This Week’s Visible Learning

I have had the good fortune of getting into multiple schools in the last few weeks and here are some of the great things I have seen:

The writing process was displayed in this classroom and I watched students move their names as they learned their way through their writing task.

This student was excited to share his patterns on the light table in Kindergarten. It was so nice to see him try more and more complex patterns all on his own!

These students frequently have Mystery Readers in their classroom and this display documents these visits, which are clearly an important part of classroom experiences.

This photos shows a group of grade seven students taking part in their Social Media Cafe. Ambient lighting, soft furnishings, food and technology are all essential components of the day, as students explore the concepts of digital footprints, digital citizenship, cyber bullying and social media.

These students were engaging in word work, in flexible groupings. The process was the same for all groups but the word lists varied. On this day, they were looking for patterns in words.

This class was goal setting on their Twitter board outside their classroom. I noticed that their goals were very specific to criteria within learning outcomes, which was exciting to see.

This class was engaged in the Daily 5 organization structure and the Cafe for learning strategies. It was especially nice to see student writing on this anchor display.

Assessment, inferences and making learning visible

What if we thought about assessment as the act of making an inference? What if we imagined that the learning we see in school is not all the learning that happens inside a student’s head? What if we thought about school as a place where we could structure experiences so students have the potential for learning above and beyond the learning they might do through living, playing and simply existing? What if we embraced the idea that capturing continuous acts of learning in all their complexity and diversity would make us better able to infer a student’s level of understanding? How can we make learning visible and then how can we turn this visible learning into a recursive dialogue that becomes the catalyst for future learning? These are some of the things I am thinking about today.

Imagine a suitcase. Imagine it is not your suitcase; it is, in fact, a suitcase belonging to someone you don’t know. Imagine opening this suitcase and taking out a single item – a bird-watching book. What might you think about the owner of the suitcase, based on this single item? Likes birds? Is planning on watching birds? Now, remove another item – a wide-brimmed hat. What now? Maybe the person is going bird-watching in a warm climate. Maybe they are fair and the sun bothers them. Maybe this person is a female? A third item – a map of Costa Rica. Now you are piecing together a story – this person is travelling to Costa Rica to go bird-watching and they are bringing the hat to protect them from the sun. You are making inferences based on artifacts in the suitcase. The more artifacts, the more robust your story becomes.

This act of piecing together a story, based on artifacts is the exact same inferring process we use when assessing students. We collect samples – papers, posters, oral presentations, problems, observations, and we use them to put together a story of student learning. The more samples, the more robust our inference about understanding. Sometimes we get it wrong – maybe the owner of the hat was a man. Maybe they borrowed the book for a friend and they don’t enjoy bird-watching. Similarly, maybe the student doesn’t understand a concept as well as we thought. Or maybe they understand it better. This is where we might need to accept that assessment facilitates making an inference but it isn’t fool-proof. This is why we might need to collect more evidence; change our opinion; replace old evidence with new.

Added to this idea of assessment as making an inference, is the notion that this metaphor should be more complex – someone is always adding to the suitcase as we unpack it. It continues to change and shift over time, just as learning continues over time. The contents of the suitcase today will not be the contents tomorrow. Learning today will not be learning tomorrow. So, we have to keep checking.

I think the whole act of making an inference gets easier when we also imagine that looking at the artifacts could go hand-in-hand with dialogue. Assessment doesn’t need to be one-way communication (take in the test and try to figure out what the student knows.) We need to feel comfortable asking questions. We need to embrace the idea that learning should be a conversation that continues all the time; in fact, it is through this conversation that learning continues to happen. Coming to know the owner of that suitcase is much easier when we can ask questions of the owner (Do you like bird-watching? Are you going somewhere hot?) And asking those questions is much easier when we have the samples/ artifacts right in front of us (What did you mean by this? How can you expand your thinking a little on this point? Where could you go to support your ideas further?) It is this conversation that is the crux of what we do in schools. Through conversations about learning, we know how to adjust, enhance and correct learning experiences so they take learning further.

It is essential for both teachers and students to capture learning as it unfolds. Portfolios, photographs, videos, reflections, observations, work samples, and rough drafts, are all ways of capturing learning and making it visible to both the teacher and the students. Settling for the single, final product is like accepting the bird-watching book as the entire story of the suitcase owner. It simply isn’t enough if we are going to make strong inferences about student learning.

