Archive of ‘Professional Practice’ category

Building Trust and Accountability through Report Cards

Report card time is here again. For me, it’s a dreaded time since I don’t believe in marks and find that report cards do not give enough feedback for students and parents.

My students this year have been working on self assessing and are pretty bang on with it now. They self assess how they do on projects and even their learning skills.

I work on their report cards with the marks they have decided they deserve by self assessment and also my marks. I enter in their marks and corresponding comments into the report card software. When I’m finished, I print the report cards out and hand them back to the students. I give them time to read through them, look at their grades and comments.

All of their completed assignments and rubrics have been handed back to them previously and they are stored in their Student Led Conference binder. The students have access to these binders all year round and are encouraged to bring them home to show their parents. They also refer to these binder when looking at their report card.

I always begin this process by talking to my students about how a grade doesn’t really reflect what you know and if they are upset in any way, to come and chat with me about it instead of leaving upset.

Then, I hand out the report cards. Some of my students were excited and some were so nervous. I gave them quiet time to read through them and some were thrilled with their report cards and some had questions about certain grades.


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If they had any issue, they were to circle the mark and say exactly why that mark should be changed. Then, when the class was working we met and discussed their thoughts and mine.

I have to say that being really organized using Google Drive helped me pull up all their grades, self assessed or teacher assessed and then we could really discuss it.

Some students made quite persuading arguments and their marks were changed. Some students forgot that they self assessed themselves with a certain mark and that influenced their grade. Some students disagreed with their learning skills mark that they had written themselves and I had to remind them that they decided on that qualifier and grade themselves.

The process of sharing the report card before it actually goes home has been essential in my classroom. It helps the students learn, consistently self assess, demonstrates mutual respect and trust and reduces stress since they know exactly what will be going home to parents on February 4th.

I would highly suggest that other teachers use this method as well.

Here are some thoughts from my students:

I think that it’s good that Mrs Bowker does that because before we go home with our report cards we know our grades, we have more confidence and are not stressed out. -K.A.

We don’t have to worry about how our parents are going to react to our marks because we know what grade we got and we agree with the marks. -L.A

I like how Mrs Bowker lets us see our report cards before they go home so we can check our marks and tell her if we disagree with them and we talk about the marks so we aren’t upset. -L.J.

I like that Mrs Bowker gives us our report cards so we know what level we are at and how we can improve. -H.A.

Students Self Evaluating Learning Skills

This year I wanted to give my students the responsibility and experience of marking themselves on their work.

We marked ourselves on our learning skills back in November and I found that they struggled with it. I created this document and let the students mark themselves on learning skills. 

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Screen Shot 2016-01-20 at 5.38.21 PMAfterwards I wrote a paragraph to use for the comments addressing the learning skills that we have been working on in class. When I started filling in the appropriate words to the students mark they didn’t match up.

This semester I decided to try it a new way. I pre-wrote the paragraph for the learning skills comment. I left blanks for the qualifier that would make sense for their level of achievement and gave them a table of the grade and corresponding qualifiers.

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I printed out copies on paper for each students and went over what to do. The students got the paper and filled in corresponding qualifiers and then they had to decide their mark for each learning skills based on which qualifier they used.

Then I shared the online version in Google Classroom and each student had to replace ‘Name’ with their name, he/she with their corresponding gender and enter in their choice of qualifiers.

I read them through before entering them into their report card and have honestly found that they are accurate marking themselves most of the time or too hard on themselves. It really is a great way for them to check in and see how they are doing.

Student’s viewpoint on Choice and Voice

This year I have been giving my students choice and voice in everything we do in the classroom. It was a huge, difficult and sometimes frustrating change for me but one that I see is so hugely beneficial.

Before the Christmas break, I asked my class

Being given Choice and Voice in the classroom means to me….”

I asked them to discuss how this impacted their learning and feelings on coming to school. This is the unedited feedback they gave me (I just removed their names).

