Category Archives: assessment

This is the Way We Start Each Day (&#3: A Surprising “Assessment Tool”)

… & so, if you were a fly on my classroom wall you would see that this is the way we start our day in Grade 5A:

1st: Our Brain Breakfast:
First thing every day I show a “cool video” on the Smartboard.
These videos are not necessarily “curriculum related”, but they are all educational in their own way, are entertaining and most often help us to start off on the right foot!
For example, these videos may be science related
(currently, my fav. site is:, or they may be pictures of cool graffiti (,
or even articles about and clips of baby zoo animals (

2nd: What’s In Store for Us this Day:
Now that I have everyone’s attention (e.g. see Brain Breakfasts), I outline the day clearly and carefully – taking care to answer any questions and allow for processing time.
Just like their teacher, my students are better able to navigate their way through the day when “there are no surprises”.
(I even go so far as to tell them what they will be writing about in the afternoon, for example, giving them time to their process ideas (whether they realize that they are doing just that or not ;-).)

3rd Riddles & Brain Teasers :
I post a riddle and leave it up until someone is able to answer it.
(I never leave a riddle up for more than a week.)
Some good sites for this include:

Last week, for example, the riddle was:

Q: “What comes once in a minute, twice in a moment, but never in a thousand years?”
A: “The letter M.”

I originally began to post riddles in order to introduce yet an another activity that encourages “flexible thinking”.
(The truth of the matter being that riddles and brain teasers are simply good fun as well!)
What has surprised me the most however, is that this “activity” has proven to be a surprisingly informative additional assessment tool!
“Sam” for example, is usually one of he first to answer our riddles. In doing so, not only is she “shining” and having fun, but she is showing us that she is a creative, clever, flexible, playful thinker. I know beyond a doubt, that she possesses excellent reasoning abilities and is a a true risk taker.
In playing with riddles we come toegther as a class to model and practice all of the above skills as well. We always take a moment to share with others our problem solving methods and thinking processes.
We just love it!Student_clipart
How do you start your day?


Edmodo in the Grade 5 Classroom

Edmodo in the Grade 5 Classroom

Edmodo in the classroom makes good sense for so many reasons …
If you were a fly on my classroom wall you would see and hear me promoting its use for so many reasons … there are so many opportunities, so many “things” that it can bring to the classroom experience … here are just a few of them (alphabetically speaking).

Alphabetically Speaking –
From “A” to “V”

  • address/recognize different learning styles
  • alternative opportunity to communicate
  • back channel discussions
  • blog
  • book clubs
  • communication with parents
  • communities connect
  • complete assignments
  • connect with students
  • connect with other teachers
  • create book files/lists
  • create quizzes
  • differentiated instruction – create groups
  • digital backpacks
  • digital libraries
  • engagement
  • exercising personal responsibility
  • flipped classroom
  • ecourage, teach and promote the use of 21st Century skills
  • grading
  • global collaboration
  • group collaboration
  • integrate technology
  • join communities
  • learn about social media and the internet in a safe & secure environment
  • links to PPP
  • manage grades & assignments
  • mobile learning
  • parent code
  • polls
  • post daily assignments
  • post messages
  • post positive feedback to students
  • post positive feedback between students
  • post rubrics
  • project based learning
  • record field trips
  • role play : e.g. accounts for main characters in novels
  • scavenger hunts
  • see assignments
  • see grades
  • share and discuss resources
  • shares ideas
  • share videos
  • share projects
  • social networking
  • study groups
  • turn in/post assignments for viewing/grading
  • unit overviews
  • upgrade classroom communication
  • upload files
  • upload audio files
  • view lecture notes
  • view/make up missed lessons/work
  • vocabulary development
  • Note …. I also love Edmodo because:

1. It is safe & secure
2. Students don’t need an email address
3. It’s easy to use
4. It’s free

My Top Picks: Activities & Approaches that Rocked Our First Term!

My Top Picks:
Activities & Approaches that Rocked Our First Term!

Always Give Away the Ending
I start every unit in Social Studies & Science by “giving away the ending”. For example, when introducing our unit on Ancient Egypt we read a short article (or watch a video, read a picture book) all about life during that time: the roles of men, women & children, the foods they ate, where they lived, their kings & queens, religion, gods and goddesses, rituals, etc. We then discuss interesting facts (i.e. the fact that only boys were allowed to go to school) and “play with” the topic for a day or so. This introduction peaks their interest and serves as a foundation to build upon.

Choice is Choice
This year I have provided more “choice” than ever …. my students loved it … & I loved it. This approach allowed students the opportunity to build on their strengths while learning about and addressing their needs. With this apporach there is a true sense of ownership, interest, engagement and enthusiasm.
For example, upon finishing both class novels this term (The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick & The Iron Man: A Children’s Story in Five Nights is a 1968 novel written by British Poet Laureate Ted Hughes) students were provided with a “menu” of final assignments to choose from. Some excellent examples of project menus are as follows: 1. Book Projects 2. Final Novel Projects 3. 91 Ways to Respond to Literature  4. Novel: Tic Tac Toe

Project & Inquiry Based Learning
Love it(!) and I am excited to do more, more, more!
To learn more check out:

The Teach & Tell
A “Teach and Tell” requires that students teach their classmates about something that is of interest to them.  Much like “Show and Tell” this activity provides students with an opportunity to share individual areas of expertise/interest. It encourages students to make organized, engaging oral presentations, while developing effective speaking and listening skills. The Teach and Tell is also a great way to increase class interconnectedness as students learn important things about one another’s interests and skills.