It would be arrogant for anyone to believe they fully know what is inside another person’s head. And yet, teachers are tasked with measuring understanding and reporting it accurately. They also have to take the information they gather and adjust their instruction accordingly. Given these realities, making thinking visible is essential for teachers if they are to be effective assessors and facilitators of learning. Thinking about assessment as the act of making an inference helps us to think about how we can do this as effectively as possible. Because if we are going to return the suitcase to the correct owner, we had better figure out who the owner really is.


Four surefire ways to improve learning

School is one big experiment of stimulus-response. We try things and measure the impact; try new things and measure the impact…until we get results that show learning. Many times, it seems like there are so many ingredients to consider, it can be overwhelming. I have been thinking about all the literature I have been reading, all the discussions within my PLN, all of my experiences inside schools and all the things I see and hear when working with adult learners. I have been wondering which things are the most powerful for learning; if I could distill it down to a few things, what would they be? I know what the literature says (See Hattie and Marzano’s work as examples – links below) but what have I seen? I think if we try these four things, we will see immediate growth:

  • Share criteria for successful learning with students – You can call this learning targets, outcomes, standards, rubrics…whichever, but the point is that every time you start a class or learning experience, be explicit about where you are going and how it will look, both as you travel and when you arrive at the destination. Share the criteria each and every time. Even better, co-construct it with students. No surprises, no fuzziness. Even if you are engaging in inquiry and the destination is a little looser, share the criteria for strong inquiry (the process).
  • Structure in daily feedback – Whether it is the students or you giving feedback, plan to do it every day for every student. If face-to-face isn’t an option, do it digitally, do it with peers, or ask for guests to offer feedback. If students can’t think about their thinking and their process, they can’t change it if it isn’t working. Also, consider that feedback isn’t advice or correction. Feedback focuses on those criteria in point number one and it invites further thinking and problem-solving. The most effective feedback can often be in the form of questions: Did this presentation have the impact you hoped it would? How can this paragraph more clearly reflect your thoughts? Why is this part unclear? How did you solve that problem? Did anything give you difficulty and what did you do? 
  • Equip students with the learning strategies they need to experience successful learning – I have blogged many times about learning strategies and how they are different from instructional strategies. I prefer the term “Habits of Mind.” Without explicit teaching and then practice in applying these strategies, students cannot grow. There is a difference in the mental processes of students experiencing success and those experiencing challenge. We have to build the repertoire of processes for all students so the processes can become independent habits. Things like activating prior knowledge, asking questions, organizing thoughts, conferring with others, identifying the main idea, and so on, are many of the reasons why communication works well for some and not for others. We cannot assume students know how to approach tasks, assessments and learning experiences. We have to help them get there. Looking at each learning experience critically and identifying all the places where challenge could be experienced helps us anticipate and prepare for support.
  • Make reflection part of everyone’s day – As I stated in my introduction, school is like a giant experiment. We DO things all the time in school, but if we don’t stop to consider the impact or results, we can often continue to repeat ineffective practices. Observation is key to experimentation; without it, we cannot make strong conclusions. So, as educators, we have to stop and observe. We can heighten the impact of this by involving students in this part of the learning cycle. They need to reflect daily, too. It is an unhealthy system that depends on one person to decide whether learning is rich for all people. Students should be able to discuss their progress as clearly as teachers. Of course, this point is tied directly to my points about criteria and feedback. They are all connected and all essential. They also all require a paradigm of continuous growth and reflection as opposed to an activity-assess-activity-assess model, where this is not often built in.

In the end, I think all of these speak to the idea that learning must start and end with students. They tell us how to teach and how to re-teach. They tell us what topics to focus on and the ways to do it to increase engagement. They tell us when we are going too fast and when we are going too slow. They tell us when they need support and when they need extra challenge. We just have to be willing to listen and watch.

Hattie’s article (2003): and http://www.

Marzano’s article (2001):

Click to access marzanos%209%20strategies.pdf



Working through the logistics of re-demonstration of learning

Our school division has been working through the practicalities associated with our philosophical beliefs about learning and how we assess it for well over six years. We have an assessment handbook, we have held multiple learning sessions for all teachers, we have a common grade book and reporting system in all grades, and we revisit this topic often through multiple contexts. The belief that all students can learn, that learning is continuous and that assessment of/for learning guides all future learning are the basis of our stated philosophical beliefs. We believe that students should demonstrate their learning often while receiving frequent feedback and should be encouraged to learn from their mistakes.

