Language Sensei

A Language Teacher's Journey

September 16, 2017
by leesensei
1 Comment

I Believe I Might Have Flipgrid Fever – My “First-Timer” Review

Entranced by all the tweets, and with the promise of #langchat super-colleague (and Flipgridder supreme) Wendy Farabaugh‘s support, I entered the Flipgrid ‘grid’ game this week. It was an interesting learning time for me – with much hand-holding (via Twitter’s DM) by Wendy…Here’s how I did it, my reaction and frustration, and my suggestions (golly this is rather forward for a first-time user) for the Flipgrid developers…

Free Basic Grid  – No I don’t have a ‘paid’ subscription yet (I took advantage of Flipgrid’s ‘one grid free’ offer)…but I think that I might because I can see myself using this repeatedly and I’d like to have a grid for each grade level. I know that there are other ‘paid’ bonuses but right now I haven’t explored them beyond apparently going ‘paid’ so that students can record for more than 90 seconds and being able to upload rubrics to use (will they let me use descriptors and not numbers? I’ll find out I guess!)

No Student Account Creation Required – Canadian privacy laws are tough – and for many programs that ‘hold’ data – especially not having that data in Canada – I have to seek parent permission to use it. But Flipgrid requires no login – no registration – and this was a big ‘plus’ for me. I could try it without asking kids to ‘create’ an account and all the issues – at least here in Canada – that that entails.

Moderated Grid with  NO PUBLIC videos! – This was my biggest worry about using Flipgrid. Although some teachers seemed to love that ‘everybody in the class can see everyone’s video’  I have noticed that many of my students are reluctant to be ‘seen’ on video. Heck – I hate seeing myself on video so why should a student feel any differently? I am also really uncomfortable with the focus these days by kids on ‘quest for likes’ and ‘views’ and ‘clicks’ – and the popularity contest it implies. I wondered how to deal with that. So I promised my students that I would moderate the responses so that no one else would see them. I even showed them the ‘moderated’ word on the recording button so they would know. My biggest fear was that I would actually accidentally release their videos to be viewed by others. This seemed rather likely when I received a message that I had a new video and it needed to be ‘activated’. Wendy’s calm reassurance that I didn’t need to activate helped in this moment of ‘what should I do?’  Suggestion for Flipgrid  – add a ‘caveat’ here that if you are not making videos public you don’t need to ‘activate’ the video.  It’s a confusing moment when you have selected ‘moderated’ to be told to ‘activate’ without knowing what that means! Will I ever have public videos? I can see me doing this with my Yr 4’s – when I have had them, talked to them & developed the supportive atmosphere that I think this would need. Until then – moderated only.

 

Minimal Instructions! – okay I like to have written instructions – and written instructions with visuals too. I couldn’t find this easily on the site or the web.  Suggestion for Flipgrid – add a basic step by step one page text/visual instruction sheet for the rookie teacher (Flubaroo, for example has a great walk-through to do this) or that a kid can have at home – or a teacher can upload to a site. Lacking one I could crib from another source I created my own…(see right – and yes I ‘m going to have to add a ‘recorded on your phone?’ part.)

This is Going To Be Easy – Or So I Thought – It all looked so easy to me when I tested it (and really it is NOT difficult to use). I recorded a video and uploaded via my computer but noticed they could ‘upload’ one too. I thought this was for any recorded video but I was wrong which led to…. Issue One – I didn’t see that if students recorded on their phone they had to upload via the APP. Learned that one the hard way.  And then…Issue Two – How do they get to it –  is it the Link to the topic or the Code for the grid or what do you give them? I was confused.  Thank goodness #langchat amie Natalia DeLaat read my tweet & replied. I learned that the code worked best with the free app…but to make it easy I linked my topic to my website – they just had to click on the link to find the topic to respond to. As for how they recorded their response – curiously (or not?) – 95% of my kids used their computers not their mobiles for this.  Suggestion for Flipgrid – tell me which to use the code or the link…it’s confusing to see the ‘code’ for grid and the ‘link’ for the topic and not know which to give kids. Could you add a quick link “What is this” at least near the code so I know what to do?

Give A Basic Prompt – I wanted to test this out with something easy for kids to do. So as a review I asked students to tell me two things that they did on the weekend and how it went. The 90 seconds allowed under the Free Flipgrid was fine for this. I liked hearing from them and that most (even if they practiced) just ‘told’ me what they did. I liked seeing them too…it was great.

