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Editor’s note: This post was originally published on Kim Essenburg’s Learn, Unlearn, & Relearn blog on October 10, 2020.

A fun reading assessment that can be graded at a glance—ladies and gentlemen, I present to you: The One-Pager! For this week’s teaching/learning adventure, I finally got around to trying it. A one-pager is a great way to have students show their thinking and doesn’t require a lot of writing. Now, in English class, writing is something unavoidable. More than that: It’s an important life skill that I teach, model, and assess, and that students practice. However, it seems like when I’m assessing a student’s reading, I should have other tools besides just writing. How can students with limited writing skill demonstrate advanced reading skill?

The one-pager uses a combination of words and images to demonstrate understanding of a book, chapter, concept, speaker, just about anything. They can be used in any subject in a variety of ways (see this Cult of Pedagogy blog for more ideas). I used mine in English language arts with 6th and 7th graders to assess their understanding of the novel Wonder we had just finished reading. I gave them a template with a border for significant quotations and the inside divided in two—the top for images and words demonstrating themes and the bottom for images and words demonstrating character interactions and development. Scaffolding included the individual notebooks we kept on each reading assignment and the partner hexagonal thinking discussion we did when we had finished the book. Both of these included significant quotations, character development, and themes. The notebooks also included images, emphasizing the visualizing strategy of effective readers. 

I availed myself of a set of 4 free templates with instructions (plus a rubric) available from Betsy Potash of SparkCreativity! when I signed up for her weekly email. (For secondary English Language Arts teachers, you might want to sign up for this even if you don’t want the freebies—it’s that helpful.) Here’s her blog post on the topic. I used the simplest one because, well, 6th graders. But you can make it a lot more complex. The most complex of the 4 options has a border and 8 squares inside, with requirements that include things like the following:

  • A section that shows key elements of the author’s writing style
  • A section that connects this text to some other text
  • A section that connects this text to what’s going on in our world today
  • A statement about why you think this text does or does not deserve its place in our curriculum.

Why I like the activity:

  • It gives students an opportunity to demonstrate their understanding of a reading and mastery of reading standards in a way that isn’t an essay.
  • It is automatically differentiated: students can lean heavier on the art, on the words, or on more graphic, chart-like representations.
  • Interesting connections can be made even in the process of creation.
  • Students enjoy creating them, which makes the learning they do even more durable.
  • Students enjoy viewing and discussing their classmates’ work and ideas, fostering even more ideas, connections, and appreciation; cultivating a classroom culture of collaborative learning; and furthering individual reading identities.

What would I do differently? Have a model to show students before they start, ideally on another book so they won’t get constrained by any particular thing I did. I knew I should have done this, and it just didn’t happen. I did work alongside the students, so they could see mine as it grew. And going forward, I’ll have these samples when I try it again this week with high school students! 

How have you used one-pagers?

Photo by RODNAE Productions

Kim Essenburg has taught in international Christian schools in Japan since 1987. She has served as curriculum coordinator and department chair, teaching English language arts classes from 4th grade through 12th grade, with occasional forays into PE, math, ESL, and even chemistry for one never-to-be-repeated quarter. She currently teaches middle school ESL and English language arts for grade 4-7. She is passionate about helping students discover their love of reading and writing, helping teachers discover ways to even better engage students in learning, and exploring what it means for people as God’s image bearers to develop the potential of language for joy and justice. Her blog Learn, Unlearn, and Relearn can be found at kimessenburg.blogspot.com. While she enjoys teaching, reading, writing, and going for long walks, her absolute favorite things to do is connect with her 5 grandchildren online.

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