What does a giraffe have to do with assessment? Well, Jeffrey the giraffe, as well as being extremely intelligent, handsome, and good at telling jokes, actually performs a very important function in the classroom: he encourages formative assessment – reminding children to reflect on their reading and learning, and reminding teachers to do a plenary and ‘join the dots’ of the learning that’s taken place.Jeffrey is always asking questions such as:
How are you doing? What did you learn today? What do you find difficult today? What did you like best this week? How have you improved since last time? What will you do differently next time? What can you do now, that you couldn’t do on Monday? And so on…
Reflective Practitioners and Reflective Learners
One of the buzzwords or phrases that has been cropping up since the introduction of Curriculum for Excellence is ‘reflective practitioners’. This is hugely important—but it is also essential for our learners to develop that reflective habit too—so they can begin to own, understand and describe their learning, thinking and progression. In this way, children will begin to be able to talk confidently about their strengths and successes as well as identifying their own ‘next steps’.
One particularly effective way is to use a ‘plenary puppet’—a giraffe preferably—but of course any animal or character would do. (Just don’t tell Jeffrey!) Children will be desperate to tell Jeffrey, or whoever, exactly what they’ve been learning and how they’ve been progressing. This is a great habit to develop, as in the buzz of a busy classroom when you’re always against the clock, the truth is that the plenary is the thing that we tend to miss out—or allow to drop off the end of the lesson. (Unless you’re being observed of course!)
Ideally, you should also have an Assessment Display on your wall or somewhere in the class. If we want children to ‘own’ the learning – then they have to ‘own’ assessment as well. Assessment should be a natural part of the learning – not something just for teachers to do – but for learners too. You could have a picture of Jeffrey on your wall – with a laminated speech bubble – write on this with a whiteboard marker to change the questions that Jeffrey is asking at the end of a lesson, the end of the day, or the end of the week. Jeffrey is the ‘visual hook’ that reminds all of us to reflect on our learning. If you like, you could add ‘Say’, ‘Make’, ‘Do’ and ‘Write’ to each of his hooves. There are lots of pictures and speech bubbles to print off in the document below to make an instant display.
We’d love to see your Assessment Displays in action—please send us some pics to firstname.lastname@example.org 😀
Anne, Jeffrey and Mini-Jeffrey X