Thursday, 8 October 2015

New Term, New(ish) Ideas

With one term to go before summer holidays, I have 9.5weeks to give my all to 30 small people.

However, we have only 4 weeks until they are tested using Benchmarked/Standardised tests.

I don't see this testing as a bad thing - it certainly isn't fun for a 7 or 8 year old to have to sit still and quiet for 30minutes when they are used to collaborative, interactive learning, but the data gained from independent standardised tests is a very useful triangulation point for ascertaining an accurate OTJ.

Alongside the intricate knowledge we hold about our learners on a daily basis, hard data can play an important role in solidifying or challenging your thoughts around how a student is achieving. It can also play a role in reminding you how far a student has come.

In February our year 3 students were tested using STAR, PAT Maths, PM Reading Benchmark, GLoSS and E-Asttle Writing.  Throughout the year I have conducted further PM Benchmarks and GLoSS Tests as well as informal E-Asttle Writing assessments. This data collection triangulated with observations of scaffolded and independent in class activities, means that I can keep on top of OTJ throughout the year and tailor learning more accurately to the students.

At the end of term 3 I used PM Benchmark tests to work out where accelerated progress had been made in reading and if I could discover any patterns in results that would help the kids for term 4.

Anecdotally, I could establish that all children were making great progress. They were enjoying reading, becoming more critical around their thinking, working creatively and mastering some of those crazy nuances of the English language. Through the testing I was able to work out gaps, strengths and areas of progress.

To the end of term 3 I set the benchmark for achievement at 0.8years. So any improvement above the benchmark of 0.8years would indicate accelerated progress.
Of the 4 children who have made "minimal" benchmark progress, only one is of concern.  
The other 3 have made progress not made before in their 2years of schooling. They have progressed in Key Competencies, in enjoyment of reading and in the ability to employ some strategies to decoding. Not to mention, they have quadrupled their sight word knowledge. Unfortunately National Standards won't show that progress, but a conversation with whanau and visible learning through blogs and GAFE can share the successes clearly.

As for writing, "My Boys" began the year with an absolute aversion to independently writing their own ideas. They enjoyed copying over a teacher's writing, they enjoyed sharing ideas, they also enjoyed recording ideas orally. Crafting a sentence either written or oral, was something they avoided at all costs. 

After 3 terms of building confidence around writing, writing about contexts the boys chose, as well as slowly, slowly removing the scaffolds they have enjoyed - we now have 4 boys who are successful in writing about their experiences and on occasion choose to write. Not just choose to write, but choose to write when they could be playing with Lego, cars or yo-yos. 

Term 4, I will remove the next scaffold of listening to complete sentences before recording their own. The plan is to have recorded generic sentence starters available to recount personal and shared experiences. The expectation is that the boys will write a complete complex sentence, illustrate it and post it on their blog at each writing session.

After the first week of term, we will reflect together as a group on what story starters they've enjoyed using and what they may like to use the following week. We will also talk about the sorts of experiences they may like to write about.

By offering more openness, it leaves the boys room to interpret the motivation or experience as they wish and to take more risks with vocabulary and sentence structure.

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