When my husband and I moved from Bendigo to Melbourne, I distinctly remember the removalist saying that if there’d been ‘one more box of bloody books’ he wouldn’t have done the job.
Considering we’re now preparing to move into a new house, this threat has been weighing heavily on my mind.
I’m worried that the close relationship I’ve established with both my postman and aisle 1 location 22 of my local Ikea store (home of Billy the new bookshelf) may be a problem for this next move…
Fortunately, I’ve developed a simple solution for this issue:
Engage in a significant, Marie Kondo-style declutter of the rest of the house, in order to make space for all my precious books.
Now, if you’re new to the world of the ‘KonMari Method’ of tidying, here’s a quick overview of her 6 six rules for success:
- Commit yourself to tidying up (This isn’t a small tidy- it’s a complete overhaul)
- Imagine your ideal lifestyle (Create your vision for success)
- Finish discarding first (Work out what you no longer need first, before deciding where to store it)
- Tidy by category, not by location (Rather than cleaning one room at a time, clean one category at a time instead. E.g., start with decluttering all of your clothes)
- Follow the right order (Marie suggests cleaning in this order: clothes, books, papers, miscellaneous, sentimental items)
- Ask yourself if it sparks joy (The golden rule for helping you discard items is to hold the item and ask yourself, “Does this spark joy?” This apparently helps you identify what you love and what you need to keep).
As I’ve been Marie Kondo-ing my way through our house, I’ve started to consider the applicability of this approach for schools and, more specifically, to assessment schedules in schools.
“The real path to greatness, it turns out, requires simplicity and diligence… It demands each of us to focus on what is vital- and to eliminate all of the extraneous distractions.”(Collins, 2001)
Here are 5 rules you can follow to assist with decluttering your literacy assessment schedule:
Rule #1 Tidy by category
(Ok, I stole this one directly from Marie…)
Attempting to overhaul your entire literacy assessment schedule could become overwhelming very quickly.
Start by selecting just one area of literacy (E.g., reading, writing, speaking and listening or spelling) and commit to tidying this up.
Rule #2 Create a vision for teaching and learning
Developing a vision for what successful instruction in your chosen area of literacy entails will help guide the refinement of your assessment schedule.
Take the area of reading for example. Nell Duke and Kelly Cartwright (2021) recently published an article outlining all the constructs scientific research has proven to impact reading ability. (See Figure 1 below).
Considering each of the elements presented in such a model could help ensure a broad view of the reader (and the reading process) is recognised through the teaching and assessment practices in your school.
When refining your current assessment schedule ask yourself:
- Which constructs do we currently assess?
- How useful is this information?
- Are there any areas missing from our current assessment?
Rule #3 Discard first
In her book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying, Marie Kondo comments that ‘letting go is even more important that adding.’
‘Educators are drowning under the weight of initiative fatigue—attempting to use the same amount of time, money, and emotional energy to accomplish more and more objectives.’(Reeves, 2006)
Douglas Reeves’ solution to this problem is to ‘pull the weeds before you plant the flowers.’ In other words, start removing assessments from your schedule before you even think about adding any new ones.
My advice here is to seek input from your peers on this step because, as Reeves suggests, one person’s weed could be another person’s flower.
- Which assessments do they value?
- Are there any assessments they don’t use or understand?
- Could more training on the assessment make it more useful?
- What information do they want/need about their students as readers/writers that they don’t currently feel they’re getting?
Rule #4 Ask yourself what the purpose is
For each assessment on the schedule, rather than asking yourself, “Does this spark joy?” as Marie Kondo suggests, ask yourself “Does this have a current and valid purpose?”
Don’t be afraid to put every assessment through the ringer. Lay them all out and ask the tough questions:
- Why should teachers conduct this assessment?
- What will it teach them about their students as readers /writers / spellers/ speakers or listeners?
- How can teachers use the information from the assessment to inform their planning and teaching?
- Who will use the data from this assessment? (E.g., will the leadership team use the data to track student growth across the school or will classroom teachers use it to inform daily instruction?)
- Is the assessment superfluous? Are there other assessments that provide the same information?
- Why was this assessment added to the schedule in the first place? What was the intended purpose? Is it achieving that purpose? Is that purpose still relevant?
Rule #5 Move forward with precision
Once you’ve evaluated each of the current assessments on your schedule, you’ll be able to use your vision for literacy instruction to help guide the selection of any new assessments.
Remember: When searching for new assessments always start with the purpose.
Being more precise about the purpose of an assessment is the difference between asking, “What reading assessments do you use?” and “What assessments do you know of that can provide information on a students’ phonological awareness?”
One will give you a general response that may not be relevant to your needs, the other should give you a place to start your research for any new inclusions.
It’s not spring (yet) but report writing season is a great time to consider a Marie Kondo-style spring clean of your literacy assessment schedule.
As Marie (2021) herself says, “now is the time to get rid of duplicates, items you don’t use and objects that no longer spark joy” (or have a current and valid purpose).
All this in the name of making space for more books.
(Ok, so she didn’t exactly say that last line, but I think that’s what she meant).
Anyway, it’s back to packing boxes for me (and searching for a friendly, book-loving removalist company…)
Have you decluttered your assessment schedule? How did you do it? What tips do you have for others? Let us know in the comments below or over on the Oz Lit Teacher Facebook Group
- Duke, N. and Cartwright, K., 2021. The Science of Reading Progresses: Communicating Advances Beyond the Simple View of Reading. Reading Research Quarterly, [online] Available at: <https://ila.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/rrq.411>.
- Collins, J., 2001. Good to great. London: Random House.
- Kondo, M., 2021. Marie’s Guide to Moving. [online] The Official Website of Marie Kondo. Available at: <https://konmari.com/marie-kondo-top-10-moving-tips/> [Accessed 23 May 2021].
- Kondo, M., 2014. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. London: Vermilion.
- Reeves, D., 2006. Leading to Change / Pull the Weeds Before You Plant the Flowers. Educational Leadership, [online] 64(1), pp.89-90. Available at: <http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/sept06/vol64/num01/Pull-the-Weeds-Before-You-Plant-the-Flowers.aspx> [Accessed 23 May 2021].