However, when this philosophical belief met up with actual experiences inside classrooms, we saw a need for some clarification about the term re-demonstration and the implications for teachers and students. The term “re-demonstration” had been interpreted multiple ways and in some schools, it was viewed as a “given” after every summative event while in other schools, it rarely occurred, which created challenges for both the teachers and students. Most schools were somewhere in the middle.

To reconsider this idea, we had to clarify that learning begins with outcomes and an authentic learning experience followed with multiple opportunities for formative assessment and feedback. Explicit instruction, practice, revisiting criteria, assessing and reflecting on our learning and “re-demonstrating” are all parts of the learning cycle. It is only when teachers feel quite certain that students are ready to “show what they know” that a summative assessment event should occur. At many grade levels, there aren’t even formal summative assessment events. Instead, teachers observe students, honour the learning cycle and when they are sure a student has reached an outcome, they document that event and move on. However, as students get older, there tends to be an increasing number of summative events.We encouraged teachers to consider which assessments should be summative (reflective of large portions of an outcome) and which should be formative. When we ensure that students engage in learning strategies and receive timely and specific feedback, there will be less need for re-demonstration.

Further to this, we saw a need to explore ways to engage students through an authentic purpose for learning. For example, if students know they will be sending a persuasive letter to a musician they respect, they will be more likely to engage in the learning cycle and ensure their product is strong. Further to this, in this instance, there is no re-demonstration; once the letter is sent, it is sent. But before this happens, we will have worked very hard to ensure that what was sent was strong writing.

In instances when students are not ready to summatively demonstrate (and we will know this from our formative assessments), we may choose to wait until they are ready or we may take the summative snapshot but allow re-demonstration after further engagement in the learning cycle. This practice should be encouraged and these decisions will be supported by formative evidence, observations and through feedback with both students and parents when appropriate.

A second example of when re-demonstration may occur is when the summative assessment event shows results that are vastly different from previous formative results and observations. In these instances, the teacher has conflicting data and may need to seek out further evidence of learning. It is helpful to consider that a teacher has a responsibility to help learning and collect evidence of this learning as it progresses over time. Formative assessment doesn’t “count” (in terms of number calculation) but they do help both teachers and students understand where the learning is and where it needs to go. This is all part of making strong assessment and instructional decisions. At the end of the day, a teacher has the responsibility of making a professional judgement about how students are doing on each outcome. The whole picture is important, as is the most recent evidence. Both need to be considered when making reporting decisions.

The term “re-demonstration” is perhaps better clarified by referring to it as continuous learning. If that isn’t happening, then re-demonstration is not working for either the teachers or the students. Continually revisiting the purpose of schools is helpful when navigating the practicalities of everyday life inside classrooms.


Me, today: A reflection

A new year has begun and it is one day before my 44th birthday, so it seems like a good time to take stock. This post is self-reflective and will be most informative and helpful to me unless it sparks self-reflection in others. Nevertheless, it is essential to step back every once in a while and look at myself from a wider lens. With that in mind, here is what I have learned up to this point (or think I have learned because, as we know, learning is fragile):

1) I still love my job, even though I would be hard-pressed to capture a description of said-job in a single paragraph. I help teachers help students. I help superintendents make plans real. I help locate and develop resources for learning. I…help. Like my father before me, I am a servant leader. But what really gets me fired up is the perfect combination of creativity and problem-solving mixed in with emotion and commitment. I like thinking. And I get to that every day. What a gift and how fortunate that I stumbled on this job when I was never even aware it could exist twenty years ago. Sometimes stress gets me down. Sometimes politics are overwhelming. But what keeps me here is the joy I get from thinking and the freedom to do it.

2) I think kids are the bees knees. Really and truly. I teach art classes every week even when I don’t think I have the energy because time with children fills my cup instead of emptying it. It has always been like this. It keeps me grounded and makes my heart soar at the same time. I don’t know why this is the case but the further I get in my career, the more it is so. Children are fun. Children are potential. Children are both strong and vulnerable. I am very aware of how lucky I am to have found a career that I enjoy so much. I serve children by making decisions each day to benefit them. This is my purpose and I am happy with that.

3) I continue to work on balance but I am getting better at recognizing when I am heading away from it. I, like many people, occasionally find my life controlling me instead of me controlling my life. Of course, decisions I make always impact these results but sometimes I feel like it is too late to regain control. I think this may be a reality of who I am. It is comes hand-in-hand with passion. Sometimes my love and commitment of something causes me to over-extend. Nevertheless, I can now pick up the clues that tell me I am headed for imbalance. I can speak it aloud and pull back in time…most of the time. I also recognize that my body will force me to notice if my brain doesn’t (illness, fatigue).