Blogging Rocks!
This was the first year that I had my students blogging … & we all loved it! I used There’s nothing jazzy or fancy about this site … but it is easy to navigate and it is super secure: and that’s all that really matters to me.
The Benefits of Student Blogging include:
-Authenticity – authentic writing for authentic audiences;
-Affordability – is for example is free;
-Builds confidence as students shine, share & respond;
-Carries across the curriculum;
-Collaborative discussions as students respond to & learn from one another;
-Communication skills – writing for an audience necessitates & builds effective communication skills;
-Connections between students & classes, between home & school;
-Develops higher order thinking skills (as students write, read, reflect & respond).

Hot Penning Please
Three times a week I set our timer for 5 minutes. When I say “Go!” my students write and write and write. They write about whatever comes into their heads. They might write a story, a memory, a poem or a stream of consciousness. The “deal is” that they can’t lift their pencil from the paper! My students just love this opportunity “free write”. They tell me that “it’s fun!” and that “it feels like a game!” On occasion we go back to highlight favourite passages, sentences or ideas to use as a springboard for longer, more formal pieces.
Check out:

Strategy Driven
It’s so important for my students to learn about and play with different strategies. I want them to build on their strengths (e.g. know what works for them) and addresses their needs. I want them to understand how to listen and read for meaning,  how to answer comprehension questions, how to study smart, how to write a test, how to problem solve, etc.
For some tools of the trade check out:
Test Taking Tips:
Active Listening Skills:
Writing Strategies:
Math Problem Solving: ;

Picture Books in the Grade 5 Classroom
I love reading, exploring and sharing picture books with my Grade 5 students. I use them in all(!) subject areas: Language Arts, Math, Science, Social Studies, etc. They are quite simply a fantastic resource.

Class Meetings Building a Classroom Community
Class Meetings are just that: A time for students to sit and discuss issues that speak to them. They are student directed and teacher facilitated. The agenda is set by the group and depends on the group’s various interests, needs and concerns at any one time.

Learning Logs
Learning Logs develop metacognitive skills, guide my teaching practice, and provide yet another authentic assessment tool. Learning Logs are classroom journals. Students use them in order to keep honest and reflective records of their understanding of subject areas in the classroom (e.g. Math, Science, Social Studies, Writing Workshop, Reading, etc.).
Read more here:

Home Journals: Authentic Writing & Communication Between Home & School
Every Friday students write letters home to their parents about their week. Home Journals help to answer the age-old “dinner table question”, “What did you do at school this week?”. These journals also provide parents, students and teachers with weekly examples/snapshots of individual writing skills development.

Well, although I am sure that there are more …. these are my top picks for our First Term/2011 in Grade 5!
What are some of your “hot picks” in your classroom? I would love to know!




Students are often recommended for tutoring. By the same token I am often asked why or whether a child ought to be tutored.
More often than not the answer is quite clear from both an academic and an emotional standpoint.

…. & so, when approached by parents – & if you were a fly on my classroom wall – you would see that I often refer to the following points of consideration when recommending tutoring for a child.

I hope that you will find these benchmarks useful as well.


(A) Academic Performance:

  • Despite the child’s best efforts his/her grades continue to decline.
  • The child consistently experiences difficulty grasping concepts.
  • The child can not complete class work or homework in a reasonable period of time.
  • The child is easily distracted & / or makes excuses for incomplete work.
  • The child refuses to engage in & / or complete activities (e.g. class work, homework).

(B) Emotional: The child exhibits the following behaviours as relates to school / learning / academic performance:

  • An increasing lack of motivation & / or feelings of helplessness.
  • Unhappiness or anger with regard to school.
  • Consistent disruptive behaviours at school.
  • An ongoing frustration with school & teachers.
  • Increasingly poor self esteem – e.g. “I’m not smart.” – “I’m dumb.” –  “I’ll never be abe to do this/anything.”
  • No longer wants to go to school. Makes excuses to stay home.

(C) Recommendations:

  • Parents and teachers keep a journal and record any observations (e.g. including times & dates) that may relate to the above points of consideration. These journals often prove invaluable.
  • Parents need to be open to teacher concerns and recommendations. Teachers need to do the same.
  • Finally, parents need to trust their instincts. e.g. You know your child. When in doubt make an appointment to see your child’s teacher. Express any questions and concerns. Remember that we are all here to support and encourage your child.

Initial Reading Assessments in the Classroom

Initial Reading Assessments in the Classroom

At the beginning of ever school year we spend a great deal of time getting to know our students … as they get to know one another, as well as their teachers and new surroundings!

