Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Can You Assess in Six Words...No Less?

As I mentioned in Let Them Assess, my students and I have really been evaluating assessment practices within our classroom. As I reflect upon my practice, it occurred to me that so many of my practices inherently have an aspect of assessment, for me as well as my learners. One of these practices is the six word memoirs that my students create throughout the school year.

After providing them with multiple examples to study and analyze, we had a compelling discussion about methods for creating an entire story in only six words. My learners remarked on the use of inference, imagery, and figurative language. Then, I gave them the challenge of writing about how they had changed as learners since the beginning of the school year. My goal was for them to take time and reflect on their own growth, beyond the mastery of standards. I wanted them to become introspective in evaluating the impact that our time together had upon them as more than just learners, but individuals.

Because this writing activity is only six words, even my students who are struggling readers and writer found this a non-intimidating writing activity and eagerly attacked their writing seeking to express their learning stories. Conversely, my honors students struggled to limit their ideas to only six words. They had so much they wanted to express, yet the six words limit seemed to become an obstacle. However, they learned how to evaluate not just the denotation of a word, but also the connotation, the emotion it evoked in a reader. Although the students initially began the writing individually, they ultimately leaned upon one another for advice, feedback, and inspiration.

Photo: rosmary on Flickr
The results were much more than expected. It gave me a peek into their own self-perceptions. I saw their honesty, humor, hopes, and dreams. Students that I was not sure I had quite reached, composed intriguing pieces giving me glimpses into the recesses of their hearts and minds. For all of us, it was a time of celebration of their individual growth and a plan for their future. We were all able to evaluate what was worthwhile and what needed to be altered for the future. For many of my learners, it became the banner of their success and expressed their hopes for the future. What was the most thrilling to me were their explanation behind their memoirs. They took complete ownership over their stories and willingly related their growth, struggles, triumphs, defeats, and how all of that culminated into their "final" product. (One student pointed out that a memoir is never finished because they keep changing each day.)

So, can six words have any impact on student learning? Without a doubt! Can six words help students reflect, evaluate, and strategize their learning journey? Absolutely! Can a prompt which limits the number of words inspire creativity and give the reader a peek into the author's hearts and minds? Unquestionably! What can you do with six little words? Take a look at a few of their six word memoirs and just imagine the learning potential it can bring to each student.

Was blind now I can see.~C.B 
I was an ant ; Now a skyscraper.~L.B 
First came rain then came rainbows. ~ P.S 
I was smart, now I'm wise. ~N.E  
Some talent, now overflowing with abilities. ~ A.G 
Always dark. Light ahead for learning. ~C.B.  
Was a dreamer, now a believer. L.A. 
Was a canvas, now painted gold. ~D.C. 

Enter the room, opened my eyes. ~A.P.

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