In my first year teaching, I had an amazing opportunity to team-teach with a colleague, who had done a significant amount of PD on Anne Davies. As I worked with this teacher, back home in Calgary, AB, she became an incredible mentor who helped me successfully get through my first year of teaching. Which explains why I was so excited to attend a PD session with Anne Davies, who came all the way to CIS in Singapore.
What astounded me the most was how great it was to hear that I was doing many of the things Anne Davies talked about. It reinforced the idea that PD doesn’t just happen when you attend a workshop, but it happens all the time. It can happen through co-planning time with colleagues, a conversation with a mentor teacher, and even in a half-hour lunch break.
One new idea that stood out to me, was a more inquiry approach to creating assessment with my students. Instead of writing down criteria or creating a checklist beforehand on what is expected in their writing. The idea was to create one together from a shared writing activity or looking at a novel/book that is related to our current unit of inquiry. From there, students are asked the question, “What counts and what matters, when we write well?”
- Scribe on sentence strips while students are thinking about what matters. All the sentence strips are brought to the carpet. Students choose a sentence strip and they need to find the evidence of that in the sample. Each student finds evidence of quality.
- Group similar strips together – discuss why these are put together and what they have in common. Sort them and place them in different areas of the room. Small groups to begin with.
- The students would take the strips that they found in evidence and placed them in the right group where it should belong.
- Write the big idea for each group of sentence strips. “I can…” and create a whole class generated self-assessment target.
Another idea was to make each “I can…” statement in a different colour. Students would then go into their own writing and find that quality. They would then mark it by highlighting, or circling each quality. I thought this was a great way for them to find evidence of these “I can” statements in their work.
Follow up: I did this with my grade 1 students and it worked really well. One thing I need to remember is how fluid some of the qualities they came up with were. In the end it became a good lesson in sorting/organizing, and finding out what’s similar. I liked doing it in groups because the students really talked to one another, if they felt certain things should go together they really needed to defend their argument clearly and have it make sense. It also was great practice in teamwork and the powers of collaboration. I would definitely prepare a bit more next time and find a excerpt of writing that really extolled qualities that were grade appropriate but also challenging and differentiated enough for all students.
Does anyone out there have any ideas of what would be a good novel/book to use? Would it have been better to have a chosen a students piece of work? A favourite classroom author? Or maybe even a grade 5 buddies writing?