Showing posts with label assessment. Show all posts
Showing posts with label assessment. Show all posts

Friday, 27 November 2015

Grade 10 French: How is our new approach working in the classroom?

Unit 1 - La Rentrée (back to school) has wrapped up in Grade 10 French. Throughout the unit students: 
  • Read about the contrasts and similarities between schooling in France (through various readings for different levels of comprehension) and discussed them in a formal debate, through small-group conversation and one-on-one discussions with teachers;
  • Wrote a personal email to a friend about the start of the school year; and
  • Listened to several types of media (again at different levels) related to schooling and responded and analyzed the learning through oral conversations.
Students worked diligently at using new vocabulary and specific scenario-appropriate grammar when speaking about their involvement in school and their goals for the year, both in French class and at Greenwood in general. 

The final assessment was an Action Task. Students were given the profile of a new student from a French-speaking community in northern Ontario who will be transferring to Greenwood. The class was asked to read a profile about the student and read through the school’s website (online in French) to gather information about this student. They then wrote a welcome email (focus on proper email format) and made a voice recording (using specific grammar and vocabulary) answering questions the new student had about coming to Toronto and Greenwood.

As mentioned in the last post, there is a strong focus on students becoming responsible for their own learning by increasing their metacognitive capacities (the ability to think about thinking). Throughout Unit 1, students monitored progress by setting goals and referring back to those goals frequently. They were asked to make adjustments as necessary by using teacher feedback to improve learning.  In particular, they focused on communicating with peers and classroom teachers using explicit scenario grammar and vocabulary. 

As teachers we have observed that students have become more responsible for their learning and much more aware of their individual capabilities and where they need to go to improve. Unit 1 wrapped up with a written reflection in which students contemplated their progress through the first part of the course followed by an individual conference with classroom teachers to set new objectives for further improvement as we move through Unit 2.

Heather Maxted
French Subject Team Leader

Emma Pickard
French Teacher

Friday, 16 October 2015

Planning for Authentic Experiences in Grade 10 French

With the exciting changes in Ontario’s French as a Second Language curriculum, we engaged in the August Summer Institute week to rework the Grade 10 Core French (FSF2D) course.

The biggest changes in the Core French program are:

  • Decreased emphasis on grammar; and
  • Increased emphasis on authentic oral communication.

There is also a strong focus on students becoming responsible for their own learning by increasing their metacognitive capacities (their ability to "think about thinking"). 

In our classes, we often have a wide range in the amount that students have been exposed to the French language. Some students have been learning French all their lives, while others only started learning the language in Grade 7. We kept this in mind while planning the FSF2D course to allow for choice and variation depending on the learner.

A New Approach to Student Assessments


During the Summer Institute week we spent the majority of the time focusing on student assessments. Each unit will comprise an action-oriented task in which students use the skills gained throughout the unit to read, write, and interact in an authentic manner. The action-oriented approach encompasses not only communication but other important general competencies and skills such as critical thinking and decision making. 

Each task will offer choice and steps for students to complete, so that we, as teachers, will also be able to tailor the assessment to individual student ability levels - pushing those who need it, while supporting those who have more difficulty with French language acquisition.

In our next blog post we will further examine the changes to the French curriculum and the Grade 10 syllabus. We are thrilled to implement this redesigned course that will embrace a more dynamic and rewarding way of learning a second language.

Heather Maxted and Emma Pickard
French Teachers

Monday, 15 June 2015

Personalizing Historical Thinking Skills

History teacher Alex Hurley explains how history students enhance their historical literacy and gain an increased facility in making connections to contemporary issues through informal conversational assessments.

This year in Grade 11 American History, students have been developing their knowledge and understanding of significant historical events by adopting a critical thinking framework that applies six historical thinking concepts:
  • Historical significance
  • Cause and consequence
  • Historical perspective
  • Continuity and change
  • The use of primary source evidence
  • The ethical dimensions of history

In order to practice and develop these historical literacy skills, we created a personalized sequences of learning that used a variety of teaching strategies and gave our students the opportunity to choose from a range of historical documents, events, figured, themes and final products based on their personal interest and individual learning style.

During a recent study of the African American Experience (1865-1965), students analyzed key events, figures and themes, ranging from the failed promises of Reconstruction to the struggle and hope characterized by the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s and its use of non-violent strategies, such as boycotts, marches and legal challenges to bring an end to systemic racism in the United States.

