One of the things I find so amazing is the power of six year olds to use formative assessment. Michelle Wood, Rockridge Science teacher, and I have often imagined what our young Cypress Park I.B. students will be like when they reach high school. Their ability to think and reflect upon their own learning and use criteria to enhance their work and deepen their understanding at this early age in their school career is inspiring.
All year we have been using the language of the B.C. Performance Standards (Not Yet Meeting, Meeting, Fully Meeting and Exceeding Expectations) to help students understand where they are at in their work both academically and socially as a class/school/ global citizen. We started using this language orally.
As the students became familiar with these terms, we began to integrate them more often as tools to help them "own" their learning and take responsibility for it. We shifted the power to them and demystified the process of assessment. Instead of teachers "marking" students, the children mark themselves using the criteria we have brainstormed and created together. When students ask if they are finished, I say, "I don't know. You tell me."
Students reflect upon their own work regularly using these terms and sort their work into these 4 categories on the carpet. As criteria and expectations are clear, students honestly and easily evaluate themselves. It also provides them with clear examples of what each of the catagories looks like.
Students in Grade One use each other as peer coaches. In the fall, they learned to how read together, taking on the roles of both reader and coach. In order for this to be successful, we had to first figure out what good readers look like and what they do. Students needed time to develop and practice these skills before they were ready to help others. This formed the base for our highly successful individualized reading program - kids teaching kids while at the same time strengthening their own literacy skills. The teacher serves as a guide or facilitator circulating amongst the students and listening to each student read to monitor progress.
This year, I have focused on the use of meaningful feedback to help students understand what they are doing well and what they could do better. “I really like how you are pointing to the words as you read. I wonder if you could stop at the periods so that we could better understand what you are reading. Periods mean that the sentence is over and both the reader and the listener should pause a moment to think.”
In Term Three, the Grade Ones are learning how to write stories and are in the process of “publishing” their first books. Last week, the students had pre-writing conferences to begin the day where they each had an opportunity to share their work with another student or "coach" who listened and offered one question and one encouraging comment. By talking about writing as a group, modelling the process, and clarifying the learning intentions and the expectations, students are set up for success. Taking the time to talk with students is key. It builds a community of learners who feel comfortable to take risks to try new things and make mistakes. It brings kids and teachers together as writers, readers and learners.
What was perhaps most exciting was the that fact that no sooner had we reviewed the criteria and expectations together and the students had set to work, when at least half of the children eagerly took the criteria checklist and assessed themselves! I was planning on doing this with each student individually over the course of the writing engagement. It was not a chore nor an arduous task but simply something they did because they knew it would guide them in their writing and help them to produce the best quality work possible to move themselves along the continuum of learning.
Assessment comes second nature to Grade Ones now. It is just something they do – like going out for recess or playing Dr. Dodge Ball. It is exciting to see the progression from oral self-reflection to the use of checklists and criteria to direct their own learning and put themselves in charge of this process. Imagine the possibilities when these Cypress Park I.B. thinkers and inquirers begin high school….the prospects are endless and so exciting!
For more information on formative assessment at Cypress Park, please talk to any Grade One student. They would be happy to share their learning with you.