Communicating Student Learning
It is that time of the year again. Communicating student learning is important, but can also be exhausting at times. Writing report cards, preparing for student led conferences or parent teacher conferences, and doing all the assessments for these events need to be added to the already jam packed weeks of lesson planning and instruction.
Teachers know that student assessment is important in order to direct teaching so that it helps kids where they are and provides directions for improvement. On-going assessments and formal assessments both have a purpose and are valid for checking student learning. But it is sometimes difficult to fit it all in and still feel that you are able to teach effectively.
Types of assessment and their purposes
There are a variety of assessments that can be used for determining how students are doing, but they are generally categorized as informal assessments and formal assessments.
Informal assessments: These are usually on-going and based on data collected for daily/weekly activities. The data collected is then communicated to the student and parents. This information is critical if we want to provide instruction and resources that will help students to continue to move forward in their learning. Sometimes you will hear it referred to as formative assessment.
Communicating student learning can be done with phone calls, emails, weekly or monthly journals, e-portfolios of work, or in person conversations. It is important to remember to share successes as well as areas of concern.
Formal assessments: Reporting to parents provides a snapshot of learning for a specified term. It is an overall look at how students are doing in the various subjects and in their social emotional learning. Report cards and student/parent meetings are a couple of the ways this is done.
There are a variety of different types of report cards being used now depending on the location or school district. Some schools use letter grades and percentages, some use a numerical rating, some use rubrics, and some use anecdotal formats.
Student led conferences
Student led conferences are a great way to share successes and learning with parents and still have a meeting with the teacher. I started doing these in the mid-nineties and I never looked back. If you would like to find out more about how I did them, check out this post.
Not everyone is comfortable with this format, but many who have tried it have found it to be less stressful and very positive.
If you are interested in a plan for your student led conference or a package of materials for setting it up, check out my student led conference materials resource.
I have created a learning journal for gathering up information that can be used for communicating student learning on a monthly basis. You can get a free copy by signing up for my newsletter.
I know this can be a stressful time for you, but what you are doing is important. Remember to take care of yourself too.
Thank you for all you do for the kids.
A Time To Remember
This is one of my favorite times of the year at school. It is a time to remember, focus on kindness and gratitude, and prepare for giving and sharing. With the arrival of fall, Thanksgiving is on the horizon, and Christmas is not too far behind. The summer has ended and the excitement of back to school is still in the air.
Along with all the times of thankfulness, we need to remember what sacrifices were made for some of the things we take for granted. Because of those who fought for our freedom, we are able to live a peaceful existence. Not everyone is that fortunate. As November nears, it is important to think about our veterans and remember.
November 11th is a day set aside for remembrance, but we need to remember throughout the year. This is a good time to start talking about gratitude, peace, and being kind to one another.
Preparing For November 11
In the weeks leading up to Remembrance Day or Veterans Day, there are many different activities and discussions that can be part of the school day. There are different points of focus that can be used, but I feel that the more we can help kids to connect with ways they can continue to promote peace and kindness the more likely we are to help them understand that they can make a difference.
I have always found music to be a great way to connect with kids. Here are some songs that I used in my classroom that were very meaningful and led to great discussions. They focus on peace, being special, and part of peace in the world. They also help us to remember to take time to remember those who fought for our peace.
Writing poems about peace and creating posters and drawings that show ways we can spread peace and kindness to others is something else that can be done as a lead up to November 11. These can be shared in assemblies, on bulletin boards, and in newsletters. Practicing acts of kindness and sharing moments of gratitude are also great ways to demonstrate how kids can help make peace a reality.
Resources for Remembrance
Here are some different resources that might help with preparing for Remembrance Day and Veterans Day.
For more free resources, tips, and ideas, sign up for my newsletter.
Sometimes life can be surprising
If you have been following me for a while, you will know that I am passionate about working with kids. I enjoyed teaching in small groups, doing guided reading, math, and projects for social studies and science. Teaching in French was something I didn't expect, but ended up doing as well.
How Taking Chances With French Changed My Teaching Goals
I always enjoyed the French language when studying it in high school and after I was married, we enrolled our children in French Immersion. I took some more university courses in French and started to do some volunteering in my kids' classrooms. I really enjoyed it, and I was good at it. I took a couple of summer immersion courses and started to do some substituting in primary French Immersion classrooms and in Late Immersion.
