Progressing With Difficulty

As the deadline for completing Progress Reports approaches, I am reflecting on the word “evaluation” and thinking critically about the ways educators and schools “value” knowledge and measure “success”.   

Despite the challenges and loss created by COVID-19, my young students continue to demonstrate compassion and resiliency.  They are actively engaged in learning and happy to be together at school.  They are working hard, and with support, they are rising to meet my high expectations.  I believe they are progressing very well.

The problem is that when educators measure student “success” against a standardized level of achievement, some students are constructed as “failures”.  This can be very discouraging.  We know that how students feel about themselves impacts how they learn.

We also know that report cards and standardized assessments, like EQAO, reflect a colonial and Eurocentric approach to education that often excludes or disadvantages many students.  Educators need to think critically about how assessment and evaluation practices reinforce racial inequity, and privilege student “success” and belonging.

How might we transform assessment and evaluation so that all students are empowered to achieve excellence, and feel successful?

For the last twelve years, I have been exploring collaborative assessment as an alternative to traditional forms of assessment.  I am inspired by the possibilities of self-assessment and goal setting to engage our students and families in the teaching and learning process in meaningful ways.

What is collaborative assessment?

Collaborative assessment involves students, families and educators as co-learners in the process of gathering and sharing formative assessment.  It helps to build trusting relationships and strengthen the home-school connection.  Collaboration assessment may include any of the following strategies: an introduction letter about a child written by a parent, inventories or surveys, individual goal setting, self-and peer-assessment, checklists, rubrics, portfolios, journals, and Student-Led Conferences.

What are the benefits of collaborative assessment for students, families and educators? 

The Ontario Ministry of Education has published several resources to support collaborative assessment because there are many benefits for students, families and educators.  Collaborative assessment invites students, families and educators to actively engage in the teaching and learning process, and creates a reciprocal relationship where students, families and educators share responsibility for learning.

Research has shown that the use of goal setting and self-assessment in the classroom engages student voice and supports critical thinking and meta-cognition skills:

“Self-assessment has been shown to impact both increased student achievement and improved student behaviour.  Involvement in the classroom assessment processes can increase student engagement and motivation.”

Literacy and Numeracy Secretariat. “Student Self-Assessment”. Capacity Building Series K-12.  (December 2007)

When educators empower students to make choices about how they will demonstrate their learning, and evaluate how well they have met the learning expectations, it helps to create an inclusive environment that honours and celebrates the multiple and diverse ways that students learn and share knowledge.  Additional benefits of collaborative assessment include:

*accountability by students for their own learning

*pride in achievement among students

*confidence by students to take on leadership roles

*learning independence in students

*parent participation in school life

*improved communication with parents resulting in deeper understanding and confidence in what happens at school

*more positive student-teacher relationships

*valuable feedback for teachers and families

*common understanding of the language of assessment

Literacy and Numeracy Secretariat Webcast Professional Learning Series. (2010) Viewer’s Guide: Student-Led Conferences.

What does collaborative assessment look like in the classroom?

In our Grade 2 classroom, we will focus on goal-setting, portfolios, and Student-Led Conferences.

Throughout the year, students will be supported to set individual short-term academic and social goals.  These goals will be achievable and meaningful.  Students will have many opportunities to reflect on their goals, develop and evaluate their own success criteria, and celebrate their achievements.  I will send home these goals as we create them together, so that families can support their child to work towards achieving these goals.  When students set individual goals that are “just right” for them, they will feel successful.

All students will have a portfolio in-class and on-line.  A portfolio is a collection of work samples chosen by the student and/or by the teacher.  Students will be encouraged to select several pieces and reflect on their own work and process throughout the year.  Portfolios offer an opportunity to explore growth and learning in concrete ways.  Students will share their portfolios with their families in February, and at the end of the year in a Student-Led Conference.  Families will also have an opportunity to explore their child’s portfolio at Parent-Teacher conferences.

Student-Led Conferences are powerful opportunities for students to identify their strengths and share evidence of how well they are meeting their learning goals.  Usually, there are 4-5 conferences happening in the classroom at one time, and I will rotate between them to listen and add to the discussion.  Last year, we used technology to facilitate Student-Led Conferences virtually.  I will write more about how to support Student-Led Conferences in another blog post.

How can families support collaborative assessment?

