CLIL

Rubrics: a basis for qualitative feedback

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This is one of those things I wished I’d learned about years ago, because it would have made my own life as a teacher so much easier.  I’ve learned about them now, however, so I’m shouting my joy from the rooftops.  Hurray for rubrics!

What is a rubric, one might ask.  A rubric is a means of giving detailed, qualitative feedback to students regarding a given product.  It contains concrete descriptions of the criteria for a well-completed product.

There are different sorts of rubrics.  I’ll explain two sorts of rubrics, using generic sample rubrics I wrote for this purpose.  The first one is a criterion-referenced rubric, and the second one lists success critera for different levels of ability.  I wrote these rubrics for a group project in which the children had to create posters demontrating what they’d learned during the last unit of learning.  They were to use the new words they’d learned in correct sentences.  For the sake of simplicity, I’ve omitted criteria for layout and presentation.  I’ve only included the very basic criteria of content, language, and process.

The first example here shows a criterion-referenced rubric of the sort most people might use.   For teachers, this is an easy form of marking, since the standard for the work remains the same, no matter the ability level of the child.  Also, the criteria for success are clearly described, so all children can know ahead of time what he needs to do in order to pass the assignment.  Another positive aspect is that children get differentiated feedback per criteria heading.  On the downside, it’s perfectly possible for a child to fail the given assignment, as the criteria for success are of the one-size-fits-all variety.  There is no way to allow for differences of ability when using this sort of rubric.Rubric01

That problem can be solved by using a different setup.  The example shown below demonstrates a way to differentiate feedback per ability level.  For instance, if you work in a classroom with a broad difference in language ability, then it might be nice to set up the assessment so everyone has the chance to succeed.  At the same time, this rubric also allows you to set up minimum success criteria per ability group that are just above the actual level of the children so that each child is pushed towards a higher level of ability.  This is called differentiating in output.

In this case, the children should know ahead of time what group they belong to, and they understand that they each have a choice: to succeed at his own level, or to work towards success at a higher level.  The term minimum success criteria is critical here: children should reach the minimum level indicated, but may also choose to work towards a higher level.  Sometimes, if a child needs, he may choose to work at a lower level, but that is a pedagogical decision that you and that child can discuss.  In this rubric, the indicators for ‘process’ are the same for all children, since it would be reasonable to expect all children to work on their social development irregardless of their language development.

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Rubric for differentiating in output.  Note that success criteria for the ‘process’ are the same for all children, regardless of ability level.

Of course, no matter what kind of assessment format you use, it’s important that children be aware of the criteria for success so they know what they need to work toward.  As a teacher, I post my rubrics on their electronic bulletin board at school, so students know what they can expect.  It helps them focus their work and gives them the space to make informed decisions when it comes to their own learning.  It also means they have no surprises when they get their grades back, which makes a big difference for everyone involved.

For more information on the use of minimum success criteria and rubrics, feel free to have a look at this site: http://www.assessmentforlearning.edu.au/professional_learning/modules/success_criteria_and_rubrics/success_criteria_landing_page.html

What other topics would you like to see covered on this blog?  Please let me know!

Putting some hocus pocus into CLIL

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“Abracadabra, hocus pocus, you will all form a quiet line!”  I wave my wand, close my eyes, and count back from five to one.  Then, I cautiously peek with one eye, then both eyes open in wonder as I look at the giggliest quiet line I have seen all day.  The children realize, of course, that they are as much of the magic as the wand I waved, and we make our way down the hallway to their classroom in silence.

Magic is a very real part of young children’s reality.  How often have I used that magic wand in my own ESL lessons?  I cannot even count the ways.  At a certain point, however, the children realize that the magic isn’t as real as it used to be.  Santa Claus becomes a person in a costume, and the tooth fairy is really Mom or Dad.  Does that mean that magic should leave the classroom?