I ended up doing a long term subbing stint in a grade 1 class and I discovered that it was important to use simpler language to communicate. The verb tenses were simplified and aller and avoir became my friends when talking to younger kids. This temporary contract was followed by another one that was replacing the music teacher in a French Immersion school. Learning the specific music terms and some familiar songs was my next task, but it didn't take long.
Teaching in a second language doesn't have to be scary
I discovered through experience that teaching in French was not as scary as I once thought it would be. Teaching in a second language doesn't have to be overwhelming even if it isn't your native tongue. It can be the result of circumstances, or a desire to do so. I have been tutoring children in French for about 5 years now and I also taught French Immersion music for 9 years.
When I moved into an English primary classroom, I stopped speaking French for a few years, but about 6 years ago, I started again when my grandsons entered French Immersion. It took awhile, but slowly the tongue got used to it again. I had just retired, so I started to volunteer in his class and this helped.
The process is similar, only the language is different
What I discovered, was that the learning process was similar, it was only the language that was different. Guided reading was still the way to go for meeting the needs of the different kids and their language development. Math was still basic facts and principles with slightly different terms for the different languages. Science was still hands on and exciting to do. And so on.
I found that creating games and situations for hands on activities really helped with understanding vocabulary and concepts, so I started to create specific materials for the students I was working with. I found these activities worked so well with my French students, that I created English versions for use when I was volunteering and working with kids at my former school.
They say that when there is a need, motivation and creativity will happen. This was the case for me. Now when I look back at my resources that I have created, it is amazing to see how many French resources I have done. If someone had told me a few years ago that I would have French products in my store, I probably wouldn't have believed them. Now I look at my French materials category and there are well over 100 products listed.
You can do it. Here is some help.
If you are teaching primary grades in French Immersion or a late Immersion class or even core French these resources might work well for you. Check out my French material category to see what I have. I would love to hear what you think of them.
If there is a specific theme or type of product you are interested in, let me know in the comments. I am always looking for new ideas for creations. I wish you well as you navigate through this year and the different challenges presented by the ongoing pandemic.
Engaging Kids Up To Halloween
Happy Thanksgiving to my Canadian friends. I hope you are enjoying this weekend.
This week, we are changing gears and focusing on a day that kids love. It is almost Halloween and kids are already thinking about what costumes they will wear and different parties they might attend. It is a good time to share some activities and resources that are fun and also help to engage the kids in good learning strategies.
I have found that kids need a routine and structure even during special days in order to stay regulated when they are excited. That is why I usually take time to focus on different activities that will keep them learning, but engage them due to the theme.
Halloween activities can be started earlier in the month, or they can be kept until a day or two before Halloween depending on what you choose. For me, I usually kept more to a fall theme until near the end of the month and then added in the Halloween theme. It helped to keep the excitement level manageable. Also, it didn't stretch out the wait for the kids as much.
Literacy Ideas For Halloween
Kids often like to hear scary stories and write spooky stories or poems. This is a great time to try a scaffold for those who struggle with getting started. My kids enjoyed writing using this starter: I Was So Scared....
Literacy games and task cards can also be fun to use. They help with stretching the imagination and they can be tied into different elements or concepts that you wish to teach. I found that my silly sentences for working with parts of speech were a hit with the kids in my class and in other classes as well. I created them for English and French and found they worked well in both languages.
Math and Science Ideas For Halloween
There are many different opportunities to incorporate a Halloween theme into math. Data collection and graphing can be done for costumes, treats, characters, and a host of other categories. Practice of math facts and operations can be done with worksheets or task cards that have Halloween themed graphics or clipart.
Doing activities with pumpkins can also be fun and can combine math and science. Counting seeds, comparing designs, pumpkin shapes, cooking the pumpkin, and using it to make different recipes are just a few ideas. Pumpkin glyphs are also great to try at this time of year.
