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Assessing reading comprehension using photos

Teachers across content areas all struggle with addressing the varied levels of reading comprehension among their students.  Science, history, and arts classes are so highly text-embedded, yet the curriculum doesn't fully address what to do with struggling to advanced readers of those subjects. 

English teachers have a host of strategies to gauge reading comprehension and one that I find works great across content areas has to do with using photos.

Here is a quick example of how all teachers can use photographs or other images to formatively assess students in reading comprehension- in particular, heavily tested informational/expository text:

Example: 11th Grade US History- Progressive Era Industrialization

First formative assessment- given to all students as a check for understanding of the societal /industrial concerns such as conditions in factories, slums, and the exploitation of immigrants or children during the Progressive Era (including key vocabulary).

Instructions to students: In 1-2 paragraphs, describe this situation in this photograph.  Discuss what has happened that has lead these children working in the factory, and what a muckraker would write about it.


For those who showed marginal proficiency and/or who seemed to struggle with the first one, provide scaffolds to guide students towards expressing learning such as targeted vocabulary and narrowing down the writing task

Instructions to students: Use the following terms in your description of this photo taken during the Progressive Era (1890-1913):

  1. exploit
  2. muckraker
  3. labor
  4. Mother Jones



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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in Inside Patty's High School Grade Classroom are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Scholastic, Inc.