Family involvement is a crucial part of collaborative assessment.  Families are encouraged to be involved in the assessment process in any of the following ways:

*writing a letter of introduction, which includes their own goals/hopes for the school year

*helping their child to develop appropriate goals

*supporting their child to achieve these goals at home

*sharing observations, asking questions during Parent-Teacher conferences

*participating in Student-Led Conferences

*providing feedback after interviews and conferences

*understanding the curriculum expectations

*reading the report card

Self-reflection:

I believe that one of the most important skills that students and educators can learn is self-reflection.  As an educator, I am always actively reflecting on the choices that I make inside and outside of the classroom.  I know that I am not the only one who struggles with assessment and evaluation.  It is a critical part of our work, and an opportunity to think about how we share power with students.

Learning is an emergent and collaborative process, and I believe assessment and evaluation should reflect this.  I want to create brave spaces that acknowledge and celebrate different ways of knowing and learning, provide students with authentic and multiple opportunities to demonstrate their understanding, and use collaborative forms of assessment and evaluation so that all students can feel successful.

 

 

Write On!

I love to write, and I hope that my enthusiasm for the writing process inspires and encourages my Grade 2 students to write on!

VIP:

At the beginning of the year, we are working together to create a brave and inclusive community where everyone is recognized as a “very important person”.  The VIP program celebrates one student each day.  Everybody has a story, and we learn about the VIP by listening and asking questions.  Together, we talk about what good writers do as we write several sentences about the VIP.  We notice the letters in their name and practice printing them correctly.  Then, everyone draws a picture and writes about the VIP.  These pages are collected and sent home as a book for the VIP to share with their family.

On the first day of school, I was the VIP to model the process.  Yes, I was wearing a cape at the time, to demonstrate our superhero arms-distance protocol, and to reinforce that we all have superpowers.

The Peace Book:

Every year on September 21, we recognize the International Day of Peace as part of Peace Week.  Peace Week is an excellent opportunity to introduce and/or review the Zones of Regulation and practice mindfulness strategies.  We share ideas about when we feel peaceful, and brainstorm agreements for how we might resolve conflicts and solve problems in our community.  We sing songs and read stories about peace and justice.  After reading “The Peace Book,” by Todd Parr, we created our own classroom book inspired by his book.

Poetry:

In the early primary years, students are growing as readers and writers.  We all require support to become more independent and confident in our new learning.  Writing prompts and predictable structures can help emergent writers to get started and complete their work.

On the first day of fall, we wrote short poems called “Good-Bye Summer!  Hello Fall!”  We generated ideas for our writing by sharing what we love about summer and fall in a Knowledge Building Circle.  We also used Drama to play out our favourite activities and connect our bodies to our learning.  We sang songs about the signs of fall, drew pictures, and wrote about what we noticed in our Nature Journals.

MSI:

In my first year of teaching, I started as a Long-Term Occasional from October-June.  The teacher who left was exemplary, and she had established a program called MSI: Math-Science Investigation, which I continue to this day.  Before STEAM, there was MSI.  It involves solving problems through building.

During MSI, I invite students to build a structure connected to our current inquiry (e.g., build a structure that includes a repeating pattern, build a habitat for an animal, etc.)  After building with different materials (e.g., pattern blocks, straws and connectors, corks, Lego, etc.) students will write and draw about their structures in their Math Journals.

 

When I asked students to build a structure connected to water, they made: a hydroelectric dam, salmon, a lake, pipes, a boat, and a machine that turns saltwater into freshwater.

Toy Day:

Every 6-8 weeks, I organize a Toy Day in our classroom.  On this day, everyone is invited to bring a toy to share.  We use these toys as provocations for many learning activities in the classroom, including Drama, Math, Writing, Media Literacy, Art, etc.

At the beginning of Grade 2, I am collecting diagnostic assessment data about my students, and I always use the Grade 1 Ministry of Education writing exemplar, which is descriptive writing about My Toy.  After sharing and playing with our toys, students are motivated to write and draw about their toy.

Goal-Setting:

COVID-19 has impacted student learning in different ways.  There might be gaps in achievement, which need to be identified before we can build new skills.  I will use the assessment data to develop individual short-term writing goals with each student, and support everyone to work towards meeting their goals.  When students work towards individual goals that are “just right” for them, they can always feel successful.  These writing goals will also be shared with families, to strengthen the home-school connection and encourage a relationship of collaborative assessment.

Checklists and Independent Fridays

When I first started teaching grade eight, by Fridays I often found that only a few of my students were handing things in. It was frustrating as many students by the end of the week couldn’t remember what was due or what they had or hadn’t completed. Some actually forgot and some just pretended…it was often hard to differentiate between the two. This year, I came up with a solution that is allowing all of my students to complete most, if not all of the assigned tasks for the week.

