That is true my the hardest part. To get it out of my head and on to paper (even digital paper) where I can manipulate the data and make it make sense to me.
If we are using an inquiry approach, we may have moved beyond the pencil and paper assessment as the final culminating task. But we still need a definitive way to track learning.
So here are a few tips that help me to keep on top of assessment.
Old School Paper
Yep it’s true I know that many of you know that I have a love-hate relationship with paper but it is often still my go to …. quick grab that to jot down some info at the moment… type assessment paper.
I have many different ways that I layout my assessment pages depending on what I need.
Checklist with note space
Anecdotal Note box
Seating plan notes
Except for this year (since I returned mid-year) I am always behind the eight ball. I usually have these copied and ready to go easily accessible whenever I need them.
I also have one of those compartment clipboards that has storage, and this is great for tossing assessment pages into so that I can eventually import them into digital when I’m ready.
Want to take a look at my tracking pages? Here —> Inquiry Assessment Notes
Or see my class list examples here —> BLANK Classroom assessment pages
Keeping It Digital
I lose everything…because I am forgetful and in 10 years cannot for the life of me find a system that keeps all my paper organized in a way that doesn’t overwhelm me. So I keep it all digital.
I take photos
I do quick exit checks
I have students self-assess. I snap a class picture with their fingers up.
I jot notes
I take photos of conference forms (because sometimes my students lose them)
Feedback is an integral form of assessment.
With all assessment, it must go together with feedback. Assessment without it is pointless.
It also has to be feedback that allows students to respond to it so that they can make improvements.
For this, I go back to paper.
Conference Forms – students fill out conference forms with me after they are done writing a draft. I have done this both digitally and in written form. Students self-reflect on what they need to work on before they begin to talk with me. Feedback is the one crucial thing that has the most significant impact on student growth. It is the feedback loop at the end of an assessment.
Get a copy of my digital student writing self-evaluation form here ->
Labels: if you find and order the large Avery labels of 6-10 labels on a page you can use Microsoft word to make labels with rubrics on them. Just a single point checkbric that allows you to give a quick assessment.
I mark all the work right there on the label page fill them out, photocopy the label page with the marks recorded then peel them out and attach them in each book. (I also take a photo of this page for when I lose it)
Home School Communication
So this is a big one
Parents seem to like knowing how their child is doing.
Feedback conference forms and the labels are helpful to keep parents in the loop
So I use a classroom blog. Now I don’t blog every day,but I do try to keep it updated most of the time.
One of the key ways I do this is to use an email service provider like mail chimp or MailerLite to automatically send all of my blog posts directly to the email of my parents. It is set up to use it like remind. All of my posts are pushed out to parents at 4 pm on school days.
I know that this is t technically assessment but keeping parents informed of the assessment you are doing help to keep them better prepared and informed if they choose to be.
A good project is engaging, relevant, and fun for students to share their learning.
Projects are an excellent way for students to share their learning with others.
If you are using an inquiry approach embedding choice is essential into this final project is vital.
Let them choose individually
Let them decide as a group
Give them a choice of the content and scope of their project.
The more you involve them and make it their own idea the more engagement you will receive.
But sometimes we want an idea of different types of projects that our students can do to share their learning.
Here are the tips five different types of projects that students can try to share their learning at the end of their inquiry.
So many things we teach lends itself to getting students to make something. Adding in opportunities for hands-on learning is a great way to add some much-needed differentiation to your classroom.
Dioramas: These are oldies but goodies. Each year I always have some students choose this one. Dioramas are especially useful for creating habitats or creating a historical scene like in our First Nations and explorers unit, or ancient civilizations.
Prototypes/models: Any engineering unit leads well into creating models or prototypes to show how something works. In my classroom we make bridges, and buildings out of popsicle sticks and LEGO machines to show pulleys and gears.
Board Games: These are great to review concepts. Student generates questions can give you a great insight into their thinking.
Flag or Coat of Arms: History is full of historical figures. So looking at who they are and generating symbols and works that represent their personality or contribution to the history being studied can be a valuable way for students to apply what they have learned.
Map/ Treasure Hunt: for anything that relies on a geographic understanding such as land regions or location of different civilizations a map or treasure hunt is an excellent tool for students to show what they know.
Vocabulary Quilt: this is a great activity when what students are learning about is full of new vocabulary words that are key to their understanding of the topic. For topics such as rocks and minerals, students have plenty of critical vocabulary they can draw from to make a quilt that shows their learning.
