Thursday, 8 October 2015

I've always had a hard time with assessments and keeping track of them - especially after changing my beliefs on tests and moving down to the primary grades - where it's more about observations and conversations. In previous years, I used class list and assigning grades or marks or checkmarks next to their name under a brief description of what we did. It was hard to see at-a-glance how the child was doing - and everything had to be translated for report cards.

Then I got an idea. It really happened last year, when job action saw no comments on report cards. I was teaching an academically-needy Grades 1/2 class. I made this product:

Starting this year in SK/1, I knew my room would be incorporating even more inquiry-based learning, conferencing, observing, and seemingly "completely random" covering of the curriculum expectations. It was also a goal of mine to become more organic in teaching/learning - to teach what's important to students, what they're interested in, and keep the curriculum expectations running yearlong instead of just compartmentalized.

I thought - why can't I use these for documentation, too? Here's an example from an SK's section of my assessment binder:

I use a colour-coding system to highlight curriculum expectations which are strengths and needs. For students whose achievements are "in the grey area," I make note of the several attempts to teach and conference with them to achieve the standard and how much support was needed for them to attain it.

It's easy to pop back and forth from the SK pages and the Grade 1 pages.

As you can see, one activity (collecting, sorting, and graphing leaves) completed a few expectations in both SK and Grade 1 curricula. Want to know more about it?

I took my students on a nature walk and told them to collect interesting leaves. We came back and talked about how we can sort them - and decided by colour would be easiest. We sorted them, counted them, then graphed how many of each colour there were. Here's our co-created graph:

The next day, we went on another walk. This time, students brought their own paper bags and collected about 10 leaves each. We came back to the room and they sorted them, graphed it, then had me document their interpretations of their graphs.

Another thing I'm really excited about is my word wall. My friend cut me two boards of wood and screwed in hooks and glued on letters for me. I glued it onto the ugly concrete wall in my classroom using "No More Nails." On it, I have Dolch Pre-Primer, Primer, and Grade 1 words. I also have a few more of my word wall products - most recently, my family words. There's also their names on the word wall - complete with their pictures! The kids love it!

I've noticed it really entices students to write, write, write! I've never had a class that enjoys writing - INDEPENDENTLY(!), so much (especially at such a young age).

I pulled pairs of students to conference with me. I introduced their Word on Writing book and explained when they'd work on it. I took them on a tour of the classroom to show them writing supports - the word wall, their personal dictionaries, and the picture dictionaries. We sat back down and I explained that good writers need an idea and asked them to think what they'd like to write about - which could be ANYTHING. Then, I said it's not just enough to write the idea; they need to write something about the idea - explain it - in other words, write a whole sentence about it. They thought about it, told me, and I supported their writing - NOT by writing in yellow or on a Post-It, but directing them to the word wall, helping them sound segment, prompting to use the picture dictionary, or writing the word in their personal dictionary. Success!

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