“Having voice in my classroom is fairly new to me, since in the past few years all my teachers have been strict and only cared about what they said. In my opinion classes that are given choice learn more responsibility and function better. In class we are given the opportunity of helping to create our projects. It also feels like she cares more about us, and cares about our opinion. I definitely learn better when we are given choice, since Mrs. Bowker adjusts how we learn so it’s easy for everyone.”

“by giving a choice i think the teacher cares about us because all other teachers are mean and don’t give us a choice and we won’t be interested the only teachers that i think are giving kids a chance are ms.bowker and ms. h.I also think that i learn more by having a choice.”

“Having voice in Mrs.Bowker’s class is fair to me because all the teachers I have had before don’t care about the kids, there like “I teach these kids, and I get money.” but Mrs.Bowker cares and is way different. My other teachers don’t care about the kids, they care about themselves. But no, that’s not the case with Mrs.Bowker, she cares, but now and then she will get a little annoyed with us or we don’t agree and so on. But Mrs.Bowker is the best teacher I have ever had. Before As Well teachers did not ask for our opinions,”

“I feel important that i get to pick what i do not the teacher or and cuz in the years i’ve been in school teachers think that  all i have to do is tell them what to do except for ms bowker and ms h.”

“To me given choice is being equal.  In the past no teacher asked for my choice.  I want to say what’s in my mind and tell everyone, if I agree or disagree. Mrs. Bowker gives us choice and lets us say what we want, she teached us to be honest. Mrs. Bowker lets us be the teachers. To be given a voice I feel free. To be given a choice it is important because you get to learn how to be responsible. I wish you’re my teacher every year and giving our class “choice” and “voice” is the best choice ever! Thank you Mrs. Bowker.”

“knowing that someone cares about you and can help you grow as I person and help you get set for life challenges. having a voice is important too, it gives you power and responsibility. Choice is also important to me, because I feel free. I hope all teachers were like you Mrs. Bowker.”

“Being given choice in class means a lot to me . It means to have freedom and do whatever you want , Kids should have there own choice with what they are doing just like adults do . For me Mrs. Bowker is being fair with all the students . She trusts us with everything and she is always honest with us . I also like to choose to work with who and i like to pick the topic i want to do a project about.”

“I love the idea because I never had a teacher that does this and it’s very fun. I have a voice you have a voice we all have voices and we can use them that is why Mrs.Bowker has a very fun class.I love this year. I learn more this year because we have choice and it makes me want to learn more then before”

“I think I am learning way more and about school I think it is great and new I love going to school. Last year I DID not like going to school that much.”

“I think I work better when I choose what to work on. I like it better when I go to school better than going to school last year. That’s how choice affects me.”

Reading the students comments made me realize how much students need to be offered choice and voice in the classroom and in their learning. Having students that hated coming to school and now love coming to school has been a huge turn around for them and I’m so happy for them.

In my class, I rarely have to discipline the students. I’ve had to scold students for being too excited about the projects we are working on and going home and working on it all night long. But isn’t that what learning is supposed to feel like? Being so excited to work on a project that you can’t think of anything else? I’m so thrilled that my students are feeling safe, loved, cared for, excited and that they are important!

 

 

 

Uncomfortability leads to learning for all

Creating a class of student voice and choice has been extremely rewarding but an uncomfortable and learning process for me.  I’m a pretty new classroom teacher but still the idea that students should be quiet lingers in the back of my head.

Today I was introducing Biodiversity and my class would not stop talking. It took us forever to get through our ideas of what Biodiversity could mean. CRsjeNFUAAAtym-

Finally I got them to go back to their seats to calm down and then we talked. I told them how I was feeling and asked why they were talking so much. I told them that I assumed that it was because they were being disrespectful. Many students hands shot up and they told me that they were just really excited about the topic. I asked the class who else felt this way and they all raised their hands.

I realized that my class just really likes each other, is really excitable and needs time to talk to each other. I know now that I need to schedule in time to my teaching to give them moving and talking breaks but I didn’t even think to give them ‘turn and talk’ time.

Asking my students what they need has been a HUGE learning moment for me. Whenever we have these talks, they always come up with a solution and we are both learning about each other in the process.

I’m thrilled that they are so excited about our class and what we are learning about. I know that this year is a learning process for all of us and I’m so excited that we can communicate and trust each other.