Invention: sometimes in science students need to solve problems. With activities such as in the light and sound unit, students can get their creative juices flowing to invent a solution to an everyday problem
Sometimes students need just to explain it.
Experiments: This is a great way to show you that they learned something. Think of this as a science fair project. Students can demonstrate what they learned by showing you how something works.
Drama: Telling a story or explaining a concept using drama is a great way to teach a difficult concept creatively.
Role Play: Historical events can be represented by students taking on their persona and speaking using their voice. Although this doesn’t work for some historical events and cultural sensitivity needs to be considered. Using this with ancient civilizations or in science with concepts like animals, habitats, and rocks and minerals work well to speak about something from the perspective of the object.
Debate: teaching government this is a crucial strategy that can be used to look at two different sides of an issue. I can use this to discuss decision making, the charter of rights and freedoms and various pros and cons of political parties.
Conference: Sometimes the most valuable way to gather data with students is to conference with them. It is as simple as them telling you what they know. You can structure it like an interview or even a conversation.
Presentations / Posters: there may be another go to the final project. One that others will quickly volunteer to complete. It also might be the big one that students get their parents to do with them.
I still love this but try to use more digital tools instead of paper and pencil.
Show and Share: allow students to share what they have learned in a show and tell format. Each student uses an artefact that tells them a story and allows them to talk about how the object represents their learning. Objects can be collected, citrates and displayed as a classroom museum.
Advertisements: Need to add some media literacy to your projects then this one is a good one to use.
Assembly: I have only done this with one group, but it was pretty convincing. Students used other ideas from this list and combined them to create an assembly for our school to share with them how to conserve energy. This assembly was a tremendous student-generated experience that allowed them to share their ideas with a broad audience.
Tour Guide: Imagine that students had to walk someone through a concept or environment. Students can tour others through a historical event or environment. A tour guide would work well for topics such as ancient civilizations, a story or novel study, or science topics like light, sound, human body or habitats.
News Report: With a lot of topics asking for students to report on and provide their opinion with a news report is a great way to share their ideas. For any issues that ask them to report on specific events, students can present this information in a news report format.
Podcast/ Radio: Similarly to a news report students can use an interview format to record a podcast or radio show to explain different concepts like issues in government, historical leaders, or science concepts.
Here’s were taking a risk as a teacher has a big one. Some teachers are not digital natives. Our students may be much handier and knowledgeable about how to use the digital tools at their fingerprint tips to share what they have learned.
For teachers who may not have the technical skill or familiarity of digital platforms, allowing students to explore this avenue for the final project is a good idea. Although it is often extraordinarily intimidating and may or may lead to teachers avoiding this as an option for students to explore, I would highly recommend you throw caution to the wind and allow students to teach you something.
Digital tools can be a powerful way for students to share their learning.
Website: Many free platforms will enable students to create a website or blog. And there are also just as many tutorials that are designed to help students with how this can be done. Students can write and create a site on blogger or Weebly pretty easily that can act as a platform for them to show their knowledge
Video: This is always my go too digital project. It allows students to show what they know to explain their thinking quickly and easily. It is an easy way to grab a presentation but in a way that doesn’t eat a tremendous amount of class time.
Kahoot / Quiz: why not take your quiz digital. Use google forms or kahoot and get students to share what they know by making a digital quiz.
Social Media Profile: like a biography but modernized. Students can create a Facebook profile, an Instagram feed or twitter feed that represents a person or concept. If we think of a social media feed as capturing a moment in our lives in a curated way, then a social media feed will fit into many history, science, or language projects.
Walking Tour Plan: what to know what a place looks like but cannot go. This is a great time to use the tech at our fingers to explore more areas through the use of google classroom. When I worked as an ESL teacher google street view was my best friend as we explored our community and the vocabulary around them through our virtual walking tours around our neighbourhood.
Explainer Video: Ever have a concept that can be explained using a how-to video. These explainer videos are an excellent way for students to teach and explain different ideas to others. Math and science are great subjects to explore these concepts as students can film themselves completing their work and telling how it was done and why.
Interview: using tech to record an interview with each other of others about their crucial knowledge. They can share what they have learned by interviewing and videoing a partner to show what they know about any and every subject and topic area.
Application / Integration
For these types of projects why not try integrating multiple subjects into one project.
In this way, we can work smarter not harder.
