Nonfiction Unit Assessment

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SWBAT independently produce a well-organized, focused summary that includes the main ideas of an informational text.

Big Idea

The ability to understand nonfiction is essential for school achievement. After teaching a unit on summary writing, it is time to assess progress.


60 minutes

The article chosen for the assessment is “Hope for Orangutans” by Laura Linn, which appears in Nonfiction Passages with Graphic Organizers for Independent Practice (2004). It is suitable for this assessment because it is at a level appropriate for sixth graders and includes a variety of nonfiction text features. In fact, if students do not pay close attention to the text features, specifically the title and headings, they will easily miss the main idea, even though it is also addressed in one of the multiple choice questions. To get started, they preview the article and fill in a chart that asks for specific information they gather from the text features. This should be the same chart you use in class on other assignments. I suggest that they only fill in three rows before going on to read the article. Otherwise, they will not finish the test in one class period. Those that finish early can come back to the chart and fill it in later. In addition to the nonfiction text features chart, students are expected to mark the main ideas and important information in the text. Do not forget to review the rubric so that students are aware of the grading criteria before starting the assessment.

The article itself, the graphic organizer for the summary and the final copy of the summary are all to be passed in together along with the rubric. This will give you an accurate picture of how the student approached the assignment, insight into their level of understanding and will help you locate places where the student’s thinking took a wrong turn, as well as to identify those students who are ready for more challenging work.

This is not the time to introduce a new graphic organizer or rubric. Otherwise, the focus of the assessment becomes how students adapt to those materials rather than on their ability to clearly present in writing the main ideas and important information from the text.


It is important to give students timely feedback and to carve out 15-20 minutes in the schedule to review the results as class. What went well? What were the problem areas? What are the fix-up strategies? Will you have all students write a reflection of their performance? You will have to decide how to deal with students that did not perform proficiently on the assessment. Is it enough for them to do a rewrite of this summary? Or should they take the assessment again using a different text? When do you find the time for this work? All of these are difficult questions to address and your response may not be the same each time. One thing I consider is that this unit falls early in the school year and these are skills and processes that will be addressed again in other units. Another consideration is the percentage of students earning proficient grades. If that number is high, say 80-85%, than you will likely be holding other students back to help just a few and you can do that at other points in the curriculum. Some additional thoughts on test make ups and redos appears here.