Year 2 of primary

It’s been my second year of second grade and even though I entered the grade with some reservations it has been two of my best years of teaching.
Being in primary has taught me three things: 1) Inquiry learning is amazing; 2) really look at the curriculum when planning and 3) kids are amazing.
INQUIRY LEARNING
As I said above inquiry is amazing. When students are given the autonomy to learn the possibilities are endless. Now I am not promoting that kids are off on their own doing whatever they feel like but that the teacher is always there guiding and asking questions. The teacher has a plan in mind and has mapped out how the standards all fit together.  The students are exploring and learning about the concepts.
When students have an opportunity to learn they gain so much more knowledge then if they were just told. Now this does take time but when you look at the curriculum there is that time. Primary is the time to explore, investigate, practise theories and interjections.
Inquiry also builds self confidence, research skills, critical thinking and inferencing skills. Students have to use all faculties to make judgements about what they are learning. It is also about the community and the learning that is happening around them.
LOOK CLOSELY AT THE CURRICULUM
Before coming down to primary I taught junior (4,5) for a very long time. I often thought what is being taught in the primary grades, why do these grades seem so high but I wasn’t looking at the expectations close enough.
When I came to primary I had to examine the curriculum very carefully because I had no idea of what to expect. I was shocked at how little was expected of them. It made me realize how primary students were receiving an A but then in junior dropping to B and Cs. There is a huge jump in learning expectations in junior that is not found in primary (possibly another post). However the point is no matter what grade you teach one has to look carefully at the expectations that is expected of them. Map out the learning, map out the questions and the trajectory of those expectations and see where it goes. Remember that expectations are by the end of the year so we have to keep revisiting them.
KIDS ARE AMAZING
We as educators cannot forget this important fact in our profession. If we think that they can’t do something then they will never be able to do it. Kids are amazing and will continue to surprise you at ever turn. I had to stop myself a lot this year from saying they’re too young or they won’t get it. They might not but more often then not they did. Kids are amazing.
These are just 3 of the most important things that I learned this year. What are yours?

No grades no problems

I had to laugh a little when I heard the news this morning on my way to work, “there may be no formal report card for public elementary students this year!”

“Oh, no! The world is coming to an end.”  I don’t mean to make fun of anyone who feels this way but at the same time it feels a little “sky is falling mentaility.”

For me the final report card is a labour – some task that many only see the letter grades and not the helpful comments that go with it. They are often a cause for smiles on kids faces as they beam with pride or hidden because the child doesn’t want to disappoint or face the eye of failure.

However, I want you to think about a couple of things:

1) should the final report be the first time you hear success or failure? 

       If not then how important is this report card? Why is it so honoured the without it the world is done?

2) are your elementary marks or any grades for that matter, tell how successful you will be in the future?

     Don’t get me wrong they are good indicators but are they everything?

     If no then again why are they so important?

Is it an accountability piece? If so then I can give you every mark and note I have ever done on any student at any time. Why because that is my job as a teacher.

For me assessment is about learning and  learning is not shown in a final letter grade but in growth and reflection. I can’t speak for every classroom in Ontario but in my classroom, all students have access to the class coconstructed rubrics, success criteria and their own reflections. We are always talking about their performance and they all know what their strengths, and weaknesses are. All assignments come with formative feedback based on our rubrics the have comments on how they did and what they can do better next time.  We have constant conferences with parents and students and all work is posted in their portfolios.

Kids have private class YouTube channel that they vlogg, blog and tape their thinking.  Assessment is truly an open door policy.

So in closing I ask you two more questions:

What is more important, a formal document with my EDU speak and grades or a child telling you how they are doing and what they can do next to improve?

                          Or   

What is more important a document that comes to you three times a year or ongoing formative refections and assessment that comes every assignment?

For me it’s the ladder of the two and why I find the discussion of no report cards quite hilarious we need to relax and ask our children or their teacher.

If you ever want to know how they are doing, just ask.

Love to hear your thoughts.