Feedback…and the BIG (soon to be solved) Asian Font problem – I was so gung-ho for this part. Until….the ‘practice’ (and I suggest the first time you use this you test it out for  yourself  – the whole process recording to sending/receiving a response). I recorded my own response and gave myself feedback. But…even though Flipgrid allowed me to type in suggestions in my TL – Japanese, when I received the feedback email the Japanese didn’t show up. I must offer my Thank You Flipgrid message here. They were very fast when contacted about this and assured me they were ‘all over it’ and should have a ‘fix’ for this in 2-3 business days. (As I write this I await…but I don’t doubt that they will – update as of Sept 27…it appears to be ‘Japanese language’ friendly now!)  Once I got rolling on the feedback it was super easy – and I am considering the paid because I’d like to give rubric based feedback too. Suggestion for Flipgrid – you have ‘recording’ capacity built into your program. Why not let me ‘record’ audio feedback (not video just audio) so the student can hear my response (like they do when I use Kaizena)?

A Quick Check on A Concept – As a teacher in Canada without access to Google Voice (yes – apparently we don’t rate that north of the border), Flipgrid offers me the ability to quickly check if a student has grasped a concept and – this is great – see them/hear them as they do it too. I am heartened that they did not hold up a paper and just read. I believe that with longer time, and more in-depth topic starters, that they will be less concerned with an ‘answer’ and responding more naturally & that’s what I want to hear. And it allows for timely feedback too.

Cautionary Technology Note – It’s 2017 and I naively assumed all kids would have (a) access to a computer with a camera & microphone or (b) a smart phone. They don’t. And I worry that I caused some embarrassment to those who didn’t want to tell me that they didn’t. My solution going forward – I will give a ‘range of days’ to complete the assignment. And I will offer up in-school options for them. I will try to do a deal with both our IT department for access to ‘recording/camera ready’ computers and a quiet place to do this. I am also going to see if my old iMacs (that I use in my classroom mainly for videos for stations days) can be used. That way all kids can access this. Another note – I had one student who tried and tried to upload. We tried the web-based Flipgrid. We tried the app. Didn’t work for her (don’t ask why) – so she just sent me the audio! Bottom line – be sensitive & adaptable!

Will I use it again? Yes. Do I think it is a useful tool for quick checks. Yes – for what I want to use it for it does.  Yes ….I believe I have the fever.

C

September 30, 2016
by leesensei
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Fine Tuning Writing = Fine Tuning Language

Source: Morguefile.comLast year one of my ‘could have been betters‘ was my work with students to improve their written output. Yes I have a rubric/feedback form I like. Yes I use descriptors and not numbers to evaluate their writing. Yes I sometimes show exemplars during a writing ‘workshop’ to assist. And Yes – you may not agree – I sometimes use a “spot the problem” handout to help review common written language ‘issues’.

But I wanted to help push and develop their awareness of what I am looking for and their written output. So this year I have tried/am trying to add onto the process.

A ‘Physical’ Portfolio: Okay – it’s a paper folder – we’re not that tech-able in my school. But we’ve started to put all of the writing they have handed in – from activities like ‘Sketch and Share‘ to more formal pieces into the paper folder portfolio. I realized that what I handed back often got buried in their binders…I want to find it easily and be able to use the information in it. And, quite honestly, the physical presence of the folders in my room reminds me that we have them too!

Going Through the Rubric & Clarifying: It’s not enough, I found, for me to talk about what I am looking for. I need to hear what they ‘think’ I am looking for and for them to realize that they ‘get’ what the goal is, or not. So we took 1/2 a class and went line by line through the rubric/feedback form. What did they think each line meant? After they had a minute to discuss I told them what it meant to me… This was a chance for them to see if their thoughts matched up with my expectations!

Using the Portfolio As a Resource: Now before we write a piece – we take out the portfolio and look at past work. What were the comments and suggestions? What were issues in the last piece?  Today my Year 3’s wrote 2 notes to themselves actually on the folder to ‘remember’ for next time.  Some wrote a ‘suggestion’ that I had given them. Others wrote down a common error they tend to make over and over again. I’m going to look on this evolving “note to self” as a resource for ongoing use. Today, in the period prior to the Yr4 Murder Mystery write – I had a student come request her folder as she wanted to look at past pieces and comments.

I believe that the focus on the writing will also produce a ‘side bonus’ – a focus on the overall language that they use. That the may, perhaps, be more aware of what to say but the options/resources they have to say things in a different, more detailed way.  There is a LONG way to go for me in this process…but it’s a start I’m pleased with!