During the weekend I plan the lessons and assessments for the week ahead. It is often a continuation from the week before for subjects such as math, science, history, geography and literacy. When planning, I come up with the tasks that will be due by the end of the week. An example of the tasks for the week of January 20th to 24th were: a map for geography, five reading response questions for literacy, a rough copy of an essay, a science experiment outline and a math task. By Friday, all of these items were due. On Monday and Tuesdays, I teach the lessons and Wednesday and Thursday are used for further instructions and independent work/group work.  At the beginning of the week, I write out on the board the four to six things that would be due by Friday. Students write these things out in a table like format on a large yellow sticky note with the subject on the left and the task on the right. Throughout the week, they check off each item that is due.

On Friday, I do not put any subjects on the schedule, I write the letters I.W. meaning independent work. Students work at their own pace to complete their checklists. Each task has been explained prior to Friday except for the math task. The math task is an extension of the math lessons from the week and they can ask for this math task at any time on the Friday. Throughout the day, they work on checking off items and completing their to do list for the week. This keeps students on top of their work and I often find students are excited when they get to check off an item. Then, by dismissal on Friday, all students hand in their sticky notes in a large blue organizer I have hanging on the chalkboard.

On the weekend, I mark their work as well as I view their sticky notes. Then I record their independent work mark for the week:

0 tasks complete- N
1-2 tasks complete- S
3-4 tasks complete- G
5+ tasks completed- E

Students that finish before the deadline of the end of the day Friday are given an extra tasks that will further their learning in one or more of the topics we covered during the week.

My students are very excited on Fridays because they follow their own set schedule. At first, I wondered if some students would just sit around and do nothing but that hasn’t ever been the case. My students that were slow to start tasks in September/October are often first to hand in their sticky notes. Fridays are my students favourite days because of the way they move at their own pace and they like the feeling of getting tasks completed and getting to checkmark something off their list.

I encourage teachers to try this handy sticky note idea as it helps students stay organized and hopefully, this organizational skill will help them set timelines in high school, college and/or university.

**For the week of January 20th to 24th, 16 out of my 25 students received an E for their sticky note checklists, completing all or more of their set tasks for the week.**

 

 

Holiday drama shows

Last month I posted about an opportunity for a halloween drama task where students used their short stories to make them come to life in our classroom. I wrote about the success of it and the interest amongst all the students in grade eight. So of course when the holidays rolled around again, I posed the same question to the grade eights in my class. Who would like to make a holiday drama task again? They all wanted to and so we started planning our drama shows. I highly recommend this to anyone wanting to teach drama in a super fun way next December!

Step 1: Invite students to meet together after school to write ideas for a holiday show. My committee agreed on two separate shows. They wrote two stories that are separate loosely based on Home Alone called “Ken’s Alone” and another showed called “A Christmas Twist” based on The Grinch. They worked hard to create two scripts in five days.

Step 2: Have interested students take scripts home over weekend to prepare and have auditions the following week. Students should read out parts that they are interested in. 

Step 3: Have script writing committee vote and cast the parts in their shows. My students were super easy as most of the students who auctioned were the twenty students who were apart of the script writing committee. It was great to see the respect when one student would turn to the other that auditioned and would say, “Would you like that role?” and they would decide between the two of them who would get the part. For larger roles, we did a hands up way of voting. Nobody was upset and everyone that wanted a part, got a part.

Step 4: Have students sign up for the leads of each committee. We now are creating committee heads such as: lighting lead, music lead, costumes lead, hair and makeup lead, props lead, set lead, advertising lead and food sales lead (for food sales during the performances). Tomorrow, those committee leads will meet with their committees and will be able to come up with a plan to meet our goals by show day.

Step 5: Plan a dress rehearsal and a performance date. We will have more rehearsals and then a final dress rehearsal on Monday, December 16th. We will make sure everything that needs to be ready is done by then. Our show date is Wednesday, December 18th. We will be performing on the stage for everyone in the school on that date.

Step 6: Advertise the show. Have students write announcements, make posters and let all staff know about the show date. Make sure the gym and stage is available for the show dates.

The best part of this project is that it is in the student’s hands so any stress I have had before about shows or projects being ready has left as it is their project and it will turn out the way it should turn out. The amount of effort that this group of students put in is the way that it will turn out. Of course we are using this is a large drama mark so I am sure they will work very hard on it as I have already seen large amounts of effort and leadership. I look forward to sharing the finished product results with everyone!