4) I am collaborative. I need to think with others. When I can’t, I am less effective, less productive and less creative. I also realize that some people do not share my vision and desire for collaboration, or they do, but I am not someone with whom they choose to collaborate. This is difficult for me.

5) I am sensitive. This means I am skilled at “reading a crowd” but I also over-analyze and take too much responsibility for the feelings of others. I let things get to me. I feel bad for longer than is healthy. I can get caught in a downward spiral and I have to work really hard at letting things go. Usually, I have to tell myself to let it go two or three times before I do. I continue to work on this one.

6) I am impatient. I want things to get better NOW. Luckily, I have others who remind me that the world cannot and should not move at the pace I want it to. Slowing down is a personal goal and tied to this is my continued goal of listening and letting others think. When I do, good things happen.

There we have it – my strengths and challenges in six easy points. Luckily, I have colleagues who share my vision but think differently from me and so push me, contain me and question me; a family who loves and supports me; and opportunities to change, reflect and grow. I know how fortunate I am and I resolve to take care of myself so I can continue to serve others. 2014 and year 45, bring it on. I am ready.


Sharing a risk: Flexible groupings and visible learning

I feel like a pretty lucky person, when in one week, multiple teachers send photos to me celebrating a risk they have taken with instruction that has resulted in enhanced learning for students. This was one such week and I want to share the photos and acknowledge the work of the teachers who tried something new.

This picture combines big ideas, essential questions and visible learning. This teacher posted some unit questions for students to explore. As students were learning, they took photos of their processes and posted them next to the questions. What a great way to capture learning and connect it to enduring understanding.

This image shows differentiated instruction and flexible grouping, based on a mid-unit assessment. The students at the back are exploring outcomes to prepare for their summative assessment and the students in the front are working on a project that takes them further into the outcomes because they are ready to do so.

This final image shows an online learning class in one of our rural schools using a fishbowl to track tactics and strategies used by their classmates as they play games. WA10.2 asks the students to become familiar with strategies in various games and this activity allowed them to observe the strategies in action. The whole process was captured on video for the teacher to see, and offer feedback.

I continue to be excited about the learning opportunities available to students in classrooms like these. And I thank these three educators for recognizing that trying new things can and should be celebrated.

Education rant: Some things I have been thinking about…

Be warned: The soapbox is out today! Read at your own risk!

If you want to embrace a First Nations way of learning math, have the math emerge from experiences (games, real-life problems, baking…) Too often, the experiences and real-life problems come after the algorithm. Switch it around.

Talk about language with students. Talk about words. Talk about phrases. Talk about expressions and idioms. Wonder and puzzle over the craziness and incredible nature of
of language. This will help students read and write.

Pre-assess. Please. And then honour the knowledge students already possess. Stop making students repeat learning. All this does is test their compliance and, quite frankly, it is a wonder there isn’t more misbehaviour if students have to repeat learning. It is annoying to adults and it is annoying to kids.

Be explicit and be flexible. It is a balance and we switch the two around too often. We are wishy washy and over-flexible when students are craving clarity and we are inflexible when students could benefit from creative choice. Help students get to their destination by being explicit on the non-negotiable steps for success and then step back and let students make choices when they are ready to do so. The only way to know when to do each is by listening and watching carefully. Students give lots of clues if we are willing to notice.

Talk to your students about their lives outside of school. Find out who has supports and who doesn’t. Ask how much homework students have and respect their personal lives. Don’t ask more of them outside of school than their circumstances can accommodate. Set them up for success; never failure.

Treat families like equals. Be cautious of the language you use. Is there a tone that communicates superiority? Do you dictate how families will spend their valuable time? Do you invite conversations? Remember, parents want to know their children will be okay. They want to know that you care. They will more likely walk alongside you if it feels like the invitation exists.

Students are smart. They know a lot. Take time to honour their knowledge. Assume their intelligence and it will show itself.

Please talk about learning as if it is fun. Talk about it like it is accessible. Don’t scare students into learning. Don’t talk about “big tests” and “huge assignments.” This makes learning sound scary. Some students experience tremendous anxiety when we talk about things in this way. They lose their confidence. Learning is fun. School is interesting. If it isn’t, then try a different approach. Fear and learning do not go hand-in-hand.