Creating Class Blog with Student Voice

This year my goal is to have student voice and choice be the most important thing in my classroom. We started this by creating our class name. We brainstormed for longer than I had expected, a week and a half. I was waiting for a name so I could create a classroom blog and twitter account. We came up with some great names: Tech Titans, World Skypers, The Skypers Crew. We ended up voting and the winner was Tech Titans.

You can check out our blog (a work in progress) here, and follow us on twitter @techtitans4. We are still working on a logo for our twitter page so check on that later.

I decided instead of me going ahead and creating a blog, I would leave it blank and get students to see some examples of what class blogs can look like.

I created a Google Doc with classroom blogs that I find inspiring and shared it with my students.

Blogs to Check out:

Grade 1: http://.edublogs.org/

Grade 1/ 2: http://www.mslimscassidysclassrenmansroom.blogspot.ca/

Grade 1/ 2: https://mrsbowkersclass.edublogs.org/

Grade 3 /  4:http://epcotclass.blogspot.ca/

Grade 4/5: http://www.awesomegeniuses.blogspot.ca/

Grade 7:http://www.mrsripp.com

I gave each table a blog to check out first and then when they were done, they could move onto any blog they were interested in. I introduced Google Docs to my students and got them to make a list about what they want our blog to look like.

Here is our list:

  • Tweet Attachment thingy
  • pictures of field trips we had
  • Contact Us button
  • Comment Section
  • Calendar of special events
  • Timeline
  • Book Reports
  • Share the sites we use to learn.
  • add a background to make it look yum yum
  • Custom Font
  • Challenges for other classes
  • Filter to make us Fab!
  • A follow us button
  • Subscribe Button
  • Mascot
  • Events that people will want to see. not boring!
  • Presentations
  • Giveaways.
  • Contests/challenges
  • Artwork.
  • Plays.
  • secret missions
  • birthday parties
  • math models
  • science experiments
  • PJ day
  • track and field
  • tournaments/tryouts
  • videos of things we did in class
  • good information
  • different people can write about it
  • making robots and castles and then take a pic
  • explain what we did in the day
  • put our goals put labels of what we did
  • Questions!!
  • put good pictures of our work
  • write about people who visited our class
  • fun background on the blog
  • Everybody can write their own post ones at a time,like whats happening at school,what is their feeling today are they happy for example, whats their comments about todays experiment on Science.Taking pictures from important events.
  • you have to finish your work on time. you have to be polite. you have to know what you’re writing.  

A great list for our first look at classroom blogs. I’m so excited to work with these students this year!

 

Student Choice and Social Studies

If you read my blog you know I’m doing something different in my class this year. I’m giving my students choice in everything they do.

We have just completed our first social studies project together and I wanted to share the process and outcome.

In Grade 6 students about supposed to learn about Canada’s impact on the world. I decided to share a Canadian History timeline with them and let them choose a topic of their choice.

Some of the selected topics were

  • World War 1
  • How Ottawa became the Capital
  • Hockey in Canada
  • Schooling in the 1700-1800’s

Students worked in groups to create something to show the class.

The presentations were varied. We had mostly slideshows but also had posters, homemade videos, and models.

After their presentations were completed I gave the group a self assessment rubric and they went off and had time to self-reflect.

I met with the groups later that day or the next day and we compared their self-assessment rubric with the one I completed. We discussed the differences in the rubrics and the similarities. If there was a discrepancy, I let the students determine what grade they should have.

When all the presentations were discussed, we met as a class to talk about the project in general. I wanted to know what did they like, and what needed to be fixed.  

As you can see, the class loved being able to choose their own topic, assessment type and they got to work with peers of their choice. Next time we are going to add some immediate peer feedback. Right after students present, their peers will share one thing they really liked about the project and one thing they would like to see next time.

We also discussed how they could improve their own project next time.

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The experience giving my class choice in their learning has completely changed the way I look at teaching.   The students couldn’t wait everyday to work on this project and were highly focused during their group work. I love talking to my class to get feedback about how the projects are going and it will be something I continue to do for the rest of my teaching career.

