It is amazing how 45 minutes of class time can make such a difference in your teaching practice and for the learning of your students. I have been team-teaching with a grade three teacher at Brookwood School. We are working on assisting the students to develop blogging skills, using IPads and Easy Blog Jr., as a way to sharing their learning, assessment as learning, and assessment for learning. After introducing the mechanics of blogging, setting up their personal blog sites, and writing a practice entry, the students jumped into creating a blog entry with both writing and a form of media. The purpose of the blog entry was to demonstrate their learning of how the human ear functions. The task, given by the classroom teacher, was to make a model of a human ear, using items brought to the classroom. Following this, they wrote a description of the model and how the parts of the ear worked. My interactions with the children began when I assisted with adding the media. As I observed the children making their videos, or talking about their picture, it struck me that they had no idea of how a good blog entry should look. After consulting with the teacher, we came to the conclusion that they needed to learn this concept and agreed to complete a session on building criteria for a “Powerful” blog entry. This is what we did:
- First we made exemplars of weak and more powerful videos and writing posts
- We wrote a lesson plan using the “Placemat” strategy for developing criteria (in brief below)
- Discuss purpose of their blog entries
- Discuss how the quality of their entries may affect how others view or perceive their knowledge, or how it does or does not demonstrate their learning
- Discuss the meaning of criteria (activated prior knowledge from work done in previous school years)
- Described Placemat Activity that was going to be used to help us develop criteria for ALL or ANY blog entry they may make this year on their classroom blog:
- Think individually about the blog exemplars
- Write their individual ideas onto the placemat
- Share with their partners and record commonalities in centre of the placemat
- Each had a role: first person to share, recorder of ideas, reporter
- Showed blog exemplars – asked students to quietly reflect on what they thought of each exemplar and what made each strong or weak (individual reflection) then follow the procedure outlined above. Of course they were monitored and encouraged by the teachers; time limits were set etc.
- Group Sharing consisted of sharing their centre ideas with the class. These were recorded on a giant whiteboard placemat. Commonalities were put into the centre and then transferred into “Criteria” language:
Each of the criteria includes descriptors to help the children understand the components. These descriptors come from the language they used when generating their ideas.
- Reflection on how their previous posting met the criteria that was just developed.
- Next steps are to develop the “requirements” for their blog postings, such as correct punctuation, organization, clear speaking, focused media, etc.
Why all the time spent on this? Well to put it simply, 45 minutes of discussion equals 8 months of self-assessment! The payoff is already coming for both teachers and students. As teachers, we are able to look back on our teaching and see that we needed to do more to optimize this learning strategy. The students are already using the criteria to reflect on the next post entry and planning so that it best reflects their learning and becomes as “Powerful” as they can make it. The classroom teacher is so excited because this is now a powerful tool (no pun intended) that can be used right across the curriculum for any blog posting!