Colleen

 

April 28, 2016
by leesensei
1 Comment

When You Ask For Their Feedback – Empowering You and Them in Class

recap self grading rubric

The ‘original’ participation tally handout

It started with good intentions. I frequently do a class ‘recap’ of a reading and I wanted to encourage my students to say more, give more during this process. I am a big believer in letting a rubric or other such tool set & guide expectations. However finding one for this purpose had eluded me. Suddenly timely posts by Carrie Toth on her independent reading yielded a class discussion participation sheet. Perfect I thought. With credit to Carrie, I took her original idea and modified it to what I wanted. By ‘what I wanted’ I mean to include descriptors of the kind of language that I expect, and know, my students are capable of producing and how they corresponded to expectations.

Admittedly I sprang this on them. They were not warned in advance of this addition to the activity and I was okay with that as I wanted to encourage spontaneous, not prepared, depth and detail. I introduced the ‘recording sheet’ and reminded them to keep track of the types of answers they were giving. I also reviewed how those answers would ‘rate’ in meeting expectations. So we started. Wow it was amazing. My students really worked to try to add in detail, depth and breadth to their answers. I was almost in tears hearing what I was hearing. Lots of props, thumbs up and smiling from me. They were fantastic. Then – perhaps I sensed something but really I’m not that tuned in – after the activity I asked them to reflect not on their work but on the success of using this type of tally to spur participation. They were sincere in their comments – I collected and read them and was ‘floored’ by some of the comments. They felt:

  • intimidated by others
  • ‘compared’ to other students
  • that they were not warned
  • confused by the process itself
  • it made them less likely to try
  • demeaned because their answers weren’t ‘as good’
recap pptn rubric modified 2016

Participation Sheet 2.0 (after student feedback)

Not good. Not what I intended and not what I value in my classroom. To quote Paolo Jennemann, “We needed to talk”! The next day I acknowledged to them what had I read. I posted on the board what my intentions were and, more importantly, were not(!) in using this tool to help them participate more. I explained that this tool was for them, to encourage them and that clearly it hadn’t done that and that I needed their help. And then I set them to the task. I wanted their own opinions on this so I chose to have them work with their partner. They were given a copy of the tally sheet from the day before and ask to ‘make it into a better tool to encourage them in this activity’. Wow – 20 minutes of talking intently, honest feedback on the form (and I mean honest!) and suggestions. They shredded the original document and provided me with ‘Participation Sheet 2.0’. The new sheet tells me so much about my classes and what they value in learning:

They believe in “I can” as a motivator – It’s been a couple of years and this crop of Yr3 started in Yr1 when I started to use ‘I can’ statements on the first page of my unit book. And apparently this is making an impact. More than one group turned the ‘statement’ of what they said into a representation of what they ‘can do’. Wow. They like the sense of accomplishment and they like to be able to articulate what they are capable of.

They want to challenge themselves/set their own expectations for how they will do – I’ve worked a lot on the pre-setting expectations both by me and having themselves set them and apparently they like to do this. The new sheet now starts with a ‘predictor’ or a setting of expectations but the student themselves.

They want to see if they meet their own expectations – They like the ability to set a bar and rise to it. I’ve never yet seen it as an excuse for just wanting to minimally meet. They like the setting of goals and several groups wanted them to not only be able to record how many items they offered a type of answer but also to be able to ‘check’ off the category as we they went along.

They want to reflect about the process after – This was my favourite. One group’s critique included a rather incredulous “What? No reflection?!!!” comment about the lack of opportunity to process the activity. So I combined this with a statement in which they get to say how well they met expectations. They know that the “That went…” starter demands both a statement about how they felt about it and, more importantly, reasons why they feel as they do.

They value when they take risks in using new items they are learning – They get that to meet expectations for a unit they are going to have to show that they can understand and use current unit items. They also realize that using new items requires them to risk. I loved this “I step out of my comfort zone…” statement one group suggested. It means that they know that they have to not be content with the ‘old’ but take what they know and layer on – expand – it with the ‘new’.

They don’t value a ‘points or expectation value’ on contributions – Many groups said  to ‘ditch’ the expectation indicators. Some said that any contribution at all was valuable and shouldn’t be discounted for a perceived value. Others said that they ‘know’ what is expected and what ‘meeting expectations’ involves so you don’t have to have it on there. And still others said that if they delivered the majority of the tupes of contributions they know they would be meeting expectations anyway. Gone.