Learning Skills-Self Assessing and Reflecting

I created the below document to help my students learn about the learning skills we assess them on in Ontario. I am going to give them this document at the beginning of the year so that they can create goals about these learning skills. I want my students to  be able to self-assess and reflect on what they can do better for the next term.

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Click on the picture for the link.

Get Connected: Professionally and in your Classroom

On July 14th, 15th, and 16th I was honoured to present “Get Connected: Professionally and in your Classroom” for ETFO’s Summer Academy. I was a 3 day course that I created, organized and presented.

Maybe you are interested in this course but could not attend so I’ve decided to share my 3 day presentation and resources I used in the course with you.

The course covers:

To get the entire course, click on the picture below

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Learning while Presenting

I was lucky enough to be a presenter for ETFO’s Summer Academy this summer. My workshop is called “Get Connected: In your Classroom and Professionally” and we learned about Twitter, Blogging, Skype, Global Projects and GAFE.  I had 3 days to teach these teachers with varying degrees of technology experience how to create and use these tools to connect themselves and their students to the world.

While teaching these amazing teacher’s who gave up three days of the summer vacation to come spend time with me I learned some great lessons.

Learning is joyful.

After the school year, teachers are so tired and burnt out. Yet, teachers sign up for courses and read books just to be better at teaching the next year. During the course when I was explaining Google Drive, a teacher jumped out of her seat and ran to hug me in front of a whole room of teachers. The power of learning and sharing how to learn motivates us to be better and do better. Another teacher started clapping when she understood how to do something and then tweeted about it.

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We are all experts at something.

After the first day of  presenting “Get Connected” I went for a walk with two other teachers. One of the teachers I start walking with, Barbara Brockmann, turns out to have won a Governor General’s Award for Excellence in Teaching Canadian History and a Writer’s Award for her book of five plays that brings wartime history alive for students in Grades 5-12 in 2014. You never know who you are going to meet at these conferences so always make sure to meet some new people. We are all experts at something, what are you an expert at?

Teachers just want to share.

During our walk, Barbara begins to share many resources to teach social studies for my future Grade 6 class. When you feel passionate about a topic, it shines through and I was thrilled with all the resources she shared with me. I actually had to go back to my hotel room to grab my laptop to record them all.

Here are all the links if you are interested:

historicalthinking.ca

 

http://www.ohhfa.ca/media/Steps_to_Creation_of_a_Heritage_Fair_Project_Revised.pdf

http://www.ottawaheritagefair.org/English/awards.htm

 

http://activehistory.ca/

http://oessta-teachers.ca/

http://www.onthemarkpress.com/product/01/EBC145/Remembrance-Day-Plays-Grades-5-12eBook

http://www.canadashistory.ca/

 

Project of Heart http://projectofheart.ca/

 

 

Goal Setting and Changing in the Classroom

I’m so excited to be teaching Grade 6 next year. One thing that I want to do with my class every week is Goal Setting. I recently finished reading “The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We do in Life and Business” by Charles Duhigg.

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It was an interesting read and one that really can be linked to the classroom environment. Students need to learn how to set goals so they will succeed in their later educational pursuits, work and in life. I know that in my personal life sometimes I need a reward to complete a task that I don’t want to do such as working out or doing the dishes. I created this worksheet for students to use and to practice creating their own goals. For students to be able to complete their goals, they need to be as descriptive as possible in how, when, and where they are going to complete their goals.

Click on the picture to download.

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I’m sure you have some students in your class that have a routine that is less than positive. The below worksheet is to change their routine. You would meet with the student in private, when they are calm and discuss the trouble they are having.

For example: Student A sees another students take one of his crayons and he hits them to get it back. You can discuss why this happens, what are some other options they could choose and the student could suggest some rewards that they would like to get if they choose a better option rather than hitting. Please click on the picture to download.

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The below image is from CharlesDuhigg.com, the author of “The Power of Habit” and also describes in detail how to change a habit. 
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I would highly recommend reading “The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We do in Life and Business” by Charles Duhigg.

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