Underused and Undervalued

The past few years teaching kindergarten,  I was required by my school division to assess students using Early Years Evaluation (EYE) and Help Me Tell My Story (HMTMS). The politics of education are interlaced with assessment. I debated discussing the above, but decided to discuss anecdotal notes and rubrics in this post as I find them to be the most relevant to my everyday practice.

For those that are not familiar with the EYE assessment, you may watch the video below. Most pre-kindergarten and kindergarten teachers in Regina complete the EYE assessment.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kVVa-vtkSfY&feature=youtu.be 

Anecdotal notes

Anecdotal notes provide the opportunity to monitor student’s social skill development and work habits in class. I often feel like anecdotal notes are underused and undervalued. I write what I observe on a post it note and stick the post it in my assessment file. At the end of every day, I transfer the ‘anecdotal post it note’ information into a simple Google Docs. In the Google Doc, I have each student’s name, date and time of anecdotal comment. This system allows me to communicate specific concerns I have for individual students to administration, learning resource teachers, educational assistants, speech and language pathologist and our school counsellor. When monitoring students with ongoing behaviour and work habits difficulties, I have been asked to document how often incidents have happened with the date and time. For example, “When did Jonny hit Sally? How often did you have to ask Jonny to keep his hands and feet to himself ?” Generally, I have full classes; 25 students in the morning class and 25 students in afternoon class. It is difficult to remember specific incidents in my day without my anecdotal notes. The clarity in the anecdotal notes is crucial in determining the level of support a student will receive in the kindergarten program and moving into grade one. Our support team requires anecdotal notes to communicate efficiently with parents and as documentation to support their effort in advocating for great supports from the board office.

Example of anecdotal note:

December 8th 9:08 AM. –  Jonny was sitting at his table spot. A classmate walked by Jonny’s table spot. Jonny kicked his classmate. Jonny was unable to explain why he kicked his classmate. Spoke with both students involved. Johnny spent five minutes in the reflection chair and later apologized. Situation was communicated home to all parents in students’ agenda.

When it comes time to complete the personal and social growth rubrics, I refer to each child’s anecdotal notes. If parents have questions about why their child fell in a certain area on the rubric, I can refer to specific examples with date and time on my ‘anecdotal note’ document.

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Rubrics

Rubrics are another tool used to evaluate kindergarten student’s progress. They are generally easy to interpret for parents. They serve as a guide in understanding where their child is in relation to others in the class (or in relation to the standard). Rubrics also provide concrete examples of what their child must demonstrate in order to move to a higher level of achievement. Rubrics help in explaining where I would like to see most children’ end up’ by the end of kindergarten. Rubrics are used for pre-assessment and post-assessment. They can be formative or summative in nature. All French immersion kindergarten teachers in Regina Public Schools use the same rubrics to determine students Progress Report marks. Below is an example of Regina Public Schools French immersion kindergarten Progress Report.

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In terms of assessment in early childhood many questions come to mind. I often wonder how much can and should be done in a half day program. Further, is the assessment tool I am being asked to use, designed for four and five-year olds? Who is the assessor-consultant, classroom teacher, other? What is the frequency of the assessment?  Is this a perceived or actual need for assessment? What is the ‘why’ behind the assessment? For ‘who’ are we assessing? What will be done with the data? Who will it be accessible to? Is this a standardized assessment? By what definition? Will this inform my practice? As Amanda Ronan states ,

“(a)ssessments themselves have been vilified, when, in fact, it’s why assessments are given and how the data is used that is really the issue.”

In my mind, the focus of my assessments is to give constructive feedback to students and parents to help support student’s in their future learning. I am fearful of overwhelming kindergarten parents by sending them home with too much data on their child. If my child was struggling and I had data coming home every month both formally and informally, saying that they were struggling, I would be devastated and looking for support. What is the point in formal assessment if we are not prepared to offer additional support in a timely manner?

Do you feel that you have the necessary resources available to support parents whose children are struggling socially, emotionally and academically?

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7 thoughts on “Underused and Undervalued

  1. warren3h says:

    Are your post it notes literally paper post its? Or is this something you are accessing on a notes app on google? I am just a bit confused. I really like your idea regardless. I have been looking for a more efficient and consistent way to document classroom social growth behaviours.

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    • launelheinen says:

      It depends on the student. Usually it is just regular yellow post it notes. Some students have specific behavioural modification sheets I fill out. I made them on Word and resized them so they are small like a post it. I check off the boxes of the ‘frequent behaviours’ that I observe. I will send you what I have and you can take a look.

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  2. Angus McIntosh says:

    “The politics of education are interlaced with assessment” – That thought occasionally keeps me up at night as it begs the question “what is the true purpose of all the assessment we do?” I like that you identify that it is what we do with the data that counts. Great post!

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    • launelheinen says:

      Thanks Angus. I would like to look further into how much each school division (or the Ministry) pays for our assessments annually. With the renewed focus on the early years I feel more assessment is to come…

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  3. Kirsten Hansen says:

    I really appreciated this. It’s nice to get a view into different classrooms. Plus the anecdotes are awesome for ANY teacher. 🙂

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