I get multiple forms of assessment with one project.
Write a story: sometimes the things we learned in science and history follow the pattern of a story with events happening with a beginning middle and end. Students can take events from history and retell them in the form of a story with vital historical people as main characters of the event. They can embed as many facts and details as they can into their work. Additionally in science students can tell a story to explain how things work telling the story of how the blood travels through the human body is one exciting way that I’ve had students use this form of a project to demonstrate their knowledge.
Art: for many of our students their strengths lie in the artistic expression. Open-ended products that allow students to demonstrate their learning through their creativity creates new avenues that are not traditionally explored. Final projects in the art also mean that you can add more substance to your art time that moves up beyond free time for students
Biography: there many times in history or sure people play pickle rolls, and her understanding of historical events having students apply what they have learned about these individuals by writing a biography integrates many writing expectations and social studies lessons in an authentic way.
Play: sometimes we have very imagined of students in our class who are continually using their free Playtime engaged and imaginative play capture the strength and students by allowing them to explore scientific principles and historical events through dramatization.
Dance: although I put this as an option for many of my students I always wonder if anyone will try it but almost every time at least once a year a student will write a song a wrap and put it to dance to present the information they’ve learned in math science or social studies. The thing with surprises me the most each time it happens is it it’s not for the students I would expect to choose dance as a platform for the final project.
These are just some of the many projects your students can choose.
Instead of choosing what your students complete why not open it up to them to decide how they would like to show their learning.
Or if that is just a bit too much freedom choose one idea from each section above and present it as an option.
When I first started teaching the focus was on getting students to read and get better at math. For me, that was what my focus was on.
I didn’t really have a ‘writing program’ or really any structure to get my students writing and writing consistently.
Then there was this defining moment when I had my class list for the next year and I was talking with my teaching partner whose students I would be getting for the next year. We looked at my class list, saw that it was 2/3 boys and she began to tell me how much the boys from her room ‘hated’ writing and refused to do it.
This is a thread that I hear over and over….’my students hate writing’….’how to I get them to care about what they write’.
Fast forward to today in my room writing is the favourite time for the majority of my students. In fact, one group made me switch my workshop rotations because they had one day in the cycle where they didn’t have writing and this just didn’t sit well with them.
Now writing looks like
highly engaged students who beg to write
early finishers immediately start working on writing
we think of ourselves as writers
we love writing and seeing our growth as writers
So how did I get there?????
Honestly, I don’t know how I started or where I got the idea. I know it was from somewhere and I wish I could remember so they could get the credit.
Writing in my room has three components
We study good writing through reading
We write every day on things we are interested in
We focus on the grammar and mechanics through editing and revising mentor texts, our own work and the work of our peers.
This is what I don’t have as part of my writing program…
I, as the teacher, do not choose what they write. This includes topic, theme, genre, form, or style.
Everything we write is not worthy of being published
We don’t do spelling and grammar out of context. No whole group spelling tests, worksheets, textbook programs etc.
Everyone is not doing the same thing at the same time.
We focus on the craft of writing and the writing process not on replicating a specific genre of writing.
How To Motivate Reluctant Writers
Students hate writing when they are told what to write. Writing is a form of expression and people write better when they are passionate about the topic that they are writing about.
Nothing sucks the life out of this passion than being told what you need to write and how you need to write it.
Many of my students love writing about video games, or non-fiction research reports on random things in their world.
I have zero interest in any of these things … but for them, it is there everything.
They will write and be excited about doing it!
It won’t be good… at all!
In fact, the first time these reluctant writers write about something they love it is bad writing….really bad writing.
But they are excited about it and I am happy for them because the first step is just getting them to write their ideas on paper and like doing it.
From there we make goals and get them to write more, and more, and more.
We convince them that what they thought about writing was wrong and that they actually have a great voice and ideas when they are writing.
Little by little we encourage them to write more and more improving their skills in baby steps.
Get Out Of Their Way
Sometimes as teachers we make things more complicated then they need to be.
We make all of the rules and plan every little detail so that we can cover a list of things we are mandated to cover. Then we stress that we didn’t get it covered because that thing we thought would take two weeks really took four because our students didn’t get it.
Then we blame our students for being a ‘weak group’ or ‘challenging’
Is it them? or is it us? or a little of both?
More autonomy leads to more engagement
Think about yourself would you rather have a principal tell you what to teach when to teach it, and how to teach it.
