Thanksgiving is a beautiful holiday, right?
A time to reflect on the joys of family, friends and football! We gather, we eat, and we count down the minutes until we can line up outside the local mall to claim our chance to grab a $6 alarm clock or a top-of the line juicer/slicer combo for 80 percent off! Throw in a chance to win ONE MILLION DOLLARS, and we’ll even consider camping out for the better part of a long holiday weekend.
Given that ’tis the season for giveaways, I figured Radical Nation deserved a few freebies, too. So I pulled together a few of my favorite student-involved assessment activities for you. Check ’em out below and take ’em with you if you want. No camping out required:
Revise It Once/Revise It Again activities remind students that making progress on any task is possible by highlighting samples of responses to classroom tasks that have been progressively improved through revision. Students start by studying each sample and identifying specific changes made from version to version. Then, students summarize the ways that each revision improved the final product. Finally, students are asked to spot opportunities in their own work for making similar improvements to their original attempts.
The key to developing successful Revise It Once/Revise It Again activities is to make sure that the samples shared focus attention on one or two tangible steps that students can take to improve their final products. For example, the revisions in the Revise It Once/Revise It Again activity linked above are all centered on incorporating statistics and scientific vocabulary into reflection statements for a student lab report. By focusing attention on one or two tangible steps that students can take in Revise It Once/Revise It Again activities, you are more likely to encourage students to actually use the lessons learned from comparing their work against examples of accomplished performance – an essential element of effective feedback.
High/Low Comparison tasks present students with a handful of essential criteria for a successful performance on a task that they are required to complete. Those criteria are written in approachable language and short phrases. More importantly, those criteria are always based on core characteristics that can actually be observed in final products. Vague descriptors like “Piece is well written and includes elaboration” are replaced with more specific descriptions of success like “Quotes from experts are used to elaborate key points in each paragraph.”
Then, High/Low Comparison tasks present students with two exemplars of authentic work. One exemplar models a high level of student mastery while the other models a low level of student mastery. Working alone, students use a feedback grid (Wiliam, 2002) to record the success criteria that can be found in both exemplars, determine which exemplar represents accomplished performance and compare their own work to the exemplars shared. Finally, High/Low Comparison tasks give students opportunities to compare their ratings with ratings given by peers, looking specifically for points of agreement and/or disagreement. In short, side-by-side conversations, partners defend their ratings by referring back to evidence spotted in the exemplars being examined.
If the first fundamental rule of feedback is that it should be more work for the recipient than the donor — one of my favorite Dylan Wiliam arguments — then our primary goal as teachers should be to create opportunities for students to spot trends and patterns in their own mistakes. The most meaningful feedback isn’t something that is given. It is something that is discovered by individuals trying to improve their own performance. That’s the purpose of Unit Analysis Forms in my classroom.
Given out as we review tests taken in class, Unit Analysis Forms ask students to determine the objectives from an individual unit that they have — or have not — mastered. Then, students are asked to figure out if their struggles are a result of conceptual misunderstandings or simple mistakes. Finally, students are asked to reflect on and write about the patterns that they can spot in their test performance. Instead of simply grading a paper and handing it back, kids are forced to really think about what those scores mean about their progress as a learner.
Of course, every one of these tasks are based around the sixth grade science curriculum that I am responsible for teaching. That means if you are a high school math teacher or a grade 3 teacher, you’re going to have to adapt these templates so that they reflect YOUR curriculum and YOUR tasks.
But know that they reflect best practice in providing feedback because they cause students to think — and thinking about feedback is WAY more important than simply receiving it.
Happy Thanksgiving, y’all!
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