So now we try again!

Yesterday I was so excited about inquiry! I thought that I had finally figured it out. I may have spoken too soon. 🙂 Today, I planned on having the students complete this first evaluation activity based on all of their learning so far in Social Studies.

Social Studies Evaluation 1

In theory, I like the evaluation activity, but I made some errors.

  • Due to various reasons, of which I cannot go into all of them here, I didn’t thoroughly explain the activity. Rushing was the wrong thing to do. I didn’t ensure that everyone understood the questions. I also didn’t go through the rubric to emphasize what students needed to do to meet with the highest levels of success.
  • I realized my mistake early on, but I didn’t correct it well. While I called the class back together again to highlight the expectations for the activity, I didn’t take the time to write down and show the students what I meant. We had a quick oral discussion, and I didn’t check for comprehension. Yes, at the time, something unexpected came up, but I should have thought of a different solution. Taking one rushed lesson and replacing it with another rushed lesson, did not solve the problem. For the last month, I’ve been emphasizing for my student teacher the importance of providing visual instructions, and yet, I skipped this key step. That was a mistake!
  • I didn’t get students to reflect on their learning individually before pushing them further. I realized this mistake yesterday, but I hoped that our oral conversation was enough. Maybe it would have been if we had it right before completing the evaluation activity, but we didn’t. The gap in time mattered, and students needed this additional reflection. I should have started with that today.

Now this activity was not a complete disaster, but I do not think that the students’ answers fully demonstrate what they know, and this bothers me. I also think that any reason for this is my fault, and not theirs. So what am I going to do?

Conversations with both my student teacher, Yakira Smeltzer, and one of our Grade 8 teachers, Jo-Ann Corbin-Harper, helped me with a solution.

  • On Friday, I’m going to write out all three of the questions (from today’s evaluation activity) on chart paper. We’re going to discuss what each of them means. I’ll make sure to write down the key vocabulary words, and not just discuss them orally.
  • We’ll go through the rubric together. Students can ask questions to ensure that they understand the expectations for each level.
  • Then in groups, students are going to chalk talk about a question of their choice. All groups will have access to the print resources as well as any online resources. They can also use any research notes from previous classes. Students can use pictures and/or words to share their learning and to ask questions of each other. They can build on the ideas that others shared as well. Each student will have a different coloured marker though, and each student will need to write his/her initials beside any of his/her contributions.
  • After chalk talking, we’ll get into an inquiry circle, and students can orally share their ideas. Again, they can build on the ideas of others and ask questions. We’ll discuss all three major questions from the evaluation activity, and everyone will have an opportunity to contribute if he/she wants.
  • I will use a combination of the Chalk Talk contributions and the oral contributions to evaluate each student. Originally, I was going to get the students to use the information from the Chalk Talk activity and the oral discussion to complete one of the assignment choices, but after talking to Jo-Ann, I no longer think that this is necessary. Between writing, drawing, and orally discussing, students will show me what they know, and they’ll be doing so in the ways that work best for them. (I’m also prepared to do some conferencing during the Chalk Talk activity if the writing and/or drawing option does not work for all students.)

Maybe this is what our vice principal, Kristi Keery-Bishop, meant when she discusses “evaluating process versus product.” What do you think? Could this plan work? What other suggestions do you have? Another day. Another mistake. Another new adventure. Gosh do I love teaching!


4 thoughts on “So now we try again!

  1. Love the new thinking. I think that is what I was trying to say in our conversation yesterday. With inquiry you get so much rich evaluation just from observations, talk and in a way products buts more about the process. If parents what a mark show them that. If students and you are focused on the process then students will succeed, there is no question about that.

    I did a post evaluation/ problem the other day in data management. I wanted it to be individual but my students kept on conversing (about the task). Instead of stopping I just walked around made notes on what questions everyone was asking, who needed the help and what problems. The assignment became a richer assessment then just any old test. I had next steps, marks and my students still learned.

    Keep up with the learning and posting. Learning a lot through it.

    • Thanks Jonathan! I guess that it took my mistakes today to see the full value in what you said yesterday. I absolutely agree with the importance of focusing on process, and I think that this evaluation option could work really well.

      Thanks for sharing your data management story! What a great idea! I love how you “went” with what your students were doing, and ended up getting even more valuable information as a result.

      As always, thanks for all of your comments! Our discussions here push my thinking a lot, and I really appreciate it!


  2. I appreciate your reflection, Aviva. I had a conversation with a teacher friend on the weekend about the hardest thing to teach in a math 3 part lesson was the reflect and connect. It always requires more time than you think, and while you want the student voices and thinking to be well represented, the teacher needs to figure out to make that thinking come out. So tough. Your reflection activity was similar. It needs time and the right amount of facilitation. Plan B sounds good. I wonder if an anchor chart of some possible questions or sentence stems the students can use to help their conversations & thinking if needed (kind of a do-it-yourself conference!) may be a support for some too. Looking forward to hearing that student thinking!

    • Thanks for the comment, Kristi! I absolutely agree with you, and I think that I underestimated how much time and facilitation was needed. I’m hoping that this second option will work better, and get the students really considering the topic and sharing what they know. Your sentence stem idea is a fantastic one! I’m going to use this for sure. It may be that little extra support that some of the students need.

      Looking forward to Friday and evaluation #1, attempt #2! 🙂

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