They know that what they think/do matters – I will be presenting this updated sheet to them in the next few days. They already know that I value their choices and learning goals in the room. Now I am taking their feedback and working it into the document – and demonstrating their role/importance in the learning environment.

They have voices – and they matter. After all it’s all about their learning (not my teaching). What a process – what a powerful process.

Colleen

 

 

 

 

 

 

March 18, 2016
by leesensei
0 comments

Encouraging Risk/Rewarding Growth with “Checks And A Smile”

How do we encourage students to risk? How to we encourage them to ‘stretch’ and try something new? It’s a big challenge in the world language classroom. I have been using rubrics a lot to find out about how something went for a student, but it took until this year for me to use them to ‘prepare’ students to interact.  I realized that the rubric (and it’s construction/labels etc) is one way that we communicate class expectations. So why don’t we ask them, prior to the activity, to set up/predict/plan how they willSource: morguefile.com work to meet them?  This post focuses on interpersonal speaking but the concept may also be adapted for writing as well.

Initially I started asking students, prior to starting the activity, to select their ‘challenge’ (the ‘extra push’) – and check off (on the rubric) what they wanted to focus on doing/improving. Then I asked them to share that challenge with their partner to build in a bit of accountability. Then we moved on to the activity. It seemed to work well – they sincerely considered their ‘extra push’ in the interaction. But for me it wasn’t enough. It felt a bit focused on the ‘what I am not doing’ and not acknowledging ‘what I can already do’. Clearly, I needed a more balanced approach.

Lately I’ve been trying to acknowledge/encourage via “checks and a smile“. Prior to the activity the students select the ‘challenge/push’ for the activity – that gets the check. For my novices I generally have only 1 check, but in my upper level courses I source: openclipart.orgexpand that to 2 challenge/push areas. Then I ask them to select something that they already feel that they do well – what they are proud that they already incorporate into their interpersonal work. That gets the happy face.  I like how this combination gives a personal pat on the back for something already accomplished and still sets out something for them to reach for in their work.

When I ask students to reflect, as I always do, they are ready to tell me how they well they felt they did in meeting their checked challenge. Increasingly, with the equal focus on a strength, I see reflective comments about what they are ‘proud’ of  as well. And that is a happy face for everyone!

Colleen

 

March 9, 2016
by leesensei
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The New Feedback Rubrics – Part 2: The Interpersonal Oral Rubric

As I mentioned in my previous post, my rubric journey has been a long and winding one. In the previous post I talked about how I have developed (and continue to) my presentational writing rubric – with the goal of both providing guidance for what is expected and feedback on how a student is doing. Again – and especially for this rubric, I owe a huge debt on these to Amy Lenord who first developed the checklist idea. Stop now and go read her post first – it sets the stage for the ‘feedback’ checklist portion of the rubric.

The Interpersonal Oral Rubric:  Again this rubric is still evolving – and I continue to tweak the descriptors to fit what I am hearing and what I want my students to push 301276952-Oral-Interpersonal-With-Checklist-2015-1towards.  At Fully Meets a student is using current knowledge and tapping previously learned items. They are not giving speeches or talking in very long complex (and often memorized) sentences. Rather the detail and complexity shows itself in the what kind of information they are trying to communicate and how effectively they are doing that.  A student in this category is using follow-up questions often and effectively to dig for details and their choice of questions indicates how well they are listening to their partner. Errors can, and will occur, but a student in this category is often self-correcting – which for me is not an ‘error’ at all. The Fully Meeting student is at ease in the interaction and is an ‘equal’ – not a dominating partner. We work hard to make sure that students are comfortable when they don’t understand something in my class and so ‘facilitating’ can mean explaining a word – or helping a partner to find one – in the target language.   Minimally Meets for me is the ‘unit’ items – and at this level the student is showing me what they have mastered from the current unit but is generally not drawing heavily on past knowledge. This student is often the ‘follower’ in the conversation and they minimally meet expectations by recognizing what their partner is saying – but not necessarily generating as much as they are.  A student, for me, generally falls between Minimally and Fully – and I usually find they have items selected from one or more columns.  At this point – with selections out of several columns I often use a +/- to show where they are. For example a “Meeting+” means that you are moving out of “Meeting” and starting on your way to “Fully Meeting”. A “Fully Meeting-” would be ‘not quite there but definitely out of the “Meeting” area. I believe that the +/- also serves to encourage/show students that they are ‘on a continuum’ of skill building.

The Feedback:  Here is where the real value is for me – the quick and easy way to add extra comments to the piece. This is Amy’s checklist and fully credited to her.  It is general enough to provide a ‘guide’ for a student and has room to allow me add specific points as well.