 

Happy Holidays 🙂

Halloween learning opportunity

During the past few weeks, my students have been writing short scary stories. They have been working in groups to create stories with creative characters, a strong plot and a problem that arises in their story. 

About a month ago, my students were thinking hard to plan for our first drama task of the year. Knowing Halloween was at the end of the month, they wanted to plan a Halloween task. They wanted to have some sort of haunted house that would involve all of the grade eight students. Unfortunately that wasn’t able to happen, but for the 30 students that did participate, they worked well to create an exciting final product. 

With my students help, what we ended up deciding on was that each scary short story would be performed in our class in the haunted house. We would present our scary short stories. Five stories ended up being brought to life. Each story had unique characters, a unique stage, audience setup and music soundtrack. For that reason, students who did not want to act helped in other ways such as stage crew, music creator or class collector. This short story project ended up turning into a show for six classes to view. 

Students decorated the room to their liking the day before towards the end of the day. They worked hard to set up a spooky setup that would work for everyone. A student in my colleagues class donated decorations for the entire project and the students had fun setting them up. A few days prior to decorating, two of my students went around to the grade five and six teachers and asked them to sign up for a viewing time. The classes would come on October 30th to view the five shows. 

The performances went very well! Students were evaluated on the writing of their stories for literacy as well as many drama expectations for their performances. They were marked on their ability to plan and shape the drama throughout their many performances and were also evaluated based on their ability to use the elements of drama. They did an amazing job telling each of their created stories to their peers. 

It was great to see such collaboration for this project as many students invited other actors into their group as they enjoyed writing a story that would include as many as up to ten actors. They let students audition for the part and then the show became their own as well. Teachers complimented the students on their amazing show creation and very well written stories. The kids had a great time and are excited to try something like this again during the winter holidays. I am so proud of my students for their collaboration skills during this project and their ability to take on such a large task. I am excited for their next opportunity to showcase their incredible leadership abilities and their group work skills. 

Breakout EDU

Breakout EDU is like an Escape Room in a box. The players use teamwork and critical thinking to solve a series of challenging puzzles in order to open a locked box. The first time I experienced Breakout EDU with my students I was not the designer of the game.  Another teacher had designed the Breakouts and we were using it as a provocation for an inquiry on the Olympics.  I was amazed at how much I wanted to help my students.  It was difficult to watch them struggle and yet, that is where the learning happens.  We want our students to BE “gritty” and we need to provide opportunities for students to develop that grit.  Breakout EDU is a great way in which to have the students experience “the struggle”.  The kit looks like this:
https://www.breakoutedu.com/

The kit itself is quite pricey and unless your school already has one, it is quite an investment.  However, you can make your own with a tool box and locks purchased from a variety of stores.  You can also create online digital Breakouts that create the same kind of collaborative, problem solving activity just without the cool locks.  Here is the link to some curated online “digital” breakouts.   I haven’t looked at all of these for curriculum alignment, but it will give you some ideas to use to create your own digital breakouts.

“Breakout” is sort of a misnomer.  You are actually “breaking in” to the box using a number of clues students solve puzzles in order to open the various word, number and key locks.  This can connect to the curriculum in a number of different ways and can be used effectively as an introduction, provocation or summary for learning.  You aren’t going to get too terribly deep into content when students are busy trying to solve for clues.  For me, Breakout EDU is far more about developing the 6 C’s; collaboration, creativity, critical thinking, communication, citizenship and character building.   It is fascinating to have students work in groups to solve problems with a common goal.  Breakout EDUs provide opportunities for students to practice developing their learning skills and gives the teacher the opportunity to collect data as the learning is self-directed.  The activities lead easily into self-reflection of learning skills. Below are some of the questions that I find valuable for the consolidation portion of a lesson after a Breakout EDU activity:

Questions for Reflection

1.  How did you determine roles in your group?

2.  What did you find most difficult?

3.  What did your group do really well together?

4.  What would you do differently next time?

5.  How did you contribute to the group?

6.  How did you work to include everyone in your group?

Once students are familiar with the Breakout EDU format (depending on the age/grade level) they can then create their own Breakouts for their classmates.  The students interact with the learning from a different perspective and have to find the most important information to highlight for the clues in the development of the Breakout.

So what are the drawbacks?  Breakout EDU is competitive.  The students are working against each other and/or against the clock.  You have to know which students can handle that type of pressure. Working in groups on a common task may be difficult for some students with self-regulation issues so you have to know your students well and plan accordingly, as you would for any group activity.