One of the things that really fascinates kids is potions. Using terms like "eye of newt", "frog toes" or "drops of blood" is sure to engage them. I remember when we would make up potions to drink and give all the ingredients fancy potion names. It was quite entertaining to watch as they saw these drinks being prepared. Really, they were just cola, grenadine, gummy worms, licorice babies, and some other gummy candies. Sometimes we would add orange juice as well. This might be fun to try with your students. You could even create a potion sheet with the "ingredients" listed.
Don't Forget Halloween Safety Tips
For younger children, a focus on safety is important too. This is a good time to talk about how to have a safe Halloween experience. They can make posters, and do some role playing or write stories that talk about what a safe Halloween should look like and sound like. Creating activities that help to discern what are safe and unsafe activities might be worth trying as well. Doing some art activities with a safety theme might be fun to do as well. Halloween can be fun for kids, but it needs to be safe.
I hope some of the ideas here help to make this Halloween fun and educational as well. Check out my Halloween category in my TeachersPayTeachers store for more resources.
Thanksgiving And Gratitude
There is always occasion to be thankful and to show gratitude, but at this time of the year, it is a main focus here in Canada. Next week is Thanksgiving and despite all that is happening around us in the world, there are many things to be thankful for. This is the time to stop and take time to remember and recognize the good things and the things that we have been blessed to have or experience. This is especially important right now for our mental health.
Of course, this may not be an easy task for many because of all the negative stuff we are bombarded with daily, but it is very important for our own mental well being and for our interactions with others.
It is hard to be positive and happy when all we hear and see each day is negative. We need to start filling up our buckets and those around us with gratitude and blessings. As we begin to focus on these things, our attitudes will change and we will be able to be more positive and productive. People will want to be around us rather than avoid us and we will ultimately fill more buckets and spread kindness around us.
One way we can begin is to review what bucket filling is and why it is important. We can also start a gratitude journal and write down a list of things that we are grateful for. Another activity that works well is a compliment sheet for others. Often we don't realize that we are helping others feel good and doing things that they appreciate. A compliment sheet allows others to share what they notice or appreciate. It is amazing to watch kids beam when they see that they have made a difference for others.
I have created some seasonal gratitude journals. You can check them out here. I am giving a free copy of the fall journal for you to try. Get your free copy now.
For most people, Thanksgiving time is a special time for family. It is a time to gather together and share a meal and just enjoy being with each other. Last year, many of us didn't have the opportunity to get together because of the pandemic. Sure, we were able to meet through video chats, but it was not the same. It really brought home how much gathering together was important when we weren't able to do so. I am hoping that we can make up for that this year and really look forward to being with everyone. I hope that you are too.
Of course, not everyone will have a happy time during the Thanksgiving weekend. We need to be aware of those who may have challenges and try to help them to have a reason to be thankful too. This might be helping out at a soup kitchen and sharing smiles and stories with others. It might be inviting someone who is all alone over to join you for dinner. Each situation will be different and the options will need to fit in with the families doing the giving and sharing, but if everyone does something to make it a happier time, we will all benefit.
The saying, "Giving is better than receiving" never was truer. There is no better time to help change the outlook for people from a negative, hopeless view to a positive and hopeful view. Together we can help make this happen.
Of course, there are also all of the typical types of activities done at school that can be included as reading, writing, or math activities to help the kids focus on the meaning of Thanksgiving. These are important learning activities, but I still feel that we need to go further than just sharing information. We need to adopt a kindness attitude. What better time to do acts of kindness than now.
Acts of kindness can be very simple and free. Sometimes people think they need to spend money to give to others. A smile, helping hand, visit, or phone call can also help to make someone's day better. We can help in so many ways if we just stop and think about others and how we can make their day a little brighter. If we do acts of kindness for others, we will set the example for our students, and our own families.
I believe that an attitude of gratitude and thanks will make the world a better place. If we are grateful for what we have, we will have a positive outlook on life. We will be able to share this with others and fill our buckets and theirs too. It truly is important for good mental health.
Don't forget to grab your free copy of the fall gratitude journal here.
For free resources, tips, and ideas, sign up for my newsletter.
About Me Charlene Sequeira
I am a wife, mother of 4, grandmother of 9, and a retired primary and music teacher. I love working with kids and continue to volunteer at school and teach ukulele.