Teachers for Teachers | Slice of Life: Getting Students in the Game!
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Slice of Life: Getting Students in the Game!


“Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.”   Aristotle  

We were looking over the student checklist for narrative writing. We were about to launch the next phase of the narrative unit and we wanted the students’ to set goals.

Do you think this is overwhelming?

Will they just quickly check “Yes” for everything?

I am trying to envision how I would use this with my class.

Do you just hand it out?

Do you check it off the first time to model it?

Can they really assess themselves? Are they aware of their strengths and weaknesses?

After discussing the checklist for some time, we decided to introduce the tool to the students. We planned to simply show it to them, describe it and then have them work in partners to closely read it. We asked them to read together and jot down:

  • What Do You Notice?
  • What Do You Wonder?

Here is the student checklist they were using:


The students set off and we listened in with Messy Sheets in hand. As we noticed patterns we jotted them down with student names. Instructional goals started to emerge. We noticed that the students were quick to identify areas of focus. They also marked items they didn’t understand. They had great conversations about the difference between “Starting To” and “Yes.”

As we debriefed after the lesson, we highlighted the difference in the students’ disposition. They were identifying what they needed and leading the process of reflecting on their progress. Their voices were dominant – they were in the game.  Black and Wiliam remind us, “Our profession needs to improve the quality of the feedback we give our students and the feedback our students give themselves”

When they know their role in assessment and in the process of learning they are more engaged. Student checklists or rubrics are often used to collect summative data. When we use them at the beginning or during of a unit of study the tool can collect more formative data. It can help us and students’ see what instructional steps they need next.

Research demonstrates that students need to know the expectations, where they currently are in relation to the expectations and the action steps they need to take to achieve the goal. Checklists help students see the expectation and self-assess where they in relation to the goal. Once the student understands where he is in relation to the goal, we can help him outline the steps he needs to take to reach his goal. It also teaches the student a process he can continually use to reassess himself and set new goals.

How do you use rubrics or checklists with your students? What role do your students have in the assessment process? How do your students know if they have reached their goal? We would love to hear your perspective!

  • Avatar
    Judy Jester
    Posted at 11:23h, 10 November Reply

    I really like your statements of I notice and I wonder. Will use these in the future. Thanks.

    • Clare and Tammy
      Clare and Tammy
      Posted at 01:32h, 11 November Reply

      We use notice and wonder in so many ways we students. It is open ended and promotes discourse. They never fail us -would love to hear how it goes for you!
      Clare and Tammy

  • Avatar
    Posted at 11:37h, 10 November Reply

    So important that students are in the game. Love the “notice/wonder” so it truly is student led. From last summer’s writing institute, Celena introduced me to several new ways to make a checklist into a tool.

    1) Use just a section of the checklist. Structure, development or Language Conventions. Use it first with a mentor text and then use it with student writing!

    2) Cut up the checklist (checklist game) and draw out one item. See if you find it in the piece of writing. Be prepared to say both where and why you think that is an example.

    3) Use cutup checklist strips. Have students tape or glue them ONTO their paper when they find examples.

    More planful and yet playful way so it’s not about “assessment day” but thinking and reflecting in smaller pieces more often! And the conversations are amazing! “Well, it’s not like Cynthia Rylant’s, but it’s a good example of Starting To” was one I heard.

    • Avatar
      Posted at 23:41h, 10 November Reply

      Great ideas everyone! Thanks for the tips and etremely timely. Where else can I go to learn more?

    • Clare and Tammy
      Clare and Tammy
      Posted at 01:50h, 11 November Reply

      So important to give students an opportunity to construct their understanding of how to use tools to analyze writing and set goals. Thanks for sharing these ideas!
      Clare and Tammy

    • Avatar
      Michelle Lemaster
      Posted at 13:42h, 28 October Reply

      So many clever ways to get students actively engaging in each individual checklist action! Thank you for these awesome ideas!

      I’m imagining an oversized piece of shared student writing about a shared experience and an oversized checklist cut into strips to model doing the cutout checklist idea.

      After modeling it big, I can already see partners working together on a different mentor text. Next stop a peer edit using this method! Then their own!

  • Avatar
    Posted at 11:47h, 10 November Reply

    I heard a great tip (Don’t remember who said it though!) at the Writing Institute this summer. Instead of merely having kids check off “yes,” we can encourage kids to use tally marks on each row. This encourages kids to try that thing often — across multiple pieces of writing — and show how many times they did that thing (rather than just checking yes).

    • Clare and Tammy
      Clare and Tammy
      Posted at 01:51h, 11 November Reply

      Great idea! Thanks for sharing.

      Clare and Tammy

  • Avatar
    Linda Baie
    Posted at 14:18h, 10 November Reply

    I’ve used checklists for editing & revision, but asked students to choose one thing for the most focus, at least at the beginning. My students communicated so much n-f research, they had to find ways to be creative in the sharing, sometimes a report, sometimes a slide show, sometimes art, but in every piece the main point was to share the answer to the question researched. I also had them used the checklist with an added paragraph of the process, & turn that in too or confer with me about it. Thanks for this. All students need to know expectations ahead of the assignment, and to mess around with them too.

    • Clare and Tammy
      Clare and Tammy
      Posted at 01:53h, 11 November Reply

      So important to give them a chance to focus on just one or two things once they use the tool to set a goal and lift the quality of their writing. Thanks for sharing these ideas!
      Clare and Tammy

  • Avatar
    Christina Williams
    Posted at 19:26h, 11 November Reply

    I use these particular checklists in my 5th grade classroom, and we usually start off analyzing just a section of the checklist and using it against a grade level piece of writing as a class. We also look at the previous grade alongside the current grade and talk about what is similar and what is different. Laying a piece of 4th grade writing alongside 5th grade can be a powerful way for kids to see how writers grow in each stage! They can connect what the writing actually looks and sounds like with what the rubric says.

    • Avatar
      Corinee Dickison
      Posted at 14:21h, 28 October Reply

      I have used similar checklists with Grade 2’s and 4’s. We have put exemplar writing up on an overhead or screen and gone through it looking at sections of the checklist separately and not all in one session. We have highlighted with different colors where the items on the checklist were present in the exemplar writing.

      I have also used volunteer student’s writing that was in progress with students who felt safe (growth Mindset focus-Mistakes are our friend) and gone through a checklist. Students have made comments on where criteria existed and made suggestions for where , how to include it if it wasn’t present. Both these practices have proved to be effective twofold- 1.in creating a greater understanding of the checklist and what each section really means and 2. in improving the overall quality of student writing.

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