Student Self-Evaluation First: This year I also started having the student participate in this process. For the Oral this comes prior to the evaluated interaction. We use the checklist for this in what I call “2 Checks And A Smile”. The students select two descriptors that are to be their ‘challenge’ or focus on including/improving in their conversation. These are the “Checks”. The “Smile” is a happy face put next to something that they already feel that they are doing well. It’s a reaffirmation of a skill/strength they already have.

As I wrote in the previous post, the rubric language is still not fully what I want – there are areas to improve it and make it more clear. But I like the mix of the ‘how you met’ and the ‘here’s some feedback’ that it provides.  The link to the rubric is here – and if you are inspired by it please credit myself and Amy for what you use.

Colleen

 

March 2, 2016
by leesensei
3 Comments

The “New” Feedback Rubrics – Part 1: Presentational Writing

My rubric journey has been a long and winding one. What started with rubrics modified off the French DELF program have now come a long way. Gone are the number descriptors – and now in their place – words to describe how fully meeting expectations the student work is. Also I have refined how I use the rubric. As I worked to implement more of them I realized  (in one of the ‘duh!’ moments) that the rubric is not only an effective way to communicate how a student has MET expectations but also as a way to give feedback and reinforce WHAT is key.

I owe a huge debt on these to Amy Lenord who first developed the checklist idea. Stop now and go read her post first – it sets the stage for the ‘feedback’ checklist portion of the rubrics.

Presentational Writing – The Rubric:  This is still evolving. I continue to tweak it to try to pull out what I want students to show me that they can do – and encourage them to do more. Fully Meets Expectations is my top criteria for 99% of mWriting-With-Checklist-Jan-2015-Copyy class, with “Exceeds” there for my heritage writers and the very cream of the second language crop. At Fully Meets a student is using current knowledge and tapping previously learned items. They are expressing themselves in a complex and varied style – pushing for subtlety and detail in their writing. Errors are still allowed to occur – a point that I feel encourages risk in writing.  A student who Fully Meets my expectation produces a piece that is easy to read, whose writing ‘flows’ (in a second language context) which means that transition devices and organization fully support the piece.  Minimally Meets for me is the ‘unit’ items – and at this level the student is showing me what they have mastered from the current unit but is generally not drawing heavily on past knowledge. A student, for me, generally falls between Minimally and Fully – and I usually find they have items selected from one or more columns.  At this point – with selections out of several columns I often use a +/- to show where they are. For example a “Meeting+” means that you are moving out of “Meeting” and starting on your way to “Fully Meeting”. A “Fully Meeting-” would be ‘not quite there but definitely out of the “Meeting” area. I believe that the +/- also serves to encourage/show students that they are ‘on a continuum’ of skill building.

The Feedback:  Here is where the real value is for me – the quick and easy way to add extra comments to the piece. Generally I found that I was writing the same comments over and over – and, borrowing from Amy’s idea, wondered if I could put together a written checklist. It is general enough to provide a ‘guide’ for a student and has room to allow me add specific points as well. Some of the checklist points reflect specific Japanese language items (such as ‘form’ – the difference between plain/formal forms for example) and others are more generic. I wanted to have the ‘For Future Pieces’ portion to be encouraging in nature which is why used words like ‘try’ and ‘review?’ to hopefully encourage the student to seek out assistance in these areas.

The rubric language is still not fully what I want – there are areas to improve it and make it more clear. But I like the mix of the ‘how you met’ and the ‘here’s some feedback’ that it provides.

Student Self-Evaluation First: This year I also started having the student participate in this process. At the end of the piece – be it a presentation or summative exam write – I ask the student to look at the rubric and check where they think the piece falls. I want them thinking about what I am looking for and evaluating how well they are meeting expectations. I find that most are quite aware of where there writing is and, using this style of rubric encourages growth in writing.

The link for the rubric is here if you wish – please credit based upon how much you borrow.

Next post – the Oral Interpersonal Rubric.

Colleen

 

 

 

 

January 25, 2016
by leesensei
4 Comments

Proficiency Descriptors Not Numbers – Students React To The Change

DSC_6868This is the year that I began the switch and took a new path. As I’ve written previously I am now ‘talking ability/proficiency’ and not numbers with my students. It has meant changes in how I provide feedback and also how I record in my gradebook. Most importantly – this is a switch that I know will take some time/adjusting to get right …if I ever do.

