Friday, January 24, 2014

Report Cards: "Love Stories about Learning"



Wouldn't report card writing seem so much less tedious if we changed the lens that we use to think about it? Our mindset and outlook on report cards absolutely impacts the way that we work through them and write them.

What if we looked at them as love stories about the children we teach? If we unfolded their learning into the small boxes to share their successes and accomplishments?

Last year I had a great conversation with some educators on Twitter about Report Cards and how much I love them. I shared that I felt as though I was writing love stories about the children.

After sending home reports last year, many parents shared that they enjoyed the way that we captured their children's learning and how much we "truly knew them". It felt good to share their stories and to connect their learning to the curriculum in a way that illustrates the whole child.

Just one of the many benefits of teaching in Full Day Kindergarten with a DECE partner is opportunities such as report cards which give you time to reflect together on the children in our classroom.

While writing with my partner Cheryl, who so generously gives her time and incredible insight, we have so many good laughs about things the children have said and done. We reminisce over amazing things that have happened so far in the year. We worry a bit about parts of the curriculum that we wish we had covered in more depth and make plans going forward to better support children in their areas of need. Most importantly, we celebrate the children through our writing. We want the families to really know how their children are doing in the classroom and how we are guiding them on their learning journey.

To some report cards are a challenging task, many don't think they are an effective way to show parents what we know about children. Although I wish I could include photographs, video clips, and make them longer...I do respect that they are a great opportunity to give a little glimpse into their life at school. We can't control the structure of report cards, though we wish we could, but we can control what and how we write them.

Reflections on reports from this year:

CROSS CURRICULAR:
I know that the curriculum crosses over in so many learning experiences. What I found interesting this year was how many stories about children could be included in nearly all areas. We constantly had to think about whether we had used an example in one area already since so much of their learning crosses the curriculum and meets numerous expectations.

PERSONAL:
Each year that we write the report cards become even more personal. Copying and pasting a comment from one box to the next is nearly impossible since the stories, progress and learning is so related to that one child in particular.

WHOLE CHILD:
Our planning time teacher is incredible. She shares daily thoughts, insight, and information about children with myself and my partner. However, we don't ask her to "write" reports. We work hard to stay "in-sync" with her so that we can represent her thinking into the report cards while providing an accurate picture of the "whole child". Our planning time teacher sees the children outdoors, in music, and in play - how could I possibly ask her to capture "one subject". Besides, I feel as though sometimes pieces go missing when report cards are written by multiple people and not collaboratively. So much of the information in "physical education" we see not only in the gym but outdoors and during learning centres. Thus, writing a report solely on what is seen during planning time in the gym (...in my opinion) does not capture the whole child and their ability to transfer their skills to different environments.

GROWTH:
It sometimes takes report cards or reflection for us to slow down and see just how much some children have progressed. Thinking about some of our SK students and where they were last year at this time just blows my mind. The growth that we see in Kindergarten is simply incredible. They begin and end the program completely different children - and the year is only 1/2 way through!


Examples of Practice:
I thought I would share some "sample" comments. I have changed names and some of the context to protect the children of course. I am hesitant to share comments only because I don't want them to be misinterpreted and they are out of context in that most of the readers would not know the children. But, I can't help but share examples in hopes that it may give a bit of insight for educators thinking about changing the way that they write reports.

I also recognize that currently all school boards and areas use different formats for report cards in Kindergarten and even within the same board administrators have different expectations for the way things are shared/written. My understanding in Ontario is that when the Kindergarten Curriculum Document is finalized, a report card will be used that is similar across Ontario.

LANGUAGE:
______ is an English Language Learner. His vocabulary and understanding of language has grown so much since the Fall. ______ can follow simple 1 step directions with the support of gestures (e.g., "find your boots"). He demonstrates his understanding of questions and prompts by following through with his actions. We are encouraging ______ to respond to simple questions with a yes or no. _____ has learned the names of many of his peers. He helps to hand out milk at lunch and quietly says each friends name as he delivers their milk. His peers seek out opportunities to teach ______ new words and expand his vocabulary (e.g., "this is a sled, ______"). He sometimes will repeat language when his peers are supporting him. ____ loves to listen to stories read aloud to him and often independently chooses to look at books during learning centres. He particularly likes books with simple patterns such as letters, numbers, or colours. He is able to identify all of the letters in the alphabet and matches words on the word wall underneath their corresponding letter (e.g., places "the" under T). _____ comes to join small reading groups and tracks by turning the pages and touching the words. He quietly whispers the words alongside his peers. _____ demonstrates an interest in writing when using whiteboards or markers. He makes lines and curves on his board. Although he is not yet using the word wall or peers' name cards, he understands the tools which will support him in the future.

Next Steps:
______ should continue to read in his own language at home and respond to simple questions about the book. We will continue to support ______ in developing new vocabulary and language at school.

LANGUAGE:
_____ is very strong in terms of oral language and her ability to express her thinking. She says things that stand out as profound for her age (e.g., "In our room we don't believe in time outs, we believe in kindness" or "Teachers are careful with their words"). While working on drafting pictures of butterflies, _____ was able to give descriptive feedback to peers. She is a reflective thinker who can express her own learning skills as well (e.g., "I learned that when I slow down I can do my best work").

