Grades, scores, report cards, tests, quizzes, portfolios, performances, exit tickets, and more, are all words associated with assessment in some form. During the course of the school year, teachers at Gilman find themselves exploring a multitude of ways to give feedback and assess meaning making with our students. This year we are embarking on a mission to explore both how our boys make meaning of new material and methods we employ to best assess when and how that meaning happens. Not an easy topic! We recognize that as we learn more about how children develop and learn, we need to align our curriculum and teaching methods to current thinking. A multiple-choice test from years ago may not offer the best information on whether learning has taken place. But then again, not every boy is able to communicate learning through creative performances or lengthy written essays. We currently use a wide variety of assessment tools through the three divisions.
Our Gilman Academic Council members are spending time this year exploring how we assess learning. Members are creating proto-types in the classroom in an effort to delve into this topic and make recommendations for future use. I am currently looking at ways new technology websites can be implemented for ongoing formative assessment. Jen Reiter was exploring ways last week that the boys could use peer assessment to help the class identify common errors and the need for more specific instruction. Adam Herb is looking at using better “exit tickets” to give quick assessments that will drive instruction the following day.
We are reading a variety of articles and books related to the topic. I am currently reviewing the book Grading Smarter, Not Harder by Myron Dueck. In it, he gives specific examples of “assessment strategies that motivate kids and help them learn”. He talks about the shift in what we need our schools to encourage- more creative thinkers, problem solvers, and risk takers- and less focus on “task-oriented information processing” with our students. Dueck references a colleague, Rick Stiggin’s, essential three questions for every student: Where am I going? Where am I now? How can I close the gap?
I write this knowing that this week we will all be focusing on the outcome of many weeks of assessment- the report card. I encourage parents to look closely at where their sons are going, where they are currently, and discuss ways to help close the gap. Teachers have been using the most personal of assessment tools- careful observation- in order to know just how your son is progressing in their learning journey. The relationship they have built with your son is their measuring tool, and they are more than happy to give you insight and encouragement. The “report card” is just one talking point about how our boys are making meaning every day.
I will continue to bring you thoughts and observations about our school-wide exploration of assessment practices. We have discussed involving our parent community in some prototypes or program pilots. Look for more about this later in the spring. We are initiating conversations about assessment in all three divisions- in faculty meetings, hallways, lunchrooms, etc. It would be great for our parents to brainstorm together as well.
Here are two articles you may find interesting. Enjoy and keep the conversation going!
I hope that my communication with you each week encourages “talking points” to inspire weekend conversation with your son or sons. Here are some “talking points” for this weekend.
- If you are in Kindergarten- What can you tell me about Penguins? Did you enjoy the brass band performance by Mr. Lander? What did you say in your thank you note?
- If you are in Pre-First- What is in your Bear Book that you are most excited to read to Kindergarten next week?
- If you are in First Grade- What did you learn about Presidents from your classmates? Who sang the National Anthem at your inauguration?
- If you are in Second Grade- What did it mean to “cross the line” when you were learning about Immigration in the Steven’s Room last week? What made coming to a new country so difficult?
- If you are in Third Grade- What is your creative writing project going to include during this month’s writers workshop? What are you learning about the Abyss of the ocean in science? How did Skittles figure into your science lesson? What happened during the Musher’s Banquet?
- If you are in Fourth Grade- How are the presentation about the African American reports going?
- If you are in Fifth Grade- What activities did you do with little buddies this week? Is the schedule back to normal now that ERB’s are done? What is the wrestling tournament and what bracket will you be in?