Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Assessment Thinking

Performance assessments, authentic assessments, formative assessments, summative assessments, high- stakes assessment, embedded assessments, assessment of learning, assessment for learning, assessment as learning--I am immersed in assessment language this week.

What does assessment mean to and for learners in our classrooms? To learners in high school classrooms, assessment often means a "final test" or a grade. The test may be a performance. Students could be asked to create a product or write a paper to demonstrate skills and learning.

What does assessment mean for learners? Assessment for learners or assessment for learning means that students are getting the specific feedback they can apply to their performance or demonstration of learning.  Practically, for me as a teacher, assessment for learners means that I need to build in routines or processes so learners can get feedback in a timely way, when and where they need it.

As a teacher, figuring out how to make time for that was always a challenge and I wondered:

  • What works in terms of feedback? 
  • What does the research say? 
  • What makes sense for kids? 
  • How does feedback in one class differ from feedback in other classes?

In my English classroom, feedback routines worked for me. Balancing oral and written feedback of learning at the end of a unit to the feedback students receive along the way. Assessment as learning involves the learner in self-assessment. Such self-assessment happens as we are learning, right? We measure each step we take against the mental model we have of success.
worked for me. Getting students to give me feedback about what was working or not working for them as learners or getting students to tell me what they understood and what they were unsure of worked too.  Assessment for learning shifts the emphasis from the culminating, one-shot assessment

When administrators talked with me about high-stakes assessments my students took, I used to say that such a test needed to be one image in a student's album of assessment. States and I find countries differ in many people use that metaphor.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Deck the Halls

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Slide by the Slice of Life buffet for seconds or link up to serve your own slice of life.

When I walk through the back gate to get onto our campus, I have to scan my identification badge. The gate is guarded. The gates are like revolving doors made out of bars. They only unlock once your badge has been processed. It's an interesting system: safe, secure. When I arrive on campus I come through the elementary school gate.

Our campus is thirty-six acres. On those acres are more than four thousand learners who are in grades pre-K through grade twelve. The high school serves roughly twelve-hundred of those learners, more of course if we count ourselves, the teachers, among the leaners.

When I walk through the elementary school to get where I begin my day--this year it is in a shared office, last year it was in a classroom-- I get to see all sorts of things in the hallways. I see displays of student work, art installations, institutional values, club happenings and even an interactive chalk-board station with a weekly drawing prompt.

I love the hallways at Singapore American School.

There are pieces of art for me to explore (and imitate). This multi-paneled piece is on permanent display near the third-grade classrooms. Playful circles and patterns move and play on the panels. What you may not be able to see is the intricacy of the background. It is filled with inked patterns and symbols and images. 

It inspired me to paint a few panels of my own. I needed a screen in my bedroom to block the air con from blowing on my face at night. I have not yet finished the inked details of the background, but I sure had fun painting the circles and patterns.

This week, I walked by some writing in the third-grade hallway that got me thinking. We are in our second week of the school year.  This is the time of year when teachers are establishing relationships with learners and getting to know them. This is the time of year for initial assessments and the data gathering we do about skills that will help us plan and differentiate instruction. Two pieces, I've loved this week--one used math for an "about me" sort of writing and another is a letter written by last year's learners to this year's class.

First the math connection: Figure Me Out! I love the prompts: My age (48+4). My birth date (16 +8).  The number of letters in my name (7 x 2). The number of people in my [extended] family (3+30).  I can't help but answer the math questions AND create my own answers in the form of an equation. I love the title and the conversations I can imagine. Even my office-supply nerd is tickled with the sticky notes.

The other piece of writing I've enjoyed on my walk to work this work are letters written from last year's learners to this year's.

Dear lucky third graders, 
You are about to enter the best class in the whole of third grade. In this class we do things like sing, dance, do plays and short videos! Third grade might be hard but don't worry in this class you will think everything will be fun! In math we have a viriety of fun things. We get a lot of choice in writing. We have a lot of units but in the morning we get to stay inside the class at lunch and get to sit alone without the teacher and after speshils we get to walk to the lunch hall our selves! HOPE YOU ENJOY THIRD GRADE!!
I love the creative spelling and the contrast between hard and fun. I love the seriousness of this learner's voice: all business. 

Dear unlucky third graders, 
beware you will face many dangers in this haunted class like, legit, this is where R.L. Stine got the Idea of goosebumps! you must operate as a class against Ms. B... to survive. I will not explain the rules because [it] will take so much paper all trees will be cut down. here is 1/1,000,000,000,000,000,000 of the rules:
  • no laughing
  • no talking
  • no breathing without permission
  • no smiling
  • no jokes
  • always let Mrs. B... torture you
PS: if you break a rule, you get locked in the secret dungeon. ... JK [just kidding]

Oh, the voices! Can you imagine these third graders?! I love them already. 

Happy start to the new year, teacher friends!