As I started to think about what sort of visual aids we use on our Grade 4 team, and which ones might need a revamp, my mind started wandering to one of the tools that we used over the last couple months in order to help students self-assess themselves as readers, and identify areas for growth. I’m not sure it counts as a visual aid, but I went with it, and I’m excited to use this tool again in the future.

The idea started because we wanted to begin using a workshop based teaching model. The four teachers would offer a variety of workshops throughout the week on different topics in reading, writing, and our current unit of inquiry that students would have the choice to sign up for. The workshops could be targeted to the needs of different groups of students, and we would be able to reach all the students at their own level. We were super excited, but then we realized we needed a way to identify exactly what workshops we needed…what were our students need?  

One of our team members had the idea of taking the PYP Language Scope and Sequence and “kidifying” it. We broke the reading section into nine easy to understand statements that we felt our students could self assess on. These nine statements made the basis for the beginning of year assessments and were the first workshops we scheduled. In order for our students to assess themselves, our first rough idea of a tool looked like this.

The First Draft.

After a workshop and completing a task, the students would circle one of the emojis to self assess, provide a link to some sort of evidence, and get a teacher to sign off on it. It didn’t look nice, and our students are still learning the basics of Google Apps, so we realized having them link things themselves would be challenging. Our more polished form, and the one we used looked like this.

The Google Slide was assigned through Google Classroom. As students completed a workshop and activity based on the goal, they would circle the emoji that represented what they felt their level was, and then provide evidence on the following slides of their work. Overall the data that we gained from the series of workshops was valuable in directing our planning for the next few months, but the design of the tool left something to be desired.

Problem 1: The Three Emojis. Firstly, I felt the sad and flat mouthed emojis were too negative, and we didn’t want students to feel they were bad at things, just that they needed more support. Secondly, creating a circle in Slides and placing it over the emoji proved to be somewhat difficult for the students.

Solution: Instead of three emojis, I’ve changed it to a single thumb emoji. This is a fast assessment tool we already use often in our grade. If students are comfortable with a topic we’ve discussed, they raise a thumb up, if they still have questions, they put their thumb sideways, and if they feel really lost, they give us a thumbs down. The thumb is also easy to rotate to the correct position.

Problem 2: Direction Unclear. Always explain things multiple times in multiple ways if you have the time. We were throwing this together pretty on the fly, so maybe we can use the time excuse, but in the future we can be more clear.

Solution: I added in a slide with instructions on how to use the assessment tool properly. It defines what the three positions of the thumb mean, and reminds them to record their assessment evidence. Of course we said it in class about a million times, but just in case they didn’t hear it…

Problem 3: Evidence Links.  These didn’t really work at all. They were too small for the students to press on their iPads, and even when they got it, the had to scroll through the little copy/paste menu until “Open Link” appeared to take them to the right slide. They just ended up scrolling through to find the right slide, and were constantly asking “Which slide does this go on?”.

Solution: I took out the links (though the thumb image is still linked) and numbered each goal and slide accordingly. Hopefully next time students will find it a little easier.

Those were the functional design flaws that we and the students identified as we used the tool. Aesthetically, I also switched to coloured boxes defined by negative space and a softer blue colour because…I just thought it looked nice. The final result looks like this.

Final Draft – Click for full version

Despite the design flaws, we found this to be a very effective way to quickly gather quite a bit of evidence of where are students were starting the year. We shared our idea with other teams in our school using a similar model and they liked it so much they have adapted it for their own grade level as well! Could you see something like this working in your school?