Three Teaching Strategies Without the “EDUspeak”

For the last two years I’ve had the amazing opportunity to return to the classroom from my consulting position as a sessional teacher with Brock University’s Faculty of Education. It has allowed me to continue to share my passion for quality health and physical education at the ground level, get creative with awesome teaching tools I’ve learned over the past few years that I’ve been out of the classroom, and it’s given me the opportunity to continue to learn – from my students.

Here are three classroom strategies that my students shared with me to use when teaching educational best practices, but without the teacher jargon:

1. Glow and Grow

A cute rhyme which supports the opportunity for students to provide self and peer feedback. This strategy helps frame the students feedback in a way that is informative and constructive,  as well as inclusive and caring. We’re not talking about what is good and bad, we are identifying strengths – areas that “glowed”, and areas that need further improvement, or “growth”.

flowerNow these next two acronyms go hand in hand. I was introduced to these “friends” by a student who shared them during the Minds On of his lesson, stating that as with every class he has brought his friends ‘WALT ‘ and ‘WILF’ to help explain today’s learning focus, so here they are.

2. WALT (We Are Learning Today)

WALT is a creative acronym to use when sharing the lesson learning goals with students.  Rather than using the typical “By the end of the lesson I will be able to…” line, WALT is creative and fun and ensures that the language is framed in a student  friendly manner. If you’re worried that your goals aren’t student friendly, consider having your class reword the learning goals before you put them on display for student reference throughout the class.

3. WILF (What I’m Looking For)

WILF, similar to WALT, is an student friendly acronym, but the goal of this “friend” is to highlight what the teacher is looking for in their assessment, otherwise known as the success criteria. We know educational best practice includes telling students what we area assessing in a way that leads to no surprises, and WILF helps us communicate that. So whether it is active participation, goal setting, or the preparation, execution, and follow through for an under hand throw, WILF helps us communicate lesson success criteria to our class and eliminates assessment surprises.

Do you have any cute strategies you use for communicating educational best practices with your students? Please share them in the comments!

Growing Student Success: Assessment ‘As’ Learning in Physical Education

The primary purpose of assessment is to improve student learning. Assessment is the process of gathering information that accurately reflects how well a student is achieving the curriculum expectations in a subject or course. As H&PE teachers, we gather information through various assessments to determine students’ strengths and weaknesses in their achievement of the curriculum. We use this information to adapt our lesson plans and instructional approaches to meet students’ needs, to provide feedback to students, and to assess the overall effectiveness of our program and classroom practices.

As H&PE teachers we use a variety of sources to assess students. These may include:

  • day-to-day observations of students application of learning goals,
  • conversations or conferences with students allowing them the opportunity to communicate their knowledge and understanding,
  • demonstrations of skills and strategies,
  • projects connected to learning goals,
  • performances of movement principles, skills, and strategies,
  • and tests.

Examining Assessment As Learning (Formative Assessment) In Phys. Ed.

In H&PE, teachers engage in assessment as learning by helping students develop their capacity to be independent, self-sufficient learners who are able to set personal goals, monitor their own progress, determine next steps, and reflect on their own thinking and learning.

Assessment as learning is used by students to provide feedback to other students (peer assessment), monitor their own progress towards achieving their learning goals (self-assessment), make adjustments in their learning approaches, reflect on their learning, and set individual goals for learning. This type of assessment occurs frequently in phys. ed. classes with support and modelling from the teacher.

Below are tools which I have used with my own students in phys.ed. class. Note that it is important to teach students what is expected of them when completing self/peer assessments as well as the criteria’s for success when using these tools.

Assessment As Learning Examples

Example 1: Sticky Note Self-assessment: Ladder, Pyramid, Target, Four Square

Using Sticky Notes, students write their name and level of achievement on the back of the note providing a self assessment of their knowledge or application of the learning goal of the lesson. I have them use the back so it is more anonymous. Students also write the justification for their achievement  level. As they leave the class they put their sticky note on the correct level of the ladder, pyramid, target, or square. Following the class I would review students’ notes and use that information to direct my next class – did students understand the concept, skills, strategy? Do they feel confident in their knowledge or ability to apply it? Can I move on or do my students need further instruction?

Example 2:  Exit Cards

Students demonstrate their knowledge of learning goals by responding to questions in written, oral or visual form at the end of class.  When using an exit card, students write their names on the card and respond to a question and hand it in before they leave the gymnasium. I use their responses when planning my next class, determining learning grouping, as well as identifying next steps.

Example 3: Thumbs Up

This is a great quick check tool I use often. I want to instantly know students self-assessment of their knowledge or skills. They respond to my question using either a thumbs up, thumbs middle, or thumbs down. Quick and simple.

Example 4: Four Finger Self Assessment

Students use the four levels of the achievement chart to assess their knowledge and understanding or application of lesson learning goals and they display their self-assessment by holding up a corresponding finger. Level 1 = 1 finger and so on.

Example 5: Traffic Light Cards

This strategy uses traffic lights as a visual means for students to show their knowledge and understanding. Students each have a small red, yellow, and green card (the size of a playing card) on their desk which they show when prompted. (red = don’t understand, yellow = let’s talk about it again, green = totally get it)

Example 6: Two Stars and a Wish

Students identify two stars, 2 good things about a piece of work, response, performance, and a wish, something they can improve to make it even better. I use their responses when planning my next class and identifying next steps.

Example 7: Muddiest Point

Students write down one or two points on which they are least clear from the lesson. Following the lesson I review their questions/points and either on my own or with the class we respond during the next lesson. This is a great strategy to combine the thumbs up – following the clarification, in order to make sure students understand, I would use the thumbs up strategy to know whether we can move on.

For further information on assessment, evaluation, and reporting practices in Ontario schools check out the Ontario Ministry of Education Growing Success document.

Do you have a strategy or tool you use for student peer or self-assessment? Share it in the comment section!