Finally, Breakout EDU is also a great tool to use with your staff.  If you have a lot of information to get through and you want the participants to get to some salient points and the Google Slide presentation just isn’t cutting it, using a Breakout EDU will make for an interactive, team building staff meeting!  It is also great to have the adults experience the struggle that we all want students to go through to develop grit and resilience.

Like with any tool, it takes time and research to ensure that it is right for your classroom.  The more I use Breakout EDU in my teaching,  the more I think of ways to use it!

Report Cards – FSL Comments

To date, I’ve written two posts (here and here) with sample comments for the Learning Skills section of the Ontario report card. Those are arguably the most difficult comments to write, but I’ve also found French language comments to be challenging. I change my style and choices every year, it feels like, so these are by no means perfect, but I thought some of you may like to see some of the comments I use for reporting on French Immersion and Core French. Use bits of these, adapt them, share them – these are here for your reference and to help you out!

 

Program: Middle French Immersion (year 2) – Term: Progress Reports – Profile: Progressing With Difficulty (D-level)

(NAME) is making some progress in the grade 5 Middle French Immersion program, although she requires considerable encouragement to engage with the class during instructional time. With frequent support, she is beginning to speak in French with her teacher and peers. She should strive to make use of in-class supports (e.g., anchor charts, notes, word wall) to assist her with her learning. Continued reading at home (preferably aloud) will help her to develop stronger reading skills.

In subjects where the language of instruction is French, (NAME) consistently needs one-on-one assistance to understand the material being taught and complete her work. Going forward, she would benefit from developing listening strategies to help her understand what is being taught (such as listening for key words, watching the speaker, using visual supports).

 

Program: Middle French Immersion (year 2) – Term: Progress Reports – Profile: Progressing Well (C-level)

(NAME) is progressing well overall in the grade 5 Middle French Immersion program. With one-on-one or small group assistance, he is usually able to demonstrate an understanding of the material discussed in class. He makes good connections between what he is learning in class and his personal experiences. Oral communication is an area of need for (NAME) as he requires frequent support when speaking spontaneously. He would benefit from using a variety of speaking strategies (e.g., hand gestures, visual supports, rephrasing) to communicate his ideas without substituting English words. (NAME)’s writing strategies are developing well, and he makes good use of classroom resources (e.g., Word Reference, anchor charts, notes) to complete his work.

 

Program: Middle French Immersion (year 2) – Term: Progress Reports – Profile: Progressing Well (B-level)

(NAME) is progressing well so far in the Middle French Immersion program. He is beginning to speak with more confidence in rehearsed situations, such as prepared presentations. When speaking, he is usually able to communicate his thoughts and ideas effectively, although he sometimes needs encouragement to persevere in French when the vocabulary is less familiar. He can work on improving his communication skills by using speaking strategies (e.g., using gestures, finding another way to say a word, using anchor charts) to avoid resorting to using English in class.

 

Program: Middle French Immersion (year 3) – Term: Progress Reports – Profile: Progressing Very Well

(NAME) is progressing very well so far in the Middle French Immersion program. She is a highly effective communicator and speaks with confidence in both spontaneous and rehearsed situations. When writing, she is able to use the self-revision checklist (POMMES) to correct any errors in her text. She can work to improve her speaking skills by striving to speak only in French during class time.

 

Program: Middle French Immersion (year 3) – Term: 2 – Profile: Significant difficulty, little progress

(NAME) continues to demonstrate significant difficulty in French-language subjects. She has missed a large amount of French instruction time this term due to late arrivals and absences, which has hindered her development as she has missed many opportunities to practice her French skills in class discussions and group work. (NAME) is reluctant to speak French in class, rarely even using common phrases such as asking to use the washroom, though with encouragement she will sometimes form short sentences when speaking to teachers. She consistently requires one-on-one support to understand lessons. When reading, she shows surface-level understanding of texts at the Grade 6 level when supported by the teacher or her peers. Engaging (NAME) in French subjects has been a challenge this term, as she often needs reminders to stay on task. (NAME) will need to put much more effort into French subjects next year in order to catch up to where she should be. Her immediate focus should be on developing her oral communication skills, particularly speaking.