It is my custom to ask students to reflect both in the middle, and at the end of term. This year I wanted to see how this change in feedback and marking proficiency is going over with them. So I asked them – 3 classes worth (90 students in all in grades 9,10 & 11). I kept in mind that some might tell me what I want to hear but I believed that all the work we do in self-reflecting would mean that they would be honest with me about this. The question on the form was “I made a switch to ‘meeting expectations’ grading instead of ‘numbers’ in order that you understand how well you are doing. What is your feedback on this style of grading?” And the responses came…

The Negative (12% of respondents). Most of the number-preferring students were older (grade 10 or 11) and have been in this kind of grading system a long time. What is interesting to me is the belief among these students that a ‘number’ is more accurate and precise. It reflects what they see as achievement.  I noted that none of the responders who favoured numbers mentioned their ability to use the language or how this in any way showed them how proficient they were. This is a call to me to work with students to ‘bust’ the idea that a “77/100” tells you how well you can do something.

  • Personally I prefer numbers. The new system for me sometimes feels vague or misleading.
  • I feel that it isn’t precise…with numbers its easier to see why classmates did better than you on something
  • The new way is sensible but I think my Mom prefers numbers  (ah – communication with parents is going to be key!)
  • Numbers still tell me what I have to do to bring up my average
  • Numbers are a more straight forward way to visualize our ability to do things
  • Numbers are more precise and accurate and more explicitly tell me how I am doing
  • Not a fan as students are more used to numbers

The Ambivalent  (2% of respondents). There were few of these kinds of responses and came I think, as one student correctly noted, because I still have to translate the proficiency grade into a number grade anyway.

  • “I don’t think there’s much difference either way”
  • Not much of a difference but it does show what you are looking for
  • It doesn’t make a difference to me either way
  • You still translate it into percentages so there’s not a big difference

The Positive (85% of respondents). Wow – they like it, they really do.   One common reaction is that it is more accurate in showing how them how they are doing.  This means that my shift in message, and in wording ‘you will be fully meeting expectations if…’, is getting through. Others said that it was a great way to show them how they can improve which affirms that my message about ability/proficiency is clear and understandable to them.  Some cited that they found the system “less harsh and more supportive”. I take this to mean that they see that they are on a continuum of learning and that they are encouraged to continue to move forward. They know that, on a particular task/skill, they might have met ‘minimal expectations’ which means they are getting credit for what they can do – not being penalized for what they can’t. Finally many used the word ‘ability’ or the phrase ‘can do’ in their responses. Awesome – it means that my message and effort to re-frame how we measure ‘achievement’ in my classes is bearing fruit!

  • It’s more accurate about how I am doing and is way better in showing me what I need to improve
  • I like it because I wasn’t marked by numbers but the ability to do the work
  • It doesn’t pressure me to be perfect and is less ‘harsh’ when you are still learning
  • It’s great and the notes under them (checklists) tell me what I need to do for next time
  • It’s more informative
  • It’s more forgiving than numbers
  • It gives you a more gentle push towards improvement
  • It pushes a student to try harder
  • Numbers can’t express how I am doing
  • There is less comparing between students this way
  • It helps me to understand the criteria more than numbers do
  • It’s a more accurate way to describe how you are doing in a language
  • It outlines what I need to improve on
  • It encourages me to do better
  • It’s less stressful
  • It’s more forgiving for anyone who doesn’t receive high marks …lets them know they are on the right track
  • It is more accurate (than numbers) and I know what to improve on
  • It’s a more accurate reflection of what you can do
  • I like it because with numbers are you all concerned about is your letter grade
  • I love it. It is less intimidating and give you a more genuine understanding of why you are where you are

The responses, and my own feeling about making this switch, means I will continue down this path…future posts to come I’m sure!

Colleen

January 20, 2016
by leesensei
4 Comments

“How Am I Doing? I Know How!” Improving Formative Feedback

YOne of the reasons I am making a big shift from numbers to proficiency/expectation descriptors is to ensure that students don’t wait for me to tell them how they are doing – but rather that they will know and be able to articulate for themselves. With this shift comes more challenges in improving feedback and learning opportunities for students. I am by no means good at this – but, as a believer in ‘small tweaks lead to big changes’ I have been experimenting with additional ways to provide feedback. I think I’ve been really weak on this in the past….so my ‘small tweaks’ this semester included:

Pop Check-In – born out of the frustration of students being able to do things for a quiz but not 10 minutes later, and a desire to see if they are really ‘getting it’, I introduced the concept of the “Pop Check-In”. These are not announced beforehand and focus on a particular skill/structure we may be working on. As my students know – and can repeat back to me – this is a chance to see ‘what is in their heads’ now. It is not ‘for marks’ but rather is for learning and feedback for them on how well they are internalizing a concept. More here….

