Saturday, December 11, 2010

Co-Planning, Co-Teaching and Co-Assessing

Today I spent quite a large part of my morning and afternoon in a Grade 3 classwork working on co-assessing the students' summative assessment for their How the World Works unit of inquiry.  The central idea of this unit is that natural and man-made processes create changes to the Earth and its inhabitants.

I have loved teaching this unit, as I truly feel we have managed to get a fantastic partnership going between myself and the Grade 3 teachers.  Every week I attend their planning sessions and we work out what we are going to do.  The librarian and I have worked with these classes on research skills, using Britannica Online as well as Google Custom Search where we identified key words.  The teachers themselves chose which inquiry they wanted to model for their students (some chose plate tectonics, others volcanoes) and the tool that they eventually wanted the students to use for their assessment (different classes chose different tools).  For most of the classes I introduced that tool to the students, using the content selected by the teachers - though one of the classes decided to use Prezi and watched the introductory movie and taught themselves how to use it.  The teachers made sheets where the students could record the questions they wanted to inquire into, and the results of these inquiries, then they came to the IT lab and used the research skills we had already covered to search for the answers.  Then the students used the tool that they had already practiced for their summative assessment - their inquiries were very varied - from forest fires, cyclones and earthquakes through to the implications of deforestation and global warming.  I worked with students who were having trouble using the tool, the class teacher worked with students who were having trouble finding the answers to their questions.

The assessment took place today.  Some of the students wanted to present to their whole class, others chose to present to small groups.  I was part of the audience and being a geography specialist I was excited to be part of this and to assess the students' understanding and knowledge.  The class teacher assessed the inquiry process the students had gone through - how much support they had needed and whether they were able to generate questions and find information independently or whether or not they needed a lot of support - and two students in the class assessed each student on his or her presentation skills - did they speak at a good pace, did they look at the audience and did they speak loudly enough.  All these 3 assessments were marked on the same rubric.

I love the way that the peer assessment is actually a formative assessment that will guide the teacher in the next unit of inquiry - How We Express Ourselves - as the students will need to work on their presentation skills throughout this unit.  In this unit the students will be looking at how we express our thoughts and feelings through poetry and song.  Our planning for this upcoming unit has included setting up a blog for students to respond to poetry (this blog will be moderated each week on a rotation basis by each teacher), and we have also planned to use Garage Band to compose music (which will involve us skyping with a high school music teacher for some expert advice on how to use ostinato, riffs and poly-rhythms - I have no idea what these are but I'm curious to find out), to write and display poetry using Pages, make artwork and then read our poems about the art using VoiceThread, use Animoto to publish our poems and skype with the poet Ken Nesbitt.  No doubt we'll be doing quite a bit of co-assessing at the end of this unit too.

For some of the Grade 3 teachers this has been a very new experience - however they have jumped in with both feet and have learnt so much as a result.  I have learnt a lot from this too - and it has reinforced my belief that co-planning, co-teaching and co-assessing are the only way we can truly use technology to transform learning.

Photo Credit:  eLearning by Donald Clark

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