Monday, June 17, 2013

Grade 1's are capable...

As a Grade 1 teacher at St. Gabriel School, I was inspired by Rola's ability to involve her students in curriculum based inquiry. I wanted to learn more about student ownership of expectations, and  how I could gather valid and reliable evidence of student learning. I wanted to know how this process would unfold in a Grade 1 classroom that was also trying to bridge the gap between full day kindergarten by incorporating play based learning activities.

My goals were to develop a better understanding of assessment and evaluation in the primary classroom by involving the students in planning the learning goals and success criteria.  I also wanted to begin collecting more reliable evidence of my students' learning, and establish methods to assess on a daily basis. I decided to begin with our math unit in Geometry, with a specific focus on two-dimensional shapes and three-dimensional figures.

Unpacking The Curriculum in Grade 1:
We began by learning about the curriculum documents and why teachers use them. The Big Ideas for Geometry were shared with the students and "dissected" to examine what they really mean, using more familiar and comfortable Grade 1 language.

The dissected expectations easily became our learning goals and success criteria.

In hopes the students would take ownership of their learning and be motivated and excited about the learning activities, I provided them with the opportunity to assist in the development of play/learning centers. I showed the students what materials we had that could help us learn about shapes (i.e.: Play-Doh, geoboards, pattern blocks, building blocks, books). The students were invited to bring their own materials from home as well.  Using the materials and keeping the learning goals in mind, we decided together what activities could be done at the different centers (i.e.: using pictures from books and magazines to help us build structures using 3-D shapes).

Co-constructed learning goals and success criteria allowed students to identify their learning and also made the assessment and evaluation transparent. The students knew how to demonstrate  they were learning. Students also decided when they were both ready to be evaluated by putting their names in the assessment bubbles. They also decided how they would demonstrate their learning (i.e.: during a center activity or through and conference with the teacher).

Ideas for each learning center were co-constructed with the students. Using the activities, materials and learning goals, the students and I worked together to create success criteria in the form of  'I can' statements. This not only helped to motivate the students, but also helped them stay on task and do their best - holding them accountable for their learning.

Students assisted in the creation of vocabulary charts, helping them to use geometric 
vocabulary in their dialogue.

Mind maps were created with the students throughout the unit to document the learning process. Students added something new to the map each day, helping them to identify their learning.

Learning centers like this building block center allowed the students to collaborate, and communicate using math vocabulary, to build structures that matched with the pictures provided.

The Play-Doh center was a perfect activity for the students to create products through play. They decided on the success criteria and informed me when they were ready to display their knowledge and communicate their thinking.


My Grade 1 students enjoyed co-constructing learning centers using ideas, activities and materials they were familiar with and genuinely interested in. The students took pride in co-constructing the success criteria, allowing them to recognize that they were "playing" in the learning centers to help learn concepts. The learning centers provided multiple opportunities to assess students and gather a triangulation of data - reliable evidence of student learning based on products, observations and conversation. Most students easily conversed with me about their learning while they played at the centers. They were engaged, motivated and using their hands and imagination to inquire about the concepts we determined were important from the curriculum. Natural and genuine conversations between peers about the concepts occured easily at centers that required students to collaborate with eachother (i.e.: the building block center and the pattern blocks center). Assessment and evaluation was natural and on-going due to the nature of the centers. Similarly, feedback was natural due to the genuine conversation and questions about products and obseravtions. The learning centers also provided opportunity to evaluate those students who were ready, and assess those students who were still building their knowledge. The nature of the learning centers provided opportunity for inquiry based learning, and allowed me to assess and evaluate all categories of the achievement chart using student products, observations and conversations.

When students are given the opportunity to participate in the planning, and when assessment and evaluation is made transparent by co-constructing learning goals and success criteria, students are more likely to be engaged in the learning tasks, and motivated to experience success. Furthermore, co-constructed learning centers allow teachers to collect a triangulation of evidence using examples of students products, conversations and observations.

Lisa Blue Grade 1 St. Gabriel @mslblue