Not in my opinion.  At that moment, I change the aspect of magic from something they experience, to something they can do.  In this case, I combine magic with maths and English in a card trick any 6-year-old can do, and it’s called “What’s my magic number?”  Here’s how it works:

Easy version:

  1. Remove all Kings, Queens, and Jacks from the deck.  Now, only the numbers are left (Aces count for ones).
  2. Shuffle the deck.
  3. A helper takes a single card from the deck and keeps it to himself (secretly!).
  4. Lay out the cards, one at a time.  When you find two cards that make sums of ten, for instance, 9 and 1, or 8 and 2, cover these with new cards.
  5. When all of the cards have been laid out, pick up matching piles.  “Matching piles” are piles in which the top cards make sums of ten.
  6. The remaining pile will be the “match” for the secret card.  For instance, if the helper has a 4, then the last pile will be topped with a 6.  If no piles are left, then the missing card is a 10.

Harder version:

  1. Shuffle the deck.
  2. A helper takes a single card from the deck and keeps it to himself (secretly!).
  3. Lay out the cards, one at a time.  When you find two cards that make sums of ten, for instance, 9 and 1, or 8 and 2, cover these with new cards. A set of King/Queen/Jack counts as a complete set, so cover these a set at a time.
  4. When all of the cards have been laid out, pick up matching piles.  “Matching piles” are piles in which the top cards make sums of ten.
  5. The remaining pile will be the “match” for the secret card.  For instance, if the helper has a 4, then the last pile will be topped with a 6.  If no piles are left, then the missing card is a 10.  If two face cards are left, then the missing face card is the missing card.  For instance, if you have only a Jack and a Queen left over, then the missing card is a King.

Challenge version (for instance, magic number is 13):

 

  • Note:  A Jack counts for 11, a Queen for 12, and a King for 13. Numbers count for their own value.
  1. Shuffle the deck.
  2. A helper takes a single card from the deck and keeps it to himself (secretly!).
  3. Lay out the cards, one at a time.  When you find two cards that make sums of thirteen, for instance, Queen and 1, or Jack and 2, cover these with new cards. A King, being “thirteen”, can be covered whenever it shows up.
  4. When all of the cards have been laid out, pick up matching piles.  “Matching piles” are piles in which the top cards make sums of thirteen.
  5. The remaining pile will be the “match” for the secret card.  For instance, if the helper has a 4, then the last pile will be topped with a 9.  If no piles are left, then the missing card is a King.

There are other possibilities of course, which you can figure out by playing around with the cards on your own.  For instance a magic number of 14 is easy enough (King and 1, Queen and 2, etc.), but it’s also possible to make magic numbers of 11 and 12 while using the entire deck.

And there you have it: a simple yet effective means of automating sums up to 10, in English, mixed with a spoonful of fun, and…its-magic-small

With this trick, you get children to practice their sums in English, making this the ideal CLIL lesson for young children who don’t yet speak lots of English.

Here’s an instruction video for the Easy version.

 

Broadening the ESL Experience – easy as 1-2-3!

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“Okay guys, it’s time to make a graph.  You all have your blocks ready?” I ask.  The children hold their blocks up.  On the table in front of me, I have six circles, each a different color.  One by one, the children come forward.

“My favorite color is blue,” says one, placing the block on the blue circle.

“I like blue, too,” says the next, placing his block on top of the other.  Eventually, there are six piles of blocks, one on each color.  Time for the maths lesson.  We move the piles around, in order from highest to shortest, and find out which colors have equally many blocks.  We count how many blocks there are piled up on each color, and before carrying on to concepts like more than, less than, the most, and the least.  Which color do we like most of all?  Which colors do we like more than yellow?  Which colors do we like less than blue?  The children look, think, and discuss their answers with the neighbors before raising their hands and giving their answers.

We use this simple block graph more often:  favorite fruit, clothes we wear, pets at home, and so on.  Sometimes, we make them out of duplo or legos, and leave our bar graph on the topic table next to the door so the parents can join in the fun.

Graphs are one easy way of incorporating other subject areas into the English lesson.  Sometimes, the children would fill in their own graphs, based on the results of a walk and talk activity.

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“What’s your favorite pet?”

Older children can go even deeper into the material, for instance first building paper airplanes, and then seeing how far each one flies.  Questions like “which one flew farther/farthest?” And “how far did it fly?” are simple examples of scientific inquiry. A line graph describing the results can be used to spark discussion and children can be encouraged to experiment with their paper planes to see how they can get even better results – all in the name of science, of course!  But also in the name of fun.

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And that’s the important thing – have fun, while broadening the ESL experience.  If you have fun, the kids will have fun.  And when folks have fun, that’s when they learn best.