8 Valuable Student Artifacts That Inform Literacy Instruction

Updated: Apr 29


We all know that test scores aren’t the complete picture of a reader and a writer. Test scores do not define a reader's growth and progress in literacy. Let me say that again for the people in the back...test scores do not define a reader's growth and progress in literacy.


A student literacy portfolio will help you and your students to SEE their growth and progress as readers and writers.

Students are required to take the dreaded and prescribed state standardized test, MAP testing, or any other computer program that creates standardized tests from a bank of multiple-choice questions, but that is not going to provide you with what you need to know to grow the unique readers within your classrooms.

You are required to analyze the standardized data to inform your instruction but you need to include analysis of authentic “data” that will create a more complete picture of a student.

If you want to know what a literacy portfolio is and how to assemble one, check out the blog post, What is a Literacy Portfolio? or just check out the high points right here...


Let’s look at the authentic literacy artifact "data" that can be assembled in the student literacy portfolio to determine progress made, ongoing goals and next steps to reach those goals.

Student Stop and Jots

Written student responses to any reading text can provide you with a plethora of information.

You will “see” into a reader’s mind when you look through the reader's jots about his/her own independent reading.

You are provided with your readers' “inside thoughts” and the comprehension strategies your readers rely on when reading independently.

Using a Stop and Jot rubric to quickly assess short written responses to reading can guide instructional decisions made for the class and the individual students.

Written Responses

Readers may write longer responses to reading. They may answer an open-ended question such as a text-dependent analysis question.

Just like the Stop and Jots, this will provide a variety of information showing how the reader processes the text, as well as, thinks beyond the text.


Written responses can be overwhelming to assess quickly. An easy to use rubric makes the job a whole lot quicker.

Reading Interest Surveys and Reading Reflections

Understanding a child's reading identity is important before you can assess and evaluate the reader's literacy progress.

These attitudes about reading are valuable when establishing goals and next steps for instruction because it will determine which texts you can use that will be beneficial to develop instructional plans related to individual goals you have for each your readers.

If your student has an interest in sports, then try to drive your instructional decisions around texts that are sports-related.

If you build instruction around mentor texts that your readers do not have any interest in, then they will not approach the comprehension strategy work with the right attitude because interests have not been piqued.

Readers must be given time to reflect on their own literacy development and progress. Readers of ALL ages can reflect.

When students provide you with their own thinking about how they are progressing in reading and writing and what they want to improve upon, you are provided with a gold mine of instructional strategies and decisions which can inform your classroom instruction, as well as, individual and small group instruction. Check it out in my Teachers Pay Teachers store.

Engagement Inventories

When you observe students as they are independently reading or writing, you are provided with information about their independent literacy behaviors.

Are they abandoning texts often?

Are they easily distracted by external factors? Check it out here.

Running Records--Formal and Informal

Formal and informal running records provide you with a window into a student’s reading brain. Check out this informal reading record here.

With this visual picture, you can see how your readers attack and decode words, their fluency, strengths and weaknesses and the comprehension strategies the readers independently rely on.

A running record will show teachers which cueing systems the readers use consistently to make meaning. When you see a student having difficulty, you can focus your instruction on helping students develop and rely on all cueing systems to help bring meaning to the text.

My learning about running records and the valuable information that each assessment provides started with this text, Running Records by Marie Clay.

Student Talk Observations and Discussion Rubric

You want your readers to talk about their literacy work and the texts they are reading and writing.

This literacy talk will enable you to see how a reader is processing their comprehension strategy work.

You will be able to see and hear if a reader is digging deep into the text to build understanding or relying solely on the surface structure and meaning of the text.

You can take quick notes to record your thoughts and your readers during these valuable literacy moments in the classroom.

Anecdotal Conferring notes

We cannot abandon good ‘ole “kid-watching”. When you watch a reader as they work independently it can provide you with more understanding as to why he/she relies on the strategies you see and the depth at which you see written responses and conversational responses.

Conferring with students is an ongoing conversation with the readers in your classroom.

When you take note of the strengths and weaknesses, you can review those notes to see how the reader is progressing independently and develop the next steps to help the reader move forward and develop his/her reading life and the comprehension strategies they are utilizing to bring meaning to the text.

When you track a reader’s understanding and reading abilities, you will see how the reader internalizes a new piece of strategy work and applies it to their own reading. Check it out here.

Reading Level Tracking Chart

One chart to include in every literacy portfolio is a reading level tracking chart. This is not intended to provide a stress trigger for students. I firmly believe that we should not label children with a reading level. I don't even think they need to know their exact reading level. The chart picture above is designed for whole-class reflection to determine future instruction. An individual student tracking form is available as a free download here.

Reading levels are a moving target depending on the type of text the student is reading. However, it does provide teachers with a growing visual of text complexity the student can handle independently.

However, if the teacher feels that knowing a level can be a motivator rather than a trigger for individual students then let those readers track their progress and reflect on their work.

Students should know how to select BEST FIT books.


As Jennifer Serravallo states in her book, The Literacy Teacher's Playbook we must look to find areas of strength and possibilities for growth within each of the different student data sources.

The previous literacy artifacts are probably not new to you, but you may need to shift your thinking to look at these sources of information through an assessment lens to evaluate, assess and develop goals to drive and inform your classroom and individual instruction.

This process will build a better picture of a reader rather than focusing on the standardized numbers.

Jennifer Serravallo and so many other like-minded reading experts have written extensively on this process. AND standardized testing scores are not the most important source of data.

You can read more about assessing student reading to create reading goals in Serravallo's book, The Literacy Teacher's Playbook.

Until next time...


Use these artifacts to inform your instruction and plan engaging minilessons. Grab my FREE Mini-Course, 5 Days to Crafting Minilessons That Will Ignite & Engage Your Readers. Included is this minilesson cheat sheet along with other useful tools & strategies for planning minilessons.

If you are interested in any of the items displayed in the photos above, you can find them here. Just click on the previews for the individual items to see pictures.

#progressmonitoring #authenticengagement #literacyexperiences

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