 

Program: MFI (year 3) – Term: 2 – Profile: B level

(NAME) demonstrates a high degree of comprehension during listening activities and discussions. She is able to follow complex instructions without assistance from her teachers.  When speaking, (NAME) usually communicates her thoughts and ideas clearly. She is developing a good accent and pronounces most familiar words correctly. Overall, she speaks with some ease in spontaneous and rehearsed contexts. Going forward, she would benefit from building her confidence when speaking, which would help to develop her intonation and fluency.  (NAME) is developing good writing skills. She has a wide vocabulary and is able to apply most conventions with success when creating written texts. When given feedback, she is generally able to apply that feedback and make revisions to her writing. When reading, (NAME)’s decoding and comprehension skills consistently meet the grade 6 expectations. She generally identifies the main idea and important details in a text, though at times she requires some encouragement to provide evidence from the text to support her ideas. (NAME)  is encouraged to continue reading French books at her level over the summer to continue developing her reading skills.

 

Program: MFI (year 3) – Term: 2 – Profile: A level (shockingly similar to the B level comment… to show you how I adapt it but don’t overdo workload by completely changing wording)

(NAME) participates actively in all aspects of the French program. She demonstrates a high degree of comprehension during listening activities and discussions. She is able to follow complex instructions without assistance from her teachers.  When speaking, (NAME) nearly always communicates her thoughts and ideas clearly. Her confidence allows her to speak with considerable fluency in both spontaneous and rehearsed contexts. She is developing a good accent when speaking and pronounces most familiar words correctly.  (NAME) is a strong writer. She makes great use of a wide vocabulary and a good understanding of French conventions to create a variety of written texts. When given feedback, she is able to apply that feedback and successfully make revisions to her writing.  Overall, (NAME) is a strong reader in French. When reading independently, her decoding and comprehension skills exceed the grade 6 expectations. She identifies the main idea and important details in texts with ease. (NAME) is encouraged to continue reading French books over the summer to continue developing her reading skills.

 

Program: Core French – Term: 1 – Profile: Strong academics, good engagement

(NAME) participates actively in all aspects of the Core French program. She has strong communication skills and consistently speaks in French during class activities. She has demonstrated leadership in the classroom by helping her peers when she is able to. When writing, (NAME) makes good use of classroom resources (e.g., dictionaries, models, anchor charts) to complete tasks independently. Going forward, she is encouraged to speak in French with her peers during class time to further develop her skills.

 

Program: Core French – Term: 1 – Profile: Good academics overall, solid B-level achievement

(NAME) is an active and enthusiastic participant in Core French activities. She uses many comprehension strategies (e.g., context clues, mots amis) to help her understand what she is hearing and reading. Using models, she can produce a variety of text types with familiar vocabulary and sentence structure. She often tries to use new vocabulary in her writing and enjoys finding new ways to say something. Overall, her oral communication skills are developing well, though she would benefit from making more of an effort to only speak in French during class activities. When speaking spontaneously, she can usually communicate her thoughts and ideas clearly. That said, she has a tendency to switch to English if she is not certain how to say something. For next term, she is encouraged to persevere and try to finish her thoughts in French without reverting to English.

 

Program: Core French – Term: 2 – Profile: Good effort but lower achievement, C/D level

It has been a pleasure to teach (NAME) this year. She is always ready to learn and approaches Core French activities with enthusiasm. She has made some progress with her communication skills in French this year, although she continues to need considerable assistance to complete reading and writing tasks in particular. She is starting to make good use of listening strategies to follow along with lessons and complete tasks using simple French vocabulary. (NAME) typically needs reminders to use classroom resources to help her complete her work, such as word walls and models. For next year, she is encouraged to work toward participating more frequently in class discussions and striving to use what she has learned in the classroom on a more consistent basis.

 

Program: Core French – Term: 2 – Profile: Limited French exposure before this year, good progress, B level

It has been a pleasure to teach (NAME) this year. He is always ready to learn and approaches Core French activities with enthusiasm most of the time. He has learned many useful listening strategies which have helped him tremendously in the class. With some assistance, he is able to understand lessons, follow instructions, and complete tasks using simple French vocabulary. He is learning quickly and puts great effort into using the language skills he has learned on a daily basis. He makes good use of classroom resources such as word walls and dictionaries, although he occasionally needs help finding the correct words to put his ideas into writing. For next year, he is encouraged to work on adding expression to his French reading now that he recognizes most common spelling patterns.

More Learning Skills Comments!

One of the most popular posts I have written over the past few years was a collection of Learning Skills comments I put together. It continues to get views and comments regularly, but like most of us, I cringe when I look back on what I wrote three or four years ago. They’re not bad comments, I just feel like I’ve learned so much since then.