Rubrics With Feedback – Ah Amy Lenord – where would I be as a teacher without the amazing sharing (and challenging) that you do! I realized after reading a piece by Amy that my rubrics needed to be reinforced with some ‘great job/for next time’ comments. And Amy’s amazing post on this inspired me to make a change to my rubrics too. With attribution, I have added her checklist to my oral interpersonal rubric – fabulous and so easy to use when I am grading students. Extending beyond that I decided that my writing rubric needed it as well. This is my first draft of this and I know it will evolve but I am looking forward to using it in the future!

Completion Required – I am taking in more small pieces of writing this semester. I realized in the past that I left too much to the final summative writing piece. My twist on feedback is not to do the corrections for them but to highlight areas of weakness and ask them to work on them. They get an ‘incomplete’ in my evolving grade-book until that is done and the piece is then marked as ‘complete’. In order to be able to do the corrections I often include hints or reinforcement of the concept via a written comment, a chat with me or pointing them to one of my on-line reviews.

Reflective Responses From Me – I am very keen on collecting reflections from students especially after they self-evaluate an activity. I used to read them but this semester I added what I thought was a missing component which is my comment on that reflection. So now – especially after a summative oral that has been self-assessed (yes – I do those!) I take the time to read and respond to their comments. Then they receive that back with their ‘unit summative’ sheet and I make sure to attach it so that they see the comments that I have made. I notice that they take the time to read and note them.  I also do an ‘end of course’ reflection and take the time to write, or orally respond to each as well. They get this back at the final exam – a nice way to end I think.

Unit Summative Sheet – I usually don’t have students keep a summative writing piece but have always felt that they should retain something at the end of the unit to chart their progress. So this semester I introduced their unit summative sheet (brightly coloured so its easy to find). On it are two rubrics that I have filled out – their writing/oral pieces with checklist feedback (see above) showing how they are doing in meeting expectations. I also attach the pre-oral rubric they fill out – so that they can see how they felt about how they would do going into the oral. I am also looking to incorporate a space on that for them to include a reflection about what worked for them in learning in that unit and a place where they can articulate how they felt about their learning during that course of study (based upon a piece from the TELL project). I saw many students voluntarily take these out as we were preparing for finals to help them prepare.

Oh there’s so much more I think that I can do…but with these small steps I hope I’m moving in the right direction….

Colleen

 

June 26, 2014
by leesensei
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Developing A Reflective Classroom (End of Year Reflection Part 2)

Eating CaterpillarIn my previous post I wrote about the “choice” that I am trying to inject into my classroom. If choice is key – then it seems that I also need to make sure that what I’m doing in class, the choices I am offering etc, are effective. To that end my other stress this year was to develop a more reflective classroom. What were the key things that I found to establishing a culture of ‘reflection’ in my classes?

Consistent Expectations/Feedback – I don’t think that students can actively, or accurately, offer a reflection on how they are feeling about their learning without a solid understanding of what it is they are trying to master. To me that comes down to consistency – and two key areas are in what I expect from them and how I offer feedback.

Expectation – What I Value: I worked this year to try to align my expectations, and how I communicated them, through the use of various rubrics. I began with 3 basic rubrics taken from the DELF program, and began to alter and adjust to suit my classes needs. I removed all of the ‘numbers’ from them – that screams ‘mark’ to me – and instead tried to come up with a descriptor that might mirror my students’ language like “comfortable” or “pretty good”. I began to use an ‘activity rubric’ as well – not all the time – but enough that they might expect it to come. What’s on it is key to me for the type of learner I am trying to develop, as well as ‘how’ I hope they learn (such as  ‘not using English’ ‘working with partner to communicate’).

Expectation – Consistent Use (Reflecting Before You “Rubric”):  Another way for me to get my students thinking about their learning is to not allow them to use rubrics for an activity without ‘reflecting’ first. I wrote about this when I talked about my activity rubric but I use this strategy for almost any time that I use a rubric. The questions/leading statements that I ask them to reflect on may change but the idea that students are to ‘think before they evaluate’ does not.