Students deepened their understanding of these events by focusing on the historical thinking concepts of applying the use of primary source evidence and analyzing multiple historical perspectives. They were given the opportunity to focus on these concepts in their Civil Rights Protest Song Assignment. This was a conversational assessment of learning that asked the students to prepare for and participate in a conversation about a civil rights protest song from the 1950s and 1960s. The students were given the opportunity to choose a protest song from a variety of musical genres (jazz, blues, folk, rock 'n roll) that was of personal interest to them. Some of the songs included Billie Holiday's "Strange Fruit," Bob Dylan's "A Pawn in their Game," Sam Cooke's "A Change is Gonna Happen," Nina Simone's "Mississippi Goddamn," Charles Mingus' "Fables of Faubus" or Neil Young's "Southern Man."

There was also an extension opportunity for this assignment that allowed students to choose a protect song to analyze about the Vietnam War. Some of the songs included CCR's "Fortunate Son," Crosy, Stills, Nash and Young's "Ohio," Country Joe & The Fish's "I Feel Like I'm Fixin' to Die Rag" and John Lee Hooker's "I Don't Wanna Go to Vietnam."

In order to prepare for this conversational assessment, the students were asked to annotate the lyrics of their chosen song by highlighting key events, figures, ideas and themes that they studied during our unit. They were also given a list of guiding questions to answer that allowed them to think critically about the larger themes of the course and communicate how the lyrics of the song could relate to any current struggle for rights that exists today - something that the majority of students successfully accomplished through their astute observations on parallels between Civil Rights issues and current events in Baltimore and the Black Lives Matter movement. Each conversation (which was about 5-7 minutes) was led by the teacher during which time we listened to the song in the classroom and the student answered the chosen guiding questions.

This assignment was a great example of how letting our students choose a topic based on personal interest and allowing them to demonstrate their critical thinking skills through an informal conversation with their teacher leads to an increased facility in making connections between issues that existed in the past and continue to persist today.


Thursday, 22 January 2015

Quel Mystère! Using Authentic Assessment Tasks to Enrich Language Learning

French teacher Emma Pickard discusses how authentic interactions can enrich and personalize language learning with an example from her Grade 7-8 Enriched French.

The Grade 7-8 Enriched French class solved a murder mystery!

In December, each student was given a specific character with their own secrets, motives and alibis. The assessment involved reading the character notes, writing journal entries expressing their character's thoughts and back story, and listening and speaking to exchange information and solve the mystery.


There are many benefits to this kind of experiential assessment. In a classroom situation, it isn't always easy to find authentic tasks for the students to complete. In order for a conversation to be considered "authentic," the two participants must genuinely need to exchange information (as opposed to them already knowing the outcome before they speak). Giving the students a mystery that needs to be solved means that they do not have all the information at the beginning of the activity and they have a vested interest in uncovering clues to find out who committed the crime.

An assessment of this type is also easy to personalize, as the teacher can assign individual characters, with more or less information, in order to meet the language needs of each student. For example, a student in need of extension can be given longer and more complicated clues to investigate, requiring them to complete more conversations in the same period of time. As the students were given their character information ahead of time, those in need of support could use references or discuss information with their teacher before the assessment.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Personalized Learning and Challenge in Physical Fitness

In the Grade 10 and 11 Personal Fitness courses, we strive to offer a program that can target individual goals and interests. Health and Physical Education teacher Martha Hall discusses how this is achieved at Greenwood.

In a recent class, we utilized technology to encourage activities that are personalized to an individual's needs. Each student downloaded the Nike Training App to their mobile device. This app allowed them to personalize their workout in a variety of ways.

Firstly, students can choose the type of workout they want to do, focused on getting lean, toned or strong. Within the program, they can choose to target areas for growth, such as endurance, strength, power or abdominal muscles. They can also select beginner, intermediate or advanced levels in order to challenges themselves and work at their own level. The app also allows students to select their own music to play during their workout, which helps to motivate student participation.

Once the students start the program, the teachers monitor the students' technique by videotaping short segment of training to provide instant feedback on how to improve their form. This use of technology also enables students to analyze their own form and make any necessary corrections to ensure they are using proper technique. This is called Assessment as Learning and Assessment for Learning. Students in these courses assess themselves on a regular basis, using Assessment as Learning, in order to reflect upon their participation in class and to determine their areas of growth for future classes.

Moving forward in this class, students are given choice on a daily basis. With two teachers facilitating in the course, we are able to offer specialized classes (such as yoga or CrossFit) or visits to GoodLife or other local gyms.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Teachers Work Together To Meet Student Needs

There are many ways to meet the needs of individual students or groups of students within our own classrooms. If we schedule more than one section of a course at the same time, then multiple teachers are available to work together to meet the needs of the students in their classes.
multiple teachers are available to work together to meet the needs of the students in their classes

Teachers can then work together on the initiative of meeting students’ needs rather than working alone.