It’s a balance of:

a) Learning from day 1(!)
b) Ice Breakers & Getting-to-Know-You-Activities
c) Establishing Routines, Expectations & Rules

d) Organizing our space, materials, day, etc. 
e) Carrying out both Formal & Informal Assessments
f) & so much more 😉

In thinking about September I sent a “Tweet Out” the other day looking for suggestions regarding reading assessments in the classroom.
I was looking for something authentic, practical, efficient and “free”.  I was looking for something just to use as a “springboard” … to help me get me feet wet …. because as we all know assessments (both informal and formal) are ongoing and organic.

I love Twitter & was fortunate enough to have received many responses. …  So now I want to share with you what some of my Tweeter Friends have shared with me (with a special thanks to @mitcheta3477 among others)!
(I would love to see any additional resources as well!)

& .. of course, if you are a fly on my classroom wall in September you will see me carrying out several initial assessments – including reading assessments.


For Your Consideration: Reading Assessments:

>IEPs for All

>IEPs for All

Reading Sean Grainger’s February 7th blog entitled, “Personal Learning Stories” ( got me thinking about the idea of IEPs for all students …. regardless of their learning profiles.

Now, I have to admit that the first time I ever sat down to write my very first IEP (never mind one for every student in my class as required) I felt completely and totally overwhelmed … fortunately I have a wonderful mentor/supervisor who guided me through the process. Now … I actually love creating them. I mean, I’m sure that there are other things I’d rather be doing in the moment … but they are fascinating really … & Like Grainger I feel that IEPs must be viewed as organic, always changing and growing with the individual …

OK, so this in mind, Grainger raises an interesting point: In his blog he writes, “I was left wondering why writing IEP’s wouldn’t be a good idea for every student. ” After reading his blog I was left wondering the same thing … I didn’t wonder for long however …  In my opinion? IEPs for all!!!

& As I sit here (on a snow day) sipping coffee, snacking on scones & staring at a pile of book reports to assess, I am left with the following: My 2 cents:

Whether teachers are aware of it or not, every child in every class has an IEP of sorts set firmly in place … always changing and growing, but always there. These “unwritten IEPs” guide us every day … they are part of every unit and lesson that we plan, of every anecdotal record we write. They are part of every assessment process and tool that we use … of every report we type. They are part of every student-teacher conference and of every parent-teacher interview …
They are tied to our awareness of who our students are: they guide us and in turn help us to guide them … They are part of every conversation that we have with and about our students.
They exist in the thoughts that we have as we enter the classroom in the morning. They are floating around as we deliver carefully planned lessons, and  are present as we reflect upon those lessons on the drive home.
They live on in the internal dialog that takes place as we make dinner or try to fall asleep at the end of each day.

I love the idea of formalizing that which is already in place … IEPs for all!!!!

& now on to those book reports ….


>Learning Logs: Develop Metacognitive Skills, Guide Teaching, Provide Authentic Assessment

>Why I Love Learning Logs

Looking for another way to improve students’ metacognitive skills/abilities? (e.g.
Looking for another way to connect with students? For another way to reflect on/guide your teaching in the classroom? For another means of authentic assessment?

Try using Learning Logs in the classroom!

(A) What they are:
1. Learning Logs are classroom journals.
2. They are diaries of a sort. 
3. They are used by students to keep and honest and reflective record of their understanding of subject areas (e.g. Math, Science, Social Studies, Writing Workshop, Reading, etc.).
4. They are notebooks in which to record their thoughts, observations, questions and concerns.
5. They are flexible: to be used in all subject areas.
6. They are “kid friendly”: children can “write” what they know; “draw” what they know; “list” what they know; “web” what they know; “diagram” what they know; etc. Often students choose the format for their response (e.g. paragraphs, webs, lists, graphs, charts,pictures, diagrams, etc.) (When they choose the format that is most comfortable for them I get a better sense of what they do and do not understand.)

(B) The goals:
1. The goal is for students to become increasingly responsible for their own learning …. to become constructive, reflective thinkers/learners.
2. The goal is for me, as the teacher, to be “in the loop” with regard to what my students strengths and needs are, and to adjust my program accordingly!

(C) Be a fly on my classroom wall: The Latest Learning Log Entries in My Classroom
1. Explain the process of long division (… most students created diagrams … lots of numbers, words & arrows!)
2. Compare your life to the lives of children in Ancient Egypt ( … most students created a Venn Diagram …)
3. Explain the digestive system (… most students created diagrams.)
4. What test taking strategies have worked best for you so far this year? Explain your answer. (… formats varied.)

(D) Why I love them:
I love Learning Logs for all sorts of reasons.
The three main reasons I use them are as follows:
1. They encourage students to reflect upon, to think about what they know and why/how they know what they know. Heightens their metacognitive skills (see
2. They help guide my teaching. Student entries get me thinking about my practice: What is working in the classroom? What am doing right? What do I need to change about my lessons/program? What do my students understand? What concepts are they having difficulty with? Who has well developed metacognitive skills?)
3. They are another means of authentic assessment


(E) Interested in learning more?