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Sunday, 18 November 2012

Three-Way Conferences

It has been three weeks since I last posted a comment!  I guess you can say I've been busy.  The last three weeks of my life have been all about assessment and writing Progress Reports about my students.  It took me over 40 hours to write up those reports! 

While I was out of the classroom, working as a Literacy/Numeracy Coach, I had the opportunity to watch many of the webcasts produced by our Ministry.  These webcasts support Teachers' professional development.  Having the time to watch and learn from them was one of the best parts of my former position.  One particular webcast that I was really intrigued by was on changing the paradigm of the traditional Parent/Teacher Interview.  The webcast is all about Student-Led Conferences. 

If you are familiar with Anne Davies work on Assessment, you will know that involving your students in Assessment engages them in their learning.  It helps them to be self-directed learners and critical thinkers.  If you involve students in the Assessment process (Assessment AS Learning) you help them reflect on their own success, help them determine what works well for them, what road blocks are in their path, and how can they circumvent those blocks.

I'm not quite ready for "Student-Led Interviews"; honestly, I have not had enough time to prepare my students for that.  But my goal is to have a "Three-Way Interview".  I've started to conference with my students one by one to review their progress reports.  When I conference with them, we go over a template (adapted from Anne Davies "Together is Better") that asks them what they have done well this term, what work they feel shows their growth as a learner, and what they think they need to work on. Then we plan a goal together, and more importantly, plan strategies for achieving that goal. 

The tricky part is finding enough time in the next four days to conference with each of them.  The thing that I'm finding most difficult about being back in the classroom is having enough time to do all of the things I want to do with my students.  We have had so many Assemblies, Presentations, Masses, Liturgies and Celebrations (at least two per week), that it really eats into our time.  But hopefully I will have a chance to meet with each of them, and together we will plan what to discuss with their parents and what work to highlight.

To find samples of the tracking forms, conference forms and rubrics I use click here.

On a slightly different note - (a tangent to the above)....

This year, our school will be reviewed by our Board's School Effectiveness Team.  To plan for this review process, we have been meeting regularly with our principal to discuss our School Improvement Plan.  Our principal said he wanted all of our Learning Goals for each subject displayed in the classroom along with the success criteria students can use to determine what they need to do to achieve each goal.  I did have my Math goals and my Reading goals posted, but for the other subjects I merely put our learning goals up on the board and then erased them at the end of each lesson.  Sometimes I only told the students the goals orally.  I felt I didn't have enough wall space to display each and every goal.

I decided to check with my students to see if the goals truly need to be posted.  I asked them, "What is our learning goal in Social Studies? Why are we talking about this?" (We are learning about trade).  None of my students could answer, but their heads all swivelled to where I had posted our Math and Reading goals.   I asked them why they had looked over there, and they said because they knew that our Reading and Math goals were there, so they thought maybe our SS goal would be there too.  I asked "Do you really look at those?".  They said that not only did they look at them, but that they really helped them.  I asked if I should post ALL of our Learning Goals, and they gave a resounding affirmative.  I asked where on earth I would put them, and they told me "On the cupboard doors where we can see them all the time". 

My friend Janice had introduced me to this sticky-tack paper that turns anything into a white board.  I still had a few rolls of it at home (because we teachers collect things like that knowing that someday we might need it...).  I covered four of my cupboard doors with it, and then my students helped me write our learning goals in student-friendly language, and then they helped me write the criteria that will determine whether or not they have been successful at achieving those goals.  I actually re-wrote it a few times; it is not so easy to write learning goals and success criteria.  We are still experimenting with it.  

As you can see, they have not all been written in the same format.  The Reading Goals almost seem like Success Criteria in themselves.  I am also trying to integrate our content areas into Language as much as possible.  I am teaching most of our Social Studies unit on Canada's Links to the World through our Lanaguge.  Many of our mini-lessons in Reading have been about finding the main ideas and summarizing them into jot notes for our SS projects on a trading partner.  Then we synthesize the information to explain why Canada should continue trading with this country.  I still find it complicated trying to turn the Curriculum Expectations into discrete Learning Goals for each subject especially when I am teaching 3 or 4 things simultaneously.  I welcome your feedback and suggestions!!!!

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