At Greenwood, we have scheduled two Grade 7 mathematics classes into the same block for the past few years. The teachers stay at roughly the same pace and are able to use assessment to periodically create mixed groups from the two classes. Sometimes, but not always, the mixing is based on readiness:
use assessment to periodically create mixed groups from the two classes. Sometimes, but not always, the mixing is based on readiness

one group gets concept reinforcement and the other group gets some extension work. This is not streaming. The students still have a mixed-level classroom and an assigned teacher who they are with most often, but the students also have the opportunity to work with groups of students whose needs are similar. On the days when groups are created between the classrooms, the teachers can focus in on what the students in their group need rather than having to do multiple tasks all within their own classroom.

We have created a timetable for the 2013-2014 school year in which a few courses have more than one section running at the same time. The teachers of these courses will modify the groups in their classrooms for various reasons. Sometimes they will use assessment results to regroup for content readiness, similar to the Grade 7 mathematics class. Other times, they will shuffle students between classrooms based on interest. In English, students could choose different novels to study and then meet with their novel group for discussions. Students in this novel group could be a combination of students from 2-3 different classes within the same course.
Students in this novel group could be a combination of students from 2-3 different classes within the same course

Alternatively, teachers may give students the choice of how to work through material in a series of lessons: one group may use technology-rich resources, another group would have a teacher-directed lesson and a third group may work through a series of activities. Scheduling 2-3 classes of a course at the same time means that these three paths could run in different rooms, each with a different teacher. Students could also be grouped by their learning style for some lessons.

Students in these courses will have a core teacher to whom they are assigned. They will also have the opportunity to interact with other teachers of this course and other students beyond their usual classmates. Students will get multiple perspectives. Teachers using this approach will work together to plan their classes, assessments and common evaluations. They will get to know the needs and interests of all of the students in the course, not just those in their own room. Teachers and students will be part of a bigger community that extends beyond their own classroom.

Heather Thomas
Director of Personalized Learning

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Examples of Blended Learning at Greenwood College School

I recently gave a presentation on the progress we have made in developing blended learning courses at Greenwood College School. As I created this presentation, I began to reflect on how far we have come with using this approach to personalize the experience for students. During this current school year alone, many teachers at Greenwood have developed lessons and units that they have already implemented and many full courses that will be implemented next year, all using blended learning tools.

What struck me as I sorted through all of the many blended learning tools teachers are using or have created at Greenwood was how well these teachers understand the needs of their students.


To follow are some examples of the blended learning tools that teachers have used or developed this year.

Grade 9 geography will be implemented as a blended learning course next year. The teachers developing this course recognize that this will be the first blended learning experience for many students, so they have planned to start each class with a teacher-directed lesson, similar to what would be found in a traditional class. They will then use technology to check for student understanding and to send students down one of two paths, either to a task that will reinforce the concepts just covered or to a task that has students apply and go deeper with what they have learned. The teachers are using technology to facilitate the pathways for students. They recognize that not all students will understand all concepts the first time they are exposed to them.

The teachers in Grade 12 English this year have used an online Hamlet text to enrich the learning of their students and to create more classroom discussion about the text. Often, when studying a Shakespearean text, the students spend a good deal of class time reading together as a group. Rather than doing that this year, the Grade 12 English teachers had the students read scenes along with the online resource at home. This resource reads the text with or to the students, while highlighting the words as it reads. Students could also choose to watch the scenes from a variety of different movie or theatrical productions. The resource gave students assistance with the language and its meaning. When students came to class after actively reading/listening/watching the assigned scenes, they were put into discussion groups based on need: do they need help understanding the scenes, do they need to talk about character or do they need to discuss bigger themes of the text? Using technology in this way allowed students to spend class time in meaningful dialogue about the content that they needed to understand most.

Another example of technology helping to guide students’ learning was found in the Grade 11 and 12 blended learning mathematics classes. Students in these classes can move through the material at their own pace. Technology is used to assess students throughout the unit. If they achieve a mastery grade on an assessment, the moodle platform releases the next few lessons for them to work through. If they do not receive a mastery grade on an assessment, moodle will not give them access to the subsequent lessons. In this case, the teacher is alerted that the student needs concept clarification. The teacher then reinforces the concept with the student and provides more practice. The student is then able to attempt a similar assessment and once a mastery grade is achieved, they are given access to the next few lessons. Students have found that technology used in this way has forced them to stay true to their learning and not assume that they understand a concept. Teachers working with the students in these courses have found that the technology has helped them to more easily determine when students need help.

The blended learning tools described in this blog post are creative tools that teachers have found or developed to help personalize their courses. There are many more examples of blended learning being used at Greenwood College School. As teachers develop these resources, they are keeping student needs in mind and varying how the tools are used in different grade levels and subject areas.

Heather Thomas
Director of Personalized Learning