mastered, this ability enables you, instead of standardized texts, to shape instructional decisions in your classroom.