Don’t say students can’t read. This statement is an over-simplification and is unhelpful on top of it. Students can read. They can read signs. They can read people and situations. They can read body language. They usually possess a myriad of reading skills that need to be acknowledged. Call it what it is: they are experiencing challenge in reading the school texts we want them to read in the way we want them to read them. We have to dig much deeper into their strategies or “habits of mind,” in order to help students improve their reading. Also, please don’t say: Students learn to read in grades K-3 and then they read to learn. This isn’t true and it sets students and teachers up for disappointment. Humans become better readers their whole lives and reading instruction needs to continue throughout school.

Learning strategies (not instructional strategies…also important but different) are the destination. Content is the vehicle. How students get to the content, interact with it, digest it and respond or engage with it is the important thing. I am not saying content isn’t important because you can’t get to the destination without it. But the transferable strategies are what students will apply over and over. When students experience difficulty, it is because they did not apply effective strategies. When we offer feedback to students about how to grow, it should be connected to the strategies they need to apply to get there. Examples of strategies are: make predictions, activating prior knowledge, determining the main idea, organizing ideas…I blogged about these earlier.

Math is complex and abstract. It is also challenging to teach if we are depending on our knowledge based on how we were taught. Math represents idea and information and concepts that require deep understanding. If you feel like math is just algorithms, take a class or have a conversation with someone who deeply understands math. I suspect that many people feel like I felt a few years ago-I needed to learn more about math because I don’t think I ever really understood it, even though I did well in school.

Languages are important. So are art, and music and drama and dance. While we’re at it, so are physical education, science, social and health. It drives me crazy when we talk about only two subjects. In fact, subjects are silly in that they compartmentalize learning that is, in fact, holistic. Learning is wondrously connected. It is amazingly complex and multi-faceted. And humans are just as complex and what makes us wonderful is our individuality and our diversity. All learning makes us who we are and all subjects are vital to our humanity. I am not human if my life isn’t filled with the arts, languages, movement and wellness…and math and communication, of course!

Please give learning an authentic purpose whenever you can. Revising, creativity and effort are so much more likely when people are working for a meaningful purpose. When students want to do well and work hard, you know you have found the sweet spot.

Assessment isn’t a bad word. However, assessment should be part of the learning cycle. If assessment just means “report card,” then reconsider. Assessment is something we are always doing, from pre-assessment to formative assessment, through feedback and relearning, to observation and demonstrations of learning. Assessment is essential to learning and has nothing to do with ranking and sorting students. Assessment should be based on clear outcome criteria. It is from our constant assessment that we make decisions about our instruction and how to invite even more learning. Assessment should be optimistic and hold the promise of success. We have to believe that all students can and will learn.

Which leads to…all students can and will learn. If you find yourself saying, “She just isn’t ever going to learn much,” or, “He will never be able to…,” ask yourself how you know this to be true. What evidence do you have? Where can the student grow? How will you be part of that growth? Acceptance of failure leads to failure. And talking about inevitable failure diminishes our work and our role. Even worse, it diminishes the student.

Don’t forget to celebrate what’s great!

These days, Twitter and the media are filled with all kinds of political rhetoric, controvery and general commentary about education in Saskatchewan. This post is not about any of that. Instead, I wish to encourage myself and others to remember that amid all cries of a system gone bad, there are a number of people working each and every day, fuelled by their passion for students, who are supporting amazing growth and excitement for learning by children in this province. Let me share my journey around my school division in the last couple of weeks:

Oct 20131

A principal in one of our schools shared with me her approach to combining assessment and learning, thereby ensuring students achieve the desired outcomes in arts education. Firstly, yay art!! Secondly, the mindful consideration this educator gives to her practice is inspiring.

October 20133 October 20132

A fellow coordinator and I were invited on this field trip one windy October morning. The students were observing the local Canadian Foodgrains Bank Project Field being harvested. They were learning about the interdependence of countries and the impact of Canadian resources on both local and global economies. Local farmers spoke with the students about the project and the canola itself. This real-life example allowed students to make powerful connections and apply their learning to real-life contexts.

October 20134

All over our school division, I see examples of this – students asking their own questions. It could be argued that a question is even more important than an answer. Certainly, honouring student questions is essential for making learning meaningful.

October 20135

I spent an hour with these grade two students as they learned a new concept relating to patterns. It was exciting to share in their experience as each and every student made the learning transfer, using manipulatives. The dedication of the teacher to find just the right combination of guidance and exploration was wonderful to see.

October 20136

Inviting students to reflect on their learning and engage in metacognition is challenging, especially in K-2 classrooms. However, this class made “thinking about thinking” visible, proving that children are smart and their teacher is pretty great, too!