Or would you rather a principal give you the autonomy to choose these things.
(I know easy answer….autonomy)
Well, your students want this too.
You are their boss…but you don’t have to be a micro-manager.
Giving them some freedom, and choice will help them to buy in.
Get It All Covered
First, when I fully embraced using a cyclical writing program that harnessed student voice and choice to engage students in writing this was my biggest worry.
“How do I make sure I cover everything in the curriculum”
Well at the end of the year, for the very first time. I can confidently say I actually had evidence of everything covered.
Students choose what they write
They start with choosing either fiction or non-fiction
Students get bored of writing the same thing all the time so they naturally seek different forms and genres.
Studying good writing through mentor texts helps students to learn about and try new genres of writing that interest them.
Peer editing and revising helps students to see how others write
Partner writing helps to try new things
Student-teacher conferences help students to focus on creating specific goals for each individual student.
So I assume that because I have a chatty class that they we are going to have these great discussions when we sit down to learn.
Nada, zip, zilch
There is no talking when I ask a question. These kids who wouldn’t be quiet and took forever to get focused because they were so chatty are now all staring at me with blank faces….saying nothing.
Here is what I realized
Working Memory Problems
-I have had students in my class with working memory difficulty. These kids struggle with on demand tasks like academic conversations on the fly. These kids need supports to help them participate in class. Giving them thinking time and the ability to write things down is important. Scaffold the discussion with a prompt page or simply let them take some notes during the conversation.
The Awkward Pause
So people are naturally inclined to fill in silence, my students were doing this to me. If they waited I would just keep talking. I would inevitably answer my own question and they would just get to passively take a break while I just gave them all the answers.
Boy was I talking too much
So it was time to flip the script and sit and wait give them the awkward pause and see if they took the cue to start talking.
Sure enough some of them did. It worked!!
Sound easy? It totally wasn’t it was the hardest thing ever. As my voice was screaming “let me out” but I had to keep that cage door shut!!! 😳
So slowly but surely a few of them started to talk. Now I just needed more of them talking instead of just a few.
Engaging the Sidelines
Normally it is a few students in the class that do the majority of the talking.
This was something I wanted to improve my goal was to have rich discussions with everyone in my class not just a select few.
So I could have done the old method of just calling out random kids off my class list. But….that is terrifying for many kids so I rarely do it.
Planned sharing… as my students would work on their differentiated math pages I would walk around the room occasionally and see students who were doing well or better yet a student that had struggled previously and had just had a breakthrough. I would ask if they would be willing to share their learning. We would look at their failure and they would then share their breakthrough.
Adding their voice in a strategic way increased their confidence in talking in front of the group. They could share their learning from their place on the carpet.
Student to Student
In many classrooms if you map the conversation patterns it would look like a bouncing ball between you and a student. If I really wanted a student centered classroom then I needed to get out of the center of the conversation. So I explicitly talked to students about how to talk to one another. We talked about how to ask questions of each other, how to build on to conversations and how to disagree with respect, Use the acronym IDEAS to help your students learn how to add to a class conversationI – inquire: ask questions of the speaker to build on the discussionD- Disagree: part of having a conversation is hearing different view points. Teach students to disagree respectfully with each other. E- Expand: get students to extend the conversation by digging deeper and asking why. Go bigger or deeper with these questions. A- Agree and Add On: show your support and add on by offering additional evidence S- Summarize and Clarify: sometimes saying it in a different way to clarify a point is an important part of conversations Brainstorm different sentence stems and slowly introduce and model these for students.
Listening for Speaking
If you have ever had an argument with someone….like maybe your spouse. You will know that sometimes you listen to understand their point and other times you are just waiting for your next chance to jump in and say something. So instead of listening you are planning what you are going to say next. Students quickly learn who to listen to and often it is not each other. So this is an area that we should try to change. Because it is important that students not only listen to us, their teacher but they should also listen to each other Using the accountable talk IDEAS strategy mentioned above is one way to increase listening since they have to listen in order to understand. Another is to explicitly teach them what good listening looks like. Eyes on the speaker, body still, mouth closed, hands free. So get them talking byIdentifying and gaps is memoryUsing the awkward pauseEngaging the sidelinesIncreasing student to student conversations.
If you are conferencing with your students in writing then you need an easy way to track this data. I use google forms with students to help me track their writing progress and track data. Students use this as a framework for self-assessment of their writing and making goals to move their skills forward.