So I’m back! With more comment samples for you! You’re free to use these – modify them, mix and match them, grab one or two sentences, whatever you like! These are here to help you and give you an idea of how one teacher in Ontario writes their comments. I’ve also posted some FSL comments for the Core and Immersion teachers out there.


 

Profile: strong learning skills, good leadership qualities, regularly engaged in class, working on developing more confidence

It has been a pleasure having (NAME) as part of our classroom community this year. She is an enthusiastic, hard-working student who always strives to do her best. During lessons, she listens attentively and regularly offers her insights, although at times she seems unsure about her answers. As her confidence builds, her active participation increases, and she should be very proud of her accomplishments to date.

When working independently, (NAME) makes good use of alternative workspaces (e.g., the library, the hallway) to provide her with a quiet space for working. While she occasionally allows herself to get distracted by socializing with her peers, a quick reminder is often all that is required to return her attention to the task at hand. She makes good use of success criteria and learning goals to ensure that her work is meeting expectations. 

Collaboration is one of (NAME)’s strengths. She often takes on leadership roles when working with peers, such as organizing what needs to be done and creating a plan to ensure the group is successful. Her kind, open-minded personality allows her to work with any student without issue. On the rare occasion that conflict arises, she is always able to find a solution without assistance.

(NAME) has become a strong role model for her peers. Her dedication and cheerful disposition are great assets to our school community. Keep up the great work!

 

Profile: weaker learning skills, not fully engaging in French Immersion program, finds academic demands challenging, tends to shut down when encountering difficulty

(NAME) is a kind, compassionate student who is beginning to develop more confidence in his abilities. When he feels certain that he is on the right track and understanding the material, he is an active participant in class discussions. Much of the time, however, he requires frequent reminders from teachers and peers to engage in respectful listening behaviour, as he is often chatting with friends or playing with objects during lessons. Given that he often seems to feel overwhelmed by the expectations of the Middle French Immersion program, particularly during subjects where French is the language of instruction, he would benefit immensely from listening more attentively to his teachers and peers.

(NAME)’s independent work has been inconsistent this term. Much like during class discussions, when he feels confident about his abilities, he is able to complete his work with some support and extended time limits. Most of the time, however, he is quick to become frustrated if he encounters difficulty. Once this happens, even with encouragement and one-on-one support, he often refuses to complete his work. Next term, he is encouraged to seek opportunities to work with his teachers (such as sitting at the round table during independent tasks) where they can more easily check in with him and assist him with his learning.

Collaboration is similarly inconsistent for (NAME). He is most successful when working in groups created by the teacher, as he is less likely to become distracted by socializing. When working with friends, however, he needs frequent reminders to return his attention to the task at hand. He would benefit from reflecting and making careful choices about who he chooses to work with for collaborative tasks.

(NAME) is developing some self-regulation strategies to assist him with his learning skills and habits. When he chooses quiet workspaces away from friends or makes use of classroom tools like noise-cancelling headphones, he is more successful. He is encouraged to continue making use of these accommodations over the second term to help him focus on his learning.

 

 

Profile: strong learning skills, good leadership qualities, tends to go overboard on projects

It has been a pleasure to teach (NAME) this year. She is a cheerful, kind student who demonstrates great curiosity for learning. She is an active participant in class discussions and collaborative tasks, quick to make connections and think critically about what she is learning. Her leadership, reliability, and flexibility have all been wonderful additions to our classroom community.

Collaboration is one of (NAME)’s strengths. While she strongly prefers to work with her friends, she is able to work with most students without conflict. Her conflict resolution skills are well-developed and she is generally able to resolve any interpersonal conflicts without needing to involve her teachers. She is a good leader who tries to ensure that all members’ ideas are included in the planning of group tasks.

When completing projects, (NAME) is usually quick to come up with creative, outside-the-box ideas to extend her learning. That said, sometimes these ideas become too large or complex to complete within the given timeframe. When this happens, she has a tendency to ask for additional time rather than adjusting her plans. Next year, she is encouraged to plan in such a way that she can adjust and scale back the plan rather than requesting extra time, as additional work time for one project results in lost time for other instruction.

All the best next year, (NAME)!

 

Profile: student who tends to rush, engages in discussion on topics of high interest, needs to work on collaboration

It has been a pleasure having (NAME) as part of our classroom community this year. She is a creative, enthusiastic student who always brings a unique perspective to our class discussions. She participates actively in most class discussions, although at times requires reminders to put away her book in order to give her full attention to the lesson. 