SCIENCE:
______ demonstrated his ability to solve scientific problems throughout his Mailbox Project. He created a blueprint plan, measured the dimensions, and then created a list of materials that he would need for construction. Alongside a carpenter, _____ carefully cut the pieces and used different fasteners to put the box together (e.g., nails, screws, and hinges). When problems arose during construction, _____ brainstormed with the expert to think of ways that he could improve and alter his plan. After our time at the Butterfly Conservatory, _____ drafted scientific sketches of a butterfly incorporating feedback from peers as he began each new draft.

PERSONAL/SOCIAL:
______ genuinely cares about the well being of his peers. He goes out of his way to support them to ensure that they are feeling comfortable. ____ is always willing to support his peers in their learning as well using prompts and language rather than doing it for them. He knows how to adapt his language and incorporate the use of gestures to communicate with students who are new to the English language. _____ is enjoying the use of humour in his interactions with peers and is experimenting with various ways to make his friends laugh. When problems arise in play, ____ is able to come up with solutions and suggestions while taking other children's thoughts into consideration. If he feels strongly about something, ____ will elaborate on his thinking so that his peers can understand his perspective. When given a job in the classroom, ____ takes initiative and ownership to contribute to the classroom. He is very trustworthy in following through with roles and tasks in the school.

MATH:
____ knows that there are 27 students in our classroom. During our morning routine, ___ is able to count the number of students missing and using a number line determines how many are at school that day. ____ can read, represent, and explain numbers beyond 20 in play. While playing simple math games, ____ is able to recognize sets of materials easily. He uses the 10 frame to support his learning in composing and decomposing numbers. ____ shows his peers different ways to represent mathematical thinking (e.g., using his fingers to build math equations after reading Pete the Cat). ____ uses the abacus to make and break different combinations of 10. During our sled inquiry, ____ recognized the different shapes and sizes of the sleds and made predictions about which would be the fastest. He measured their speed by counting with peers as they tested them on the hill. ___ uses the magnetic blocks to build shapes. He discovered that he could make the same shape many different ways and describes the number of sides and corners. When making a crown in the art area, ____ used a tape measure to determine how big his head was and then how long his paper needed to be. ____ uses a T-Chart and tally marks to conduct surveys with his peers. He asked his friends "What sled felt like it was the fastest?" and then recorded their responses on his chart.

HEALTH AND PHYSICAL EDUCATION:
_____ seeks out opportunities for gross motor activities outdoors and enjoys playing a variety of cooperative games (e.g., freeze tag, jackpot, football). _____ demonstrates strong control and balance when playing games, riding the scooter, and using sleds outdoors. ___ washes his hands daily before eating and is able to identify nutritious foods packed in his lunch. After lunch, ____ demonstrates an understanding the importance of how to re-energize our bodies as we talk about how resting and deep breathing helps us to be healthy. ____ learned about fire safety by asking questions during our visit from fire fighter Bengt and at the fire station.

ARTS:
____ spends time in the art area when excited about a project or when it is connected to his interests. He painted a detailed photo of a truck and asked for support in labelling the different parts. ____ used plasticine to create a diagram of a lady bug. Using special materials from home and recycled boxes, ____ worked hard on constructing a sled adding in details such as a seatbelt. ____ takes leadership in dramatic play often using tools as a fire fighter in building or wheels on trucks. Whenever ___ builds, he brings elements of drama into his play (e.g., race cars, farm). He has grown so confident in performing for others. ____ was excited to learn and perform "What does a fox say" at the holiday concert and creates stages with blocks putting on concerts for peers.

Final thoughts...
Our reports are far from perfect, but I do think they capture the children and tell their stories. Each year I wish I wrote more things down, took a better photo, or went more in depth into certain things. But alas it will always be a balancing act. We can only put our best effort forward and unfortunately we can't be in 5 places at once! I have to remind myself to value what I did capture, take pride in the strides the children have made, and to continue to push myself in providing children with rich opportunities to grow and learn.




7 comments:

  1. Tracy, those are fabulous comments that really capture the learning of the students within your classroom. We all have to remind ourselves that as you said: we can't be in 5 places at once!
    As I read through your comments I wonder how I can do justice to my students within the very confined space I have for delivering my message. I would only have room for a third of your comments.
    Thanks for sharing.
    Kim

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  2. Thanks for the comment Kim, I appreciate your feedback. Wording is always tricky even with more space I am forever erasing a word here, adding a word there to "make it all fit". Hopefully if a new reporting system comes out it will allow ample space to share and discuss the learning of the children in more depth. For now, maybe try to focus on one solid example/quote and fit it in when you can?

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  3. I would only have room for a third of your comments.

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  4. Lovely to read. I like the idea of looking at reports through a different lens of positivity.

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  5. I read this post a few times, most recently just before beginning to write my first entire set of FDK report cards. I love the idea of "love stories about learning" and I can relate to this; I often smiled as I was writing some amazing quotes and examples of learning into the 1000-character comment boxes. Thank you for this very inspiring post!

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