Sunday, October 9, 2011

How to Help All Students Grow - Life In the Pumpkin Patch

What kind of pumpkin is your favorite?  I have always liked the round, fat pumpkins for my jack -o-lantern.  Although, occasionally I have selected the tall, thin one.  As I wandered through the pumpkin patch this fall, I was once again presented with so many different options to choose from - small, large, short, tall, bumpy, smooth...endless possible combinations.  As I paused before each one, I tried to picture with my mind's eye what kind of face might emerge from the orange skin.  This year, I went for the 23lb kind of oblong pumpkin - with some cool scar-like lines across it. I think it will make a great creepy jack-o-lantern for Halloween.

This fall we have been focusing on formative assessments as a way to help all of our students grow as learners.  Sometimes as teachers, we tend to have a favorite kind of student, a favorite kind of assignment, a favorite lesson.  It is easy to picture how our class will go with the right students, the right materials and the right lessons. But life isn't usually like this.  Our classrooms are more like the pumpkin patch.  Even with careful tending and the right growing conditions, all the pumpkins do not turn out the same. It is up to us as teachers to use formative assessments to be like our mind's eye to see the potential in each of our students and adjust our lessons to help each of them to grow.  One way to do this is to give students choices in how they learn a new skill or demonstrate a mastery of a skill.   Another way to stretch all the learners in your classroom is to use performanced based activities.  PBA's are built around real world problems or scenarios and can be designed to let students work collaboratively or individually to create solutions.  Rubric grading works best with either of these assignment types. By giving the students a rubric ahead of time, the rubric becomes a checklist to help guide their work. Students like to do performance based activities. They know up front what is expected of them.  These activities also help them to connect the facts and skills they have learned with their day to day world.   

Learn More About Performance Assessment and Rubrics

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