October 20137 October 20138

Student art always makes me smile and these two examples are no exception. Encouraging creativity and innovation is so important to brain development as well as the development and expression of personal identity. Our schools are filled with examples like these. Note that no two artworks are the same – the sign of great creative expression.

October 20139

These grade seven students were preparing for a re-demonstration of learning. Their first assessment had not gone well enough to leave the topic, so their teacher was re-teaching before the second assessment event. The students were taking the science concepts they had been learning and were connecting them in concept maps. It was clear they had learned the material more deeply as a result of the additonal time spent on the topic.

October 201310

On a cold Thanksgiving weekend, I volunteered my time at my husband’s school, installing their new playground. Not only had the school community raised tens of thousands of dollars for this play centre, but over thirty volunteers showed up to help install it over two days. The commitment of this school community brought tears to my eyes. Our communities care about children and this makes the work of schools so rewarding!

October 201311

My colleague and I hosted the grades 1-3 teachers in our division for three data response days last week. We will be having three more days next week for grades 4-6 teachers and then 7-12 teachers will follow after Christmas. Nevermind the time it took these professionals to prepare for a substitute teacher so they could come to these workshop days, but their engagement in the data and in the learning associated with it was a testament to their commitment to children. This photo shows an activation exercise we did at the beginning of the day, when we asked the teachers to reflect on their current instructional practices. We spent our time looking at the data around student reading and refecting on the strategies that offer the highest impact on learning. We then collaborated on what our ELA could look like to maximize learning opportunites.

All in all, much to celebrate and consider. Even when a “system” seems to be in turmoil, there are always people doing great work inside schools.

Feeling conflicted

I learned some time back that being in a leadership role would mean moments of discomfort. I don’t know if anyone revels in the idea of conflict but I guess I was resigned to the reality that being a leader would mean making decisions and moving in directions that not everyone would immediately agree with. My passion for learning and my conviction that children deserve our best has carried me through many challenging times. Today, after another visit to Twitter, I find myself hovering around the edges of another conflict. However, this one rests within me.

Twitter is filled with conviction. The enthusiasm of so many members of my PLN has carried me through many days. But every now and then I find myself asking, “How much is too much?” I agree that we have to do better and I believe we can and are moving in that direction. I am hungry to find the best ways to support learning. I adore creativity, innovation, inquiry, PBL, SBG…but there are moments when our rallying cry seems almost overwhelming.

Because I see our teachers, who are asked to do more and more by anyone and everyone. I see many of them just as curious as their leaders; trying out new ways of encouraging learning and engagement. I see them struggling to find a balance between their own wellness and their commitment to the job. And I wonder how many leaders are reminding them to take care if themselves.

I guess the conflict within me is more of a question: How do we continue to rally, promote, support and share a vision for an education system that truly supports students and their potential while protecting those who will be walking that change forward? How do we share a more balanced message of passion combined with compassion?

I would love your thoughts…

Visible Thinking

The following photographs show evidence of student thinking and learning. I collected this evidence as I travelled through schools this week:

Learning 1 learning 2

These students travelled to a local gallery to view art by Saskatchewan artist Wendy Weseen. They then created their own art in response. Their work made visible their learning about the techniques the artist used. You can see the learning outcome posted next to the work, which makes the destination clear to students and viewers alike.

learning 3

This is an exit strategy for this classroom. Each day, students place a sticky note with a description of what they have learned over top of their picture. This encourages reflection and metacognition and also serves as a formative assessment for the teacher.

learning 4

Look at these students thinking and learning together. As I stood beside them, I heard them discussing their reading selection. They were working together to capture the main idea and supporting details. They are seated around a low coffee table, which sits at the front of the room. This change in environment seemed to encourage collaboration.

learning 5

Look at this Pre-Kindrgarten self-portrait. Looking at the artwork of these young students really clarifies the developmental nature of learning. This is a student who has moved along quite far on the continuum of body awareness because this portrait has legs and the start of a body. Ears and hair also show a more well-developed understanding of how our bodies fit together. From here, the teacher can decide where she will spend time next, in order to further develop understanding.

learning 6

Pre-Kindergarten in this school has been exploring fall artifacts by collecting them and placing them in jars. The students can then observe what happens to the jars over time. As I was looking at the display, a student approached me and shared which jar belonged to him. This demonstrates an ownership for the learning that occurred. We talked about the objects collected and why they were chosen for the jar. Conversation is essential in early learning environments!

Once again, another week filled with learning.