Below is a tutorial for you to see how this survey works
Research is one of the many tasks that students need to develop especially in today’s classroom with many inquiry projects, google and student led activities. Building student research skills is so important, and how to sort through too much research to find what they need, especially at their reading level is important.
By grade 4 students are finally ready to conduct some simple independent research. However, up until this point, they often have very little experience with doing this. This is one of the many tasks that needs to be explicitly taught.
Here are some tips to help your students research
Teach Them How to Skim and Scan
This skill will help them to determine if the text they are reading is a good fit for what they are looking for.
Skimming is a skill that involved students determining if the article is appropriate for what they need so that they don’t waste time reading a whole article that isn’t relevant. They will skim through the not fiction text features to find out if they need to read more or skip it.
This skill is best modeled for students by the teacher. Show them exactly what you want them to do and talk through your process to doing it. This can be repeated as necessary for students in guided sessions if they need additional support.
Scanning goes a little deeper to determine if what they read answers their question.
Once they have skimmed the text to determine that it is a good fit then they need to skim the sections of the text for the facts that answer their questions.
This is also easily modeled to students and this skill can be practiced. Use this anchor chart to help your students to follow along with key steps to help them skim and scan.
Skimming and Scanning are best taught in conjunction with summarizing. This skill is essential to help students to get the GIST of the article that they are reading to make sure that they pulling out key details. Summarizing and research are two skills that work very well together.
When I was in school I was taught how to use the Dewey Decimal System. Today as teachers it is important to teach them how to Google. (is it just me or do you hear the song “Teach them how to Dougie”)
I use the analogy with my students that they wouldn’t walk into a library and yell “How many years does a bear live?” and expect a book to fly off the shelf and hit them in the head. They would also not expect to see a book titled “How long a Bear Lives”
They would look simply for a book on bears.
Google works the same way.
They cannot ask Google a question and automatically get the information they are looking for. We need to teach them how to google. Here is a helpful page to use to help you learn how to google more effectively.
Learning how to Google is an important skill and this lesson can also touch on many cross-curricular expectations to make these lessons a good bang for your buck.
Once your students know how to skim and scan a text. They understand how to summarize a text and they can google effectively it is now important that they learn to sort the good, the bad, and the ugly (fake news)
To build student research skills there are things that students can look for to help them determine if a website is a good quality site that may be reliable.
Sites like National Geographic, Scholastic, Encyclopedias, PBS, BBC and other news agencies are reliable and recognizable websites that are good places to start with student research.
Look at the URL
The URL gives many clues about how credible the source. Web sites that have the domain of .edu, and .gov are restricted and can only be used by certain institutions. These are generally considered reliable. If you are looking for information from specific regions the country domains such as .ca will let students know what country the website is from.
If you are looking for information from specific regions the country domains such as .ca will let students know what country the website is from. This will support student research when they are looking for content that is region specific.
Complicated URL sources with long unrecognizable names or blogs that are not simple .coms may be someone’s personal site and the information should be validated on multiple sites.
About Me and Bias
Web sites for student research should be clear about who the author is and who is producing the content. The author should be identified on the article themselves with a bio. If this is not present there should be a detailed about me page that identifies who wrote the information.
Authors should be experts on the subject area. Are they credible? Sometimes many popular research sites are not curated by experts and some are even student created websites. This is fine to use as a source but again the information should be validated in multiple places.
Another factor is bias. On the web, anyone can post their opinion. It is important for students to understand bias and how to recognize this in what they are reading.
Whenever you talk about student research skills you inevitably talk about plagiarism. This is a great time to introduce your students to the concept of plagiarism. Today it is easy for students to simply just copy and paste what they read online into their notes then copy their notes into their own writing.
For me, this is a very simple concept. The original author owns the sentence. They have put the words together into a sentence. This is something that you cannot copy. However, at this age, they are not doing research into topics that may be unique or based on original research.
So this means that they can use the fact from the sentence but they cannot use the whole sentence.
Help your students to skim and scan a text to help them build their student research skills.
Again this is where the ability to teach your students how to do a GIST summary will help. Extracting the keywords from what they read. They assembling them into a summary is a very specific strategy that is similar to making research notes. They have to focus on the key ideas and ignore the fluff to write a summary. This is the same skill that students use when extracting information for researching too.
Don’t forget to grab the Skim and Scan Anchor chart page that goes with this blog post.
Researching by using the web, is an important skill for student to master
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