Expectation – Consistent Feedback: My feedback to my students became more consistent this year as well. This isn’t about how often I offer feedback but the format that it came in – specifically for written work. I decided upon the idea of marking by ‘colour’. As my post explained, this allows students to quickly see where their challenges are, and I found that the corrections that I asked for in the writing also showed up in their oral communication. My challenge for next year is to possibly expand my colour codes to one more colour – focussing on using the correct form of the verb for specific grammatical constructions.

Pre/Mid/End of Term Formal Reflections – This is the first year that I did 3 ‘formal’ reflective exercises with my students. The information that I received and that they shared was invaluable. I’ll never not do this again!

Pre-Term: I started the year with an idea shared originally by Martina Bex.  This year my first ‘homework’ assignment was to read my class FAQ’s and complete a series of questions designed to get them thinking about class, their role as a language learner and what works for them. Several said they had never been asked before what worked for them in class – and as the emails came in I responded with 1 or 2 sentences that touched upon their information. It was a great way to establish both expectations and a relationship at that beginning of term.

Mid-Term: Just before the first report card I asked for a mid-term reflection from students. As I read each I made comments on their sheet – offering support and suggestions before handing it back to them. This was, for me, a student generated ‘report’ and a chance to further dialogue. After reading all of the “I’d like to learn more..” I made sure to speak about what I learned from them – and talk about how I would be incorporating their suggestions into second term.

End of Term: Finally, and just before finals, I asked again – the same form as the mid-term with only a change to the last question – asking them to give 2 pieces of advice to a student taking this course next. They gave great advice that I’m going to use to start my classes with in September.

The final piece that, for me, starts to build a culture of ‘reflection’ in class is mine. I cannot in good conscience ask my students to reflect on their learning journey without doing the same. My participation in the #langchat PLN and this blog are, for me, my way that I do that.MP900314068 The twitter chats force me (in 140 characters) to really see what is important to me as a teacher for any given topic. This blog is a way that I can ask key questions and, in writing a post, answer them first and foremost for myself.  And if you have not yet jumped into #langchat or blogging, I urge you to take that step!

Colleen

 

April 21, 2014
by leesensei
6 Comments

Improving Feedback for Students: Colours, Consistency, Corrections

Single Tree in a Green FieldI’ve been working to refine the way that I give feedback on written work. My efforts focus on both easily identifying a student’s issues and increasing their responsibility for their own learning. With that in mind my feedback now focuses on three things – Colours, Consistency and Corrections.

Colours as Codes: I’ve played around with various ways to identify errors or miscues in a piece of writing. Although I like the idea of ‘codes’ – they just don’t seem to be as quickly meaningful. A coded paper has to be ‘read’ to see where mistakes may be. I am a visual person and I want a quick glance at a marked paper to show a student which area requires reworking/improvement. So I’ve settled on two colours – blue and green.

Blue – You have made an error in your choice of/spelling of a word/words
Green – You have made an error in your choice of grammar to use/how you have used it

I highlight/underline the area with a problem. Sometimes I add a sample correction or suggestion if I feel its necessary. Ultimately it’s easy to tell if the student’s main issues are vocabulary or grammar related – or both!

Consistency -On-line/On Paper: I am all for student choice as to ‘how’ work is handed in. Some students are more comfortable composing on their phone, or on a computer than they are writing with a pen/pencil. No matter how a student chooses to hand a piece I want the feedback to be consistent across all of the options.

On-line: brought in to Google docs and marked up using the “Text Study Skills” add-on. I also use a copy of the rubric ‘copied’ and named for each student. At the top of the rubric is a reminder of what the colours stand for. I use header space for any additional comments. Then I use the ‘yellow’ highlighting colour to identify where the student falls on the rubric.
On Paper: I use either highlighters or coloured pens for this. In an attempt to save paper I will also try to photocopy the rubric onto the back of the submitted piece. It makes it more efficient – and no need to attach an extra page.

Corrections or Not?:  It’s my hope that students should want to know where they have gone wrong – but this isn’t necessarily the case. How to build towards that. I am shifting in how I approach this as well – looking to gradually build in a desire to know ‘where I went wrong’.

Year 1- 3: I often ask for corrections on a piece as we build toward summative assessment. The final mark (or completion mark) is not recorded until it is done. I review with a student as needed – but often they work together to find out where they have gone wrong.
Year 4: Typically students are not ‘required’ to do this kind of remedial work – and many come and ‘ask’ when they can’t see where they’ve gone wrong.

Feedback is as useful as it is easy to understand. As I work to streamline my way to give feedback I hope to make it easier for students to see where they need to improve. And, as always, corrections to this system may be needed to make it more relevant.

Colleen

 

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