When working independently, (NAME) is at her best when she is highly engaged in a task, such as tasks involving environmental issues. When her interest in the topic is high, she puts significant effort into her work and eagerly shares her knowledge with her peers. Conversely, when the topic is less interesting to her, she has a tendency to rush through her work in order to finish quickly and move on to something new. Overall, she takes feedback well when it is about specific criteria that she overlooked, but she is reluctant to go back to add more detail or expand on her thoughts. She would benefit from taking time to review her work, ensuring it is detailed and meets the success criteria for the task.

When collaborating with others, (NAME) strongly prefers to work with her close friends and requires considerable encouragement to engage fully in other groupings. She occasionally needs redirection to stay on task during group work, as she sometimes goes to find her friends’ groups to chat. She is encouraged to approach collaborative work with a more open mind next year, as she is a valuable group member with a wealth of knowledge to share.

 

And a few other snippets you may find useful:

During independent work periods, (NAME) can generally be counted on to stay on task, though he needs occasional reminders not to get caught up socializing with his peers. His willingness to seek assistance or clarification has increased since the beginning of the year, and we hope that he continues to come forward when he needs guidance with a task. Though his resilience is improving as the year progresses, (NAME) continues to become frustrated with himself when he finds a task difficult. Once this happens, he is sometimes receptive to teacher assistance and feedback to help him work through the task. Next term, he would benefit from taking advantage of opportunities to work nearer to his teachers (such as at the round table) during independent work periods to provide him with opportunities to check in more regularly while working.

 

(NAME)’s greatest area of need this term has been in developing positive collaboration skills. She strongly prefers to work with her friends and is reluctant to fully engage in group tasks with some students, sometimes going as far as to ask to work on her own or switch groups rather than work through conflict. She is highly motivated to do well, which sometimes leads to clashes with other students when they have different plans for how to approach a collaborative task. Next year, she should continue to work on “guiding from the side” by helping her group to stay focused and on task while also allowing her peers’ ideas to take the spotlight more often.

 

I’ll also try to put together some of the comments I’ve written for other subjects, particularly things like French. I find it can be very challenging to know where to begin with Language comments for French Immersion – especially for smaller programs like the one I teach (Middle French Immersion). Hope these are useful to someone out there!

 

 

Effective Assessment and Feedback: The Single Point Rubric

RUBRIC MEME

I’ve never really been focused on grades in my classroom. Some educators and parents might find it shocking to read a teacher put that in print.  However, what I mean is that I seldom talk to my students about levels and letter grades.  I focus discussion around feedback, improvement, exemplars and success criteria.  When rubrics were all the rage I used them rather unsuccessfully. I found that traditional 4 level rubrics were about evaluating after the fact rather than providing feedback that can be acted upon during the learning. Rubrics are sometimes handed to the students as a “big reveal” when the project has been evaluated without any chance for acting on feedback.  I don’t believe that success criteria should be a secret to be kept from students.  It isn’t fair that students are thinking, “Well, if you’d only told me that was an expectation I’d have been happy to include it.  I can’t read the teacher’s mind!”  Clear is kind.  Be clear about the learning goals and success criteria for an assignment and give the students a rich task that they will have to dig into and get feedback to act upon during the learning.

Apart from the evaluative vs. the assessment function of a traditional rubric there are two other things that I dislike about the traditional 4 level rubric.  The first thing is that traditional rubrics inform students about what the bare minimum is that they have to do to complete something.  Some students will look at level 2 and do only just what it takes to fulfill that level.  Secondly, level 4 is meant to go above and beyond the expectations.  In a traditional rubric, students seeking level 4 don’t need to think outside the box at all.  All of the criteria for a level 4 is clearly stated-no thinking necessary.

The answer to this assessment question?  For me it was the Single Point Rubric.  Using the single point rubric changed the learning for my students and shifted my assessment practices. It focuses on what the student is doing well, what the student can do to improve in the work and exactly what the learning goal and the success criteria is for the learning.  However, it also allows for the above and beyond to be driven by the student.  It lets the student pleasantly surprise the teacher with creative thinking.  It is a clear and kind way to deliver feedback to students to encourage them to be successful in their learning.

I have included an example for a grade four  Single Point Rubric Literary Response.  Feel free to copy and change it to suit your needs.

If you would like to learn more about Single Point Rubrics:

Cult of Pedagogy

Edutopia-6 Reasons to Try the Single Point Rubric