Thinking about Effective Feedback

IMG_1222I just recently wrapped up my second PTC (The Principals‘ Training Centre) course, ‘Assessment Leadership in the International School’ in Miami, Florida. You can read about my first course from 2012 here.

When I reflect back on the week, I think a statement @bambibetts shared with the participants from the Wallace Foundation serves as a basis for why leaders should take this course. “Leadership is second only to teaching among school influences on student success”.

From knowing and understanding assessment to leading the assessment process, this course provides school leaders with beneficial research and best practice.

As I did with my course last year, I would like to share one of the MANY takeaways from this course for you to reflect on with regards to your own school.


Screen Shot 2013-07-04 at 11.34.33 PMFeedback – information on how we have performed in relation to a stated goal


Consider research on feedback (which we just can’t ignore)

John Hattie (2009)
Feedback has an effect size of 1.13
With relation to influence on student achievement

Ruth Butler (1986)
Students given only comments scored on average 30% higher

Think about your school…

What kind of feedback are your teachers providing?
Descriptive? -focused on intended learning outcomes i.e. ‘waiting your turn, like you did, is an example of respect’

Is the feedback CORRECTIVE and given in a TIMELY manner?

Since feedback is delivered after a retrieval attempt (assessment), is there more than one retrieval opportunity for students to apply feedback? Without penalty?

Does feedback offer STRATEGIES to close gap between desired learning and present position in that learning?

The above questions are crucial if your intention is student learning!

Other questions to think about…..
Are there effective characteristics of feedback included in your assessment policy?
Are your teachers held accountable for effective feedback in your teacher evaluation scheme?

Please share any assessment policy statements your school may have on effective feedback.


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Linking Children’s Literature to PYP Profile/Attitudes

“The aim of all the IB programmes is to develop internationally minded people who, recognizing their common humanity and shared guardianship of the planet, help to create a better and more peaceful world.” (Making the PYP Happen)

The IB Learner Profile Attributes and Attitudes are relevant to both students and adults in a PYP school. By modelling and including them in all aspects of the school, students become more aware of them and build an appreciation for them.

IB Learner Profile

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IB Attitudes

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Teachers should look for authentic demonstrations of the Profile Attributes and Attitudes in the daily lives of the students in order to help students reflect on and develop their own set of values.

Using children’s literature has always been a valuable resource in classroom instruction. Children often are able to connect to the characters, situations, etc. that come alive when being read aloud a book or when reading independently. A lot of international schools have generated library lists linking various texts to the IB Learner Profile Attributes and Attitudes for teachers to utilize in the classroom.

Bleagh! A book about values is a new children’s book by Leana Doray, a former PYP teacher. I’ve already had the privilege of reading this new release and am excited to share it with my class this coming August. It will provide a nice link to the ongoing discussions and vocabulary in my PYP classroom.

front cover v14-copy


As a lot of international students have experience with, Bleagh is the new student, or Monster, at school! He is on a journey to learn important values and make new friends.

As you can see from this sample page, there is a clear link to some of the IB Profile and Attitudes throughout Bleagh’s first day of school.



Visiting the Bleagh Website will provide more information on the book as well as offer learning engagements and resources related to the book. Click here to go directly to the website. 

Bleagh! A book about values is available at all Kinokuniya outlets, online at Kinokuniya’s website and all Times Bookstores. For international readers, “BLEAGH!” is now available as an eBook on the Amazon Kindle and will soon be available on Barnes & Noble Nook, and Apple iBook platforms.

I hope to share a future blog post after I use the book with my G3s in August.

Does your school have any relevant/favorite titles they use to support a specific IB Learner Profile or Attitude?

Posted in international teaching, PYP, PYP Attitudes, PYP Profile, Reading, teaching | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Share what you know, a good place to start

Before moving ahead in our inquiry into shapes, angles, and lines, my grade three students took time to share their current understandings.

Armed with cameras, small groups walked about the school to take pictures representing any 2D shape, 3D shape, angle, or line they were familiar with. They then added their photos to a Voicethread to record their thinking.

They also used different materials to share and tweet their prior knowledge on the properties of 2D shapes.
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By having the students do this I was able to gain a lot of information to inform and differentiate my planning.
This included:

-strengths and needs of individual students
-student readiness levels
-vocabulary needs
-possible flexible groups

The voicethreads will be revisited throughout the unit to adjust, modify, or to add information as the students continue to construct meaning, transfer meaning, and apply their further understanding.

Have you used Voicethread for pre-assessing?

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Students leading the way

One of the ways my school shares information with parents about their child’s learning is through SLC, Student-Led Conferences.

(From Making the PYP Happen, pg. 52)

“Student-led Conferences involve the student and the parent. The students are responsible for LEADING the conference, and also take responsibility for their learning by sharing the process with their parents. This may involve a variety of different learning situations.”


-Students LEAD

-This is not a parent-teacher conference

-Teachers are present as support when needed

-Students can speak in their Mother Tongue to parents if necessary

-There can be several SLC conferences taking place at the same time

-Students decide what to share with their parents

-Students need time to prepare, they need time to practice

-Both Paper and ePortfolios can be shared

-Students can share any part of their learning space they wish

-Encourage reflection and discussion on the student’s work

-Talk to parents beforehand so that everyone has the same understanding about the day

-Celebrate with the students

Things to think about:

-does there need to be a time set (i.e. one hour)

-how to include specialists?


This year, some of my G3s wanted to tweet out their conference on our class account.

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As a class we reflected the next day on our time with our parents and shared a blog post. We have already received comments from our parents.

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A short view into our SLCs last week

I have always enjoyed these days in school. I love watching the students celebrate their learning with their family. I am always impressed with the increase in confidence and independence as well. This pic I took last week at our SLCs sums it up for me.


Do you have Student-Led Conferences at your school?
How are they organised?

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Being a PYP Exhibition Mentor

9877724In the final year of the PYP, students engage in a final project, the PYP Exhibition. The exhibition is a transdisciplinary inquiry conducted in the spirit of personal and shared responsibility. This exhibition is a significant event for both the school and the students, synthesizing the essential elements of the PYP and sharing them with the whole school community. (-Making the PYP Happen)

My first experience being a mentor for the exhibition was back in 2008 at ISD in Germany. At the time I was teaching Grade 3 at the school and I had the privilege of being guided through the experience by a Grade 5 master teacher, Mary Kay Polly (@MKPolly ). The Grade 5 teachers led the mentors through the exhibition process and shared their expectations for us as mentors.

This past February, 2013, I had the chance to revive my role as mentor for the exhibition once again. I am again teaching Grade 3 and was a mentor to a group of 5 students for their PYP Exhibition at ISS International School in Singapore. I found myself so glad to be back in this role and strongly encourage any teacher in the PYP to take the opportunity to do so in their own schools.


I met with my group once a week during lunch. The first time we met, we looked through our PYP Exhibition Journal and the timeline. They shared their burning questions with me and the work they had already done on a shared understanding of the vocabulary in their Central Idea. We then set a goal for our next meeting.

Every meeting after that included an update on their progress, reflection on the goals we set, self-reflection on the Transdisciplinary skills, and any questions/concerns/ideas they wanted to discuss.

Everything was organized on Google Docs which allowed us all to have access to their research and resources. These weekly meetings were led and organized by the students.

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In the spirit of the PYP, students, teachers, and parents are seen as partners working towards a common goal.  As a Grade 3 teacher, I am a member of this partnership and have found great value in mentoring the Grade 5 students. The experience not only allows me to contribute to and support my school’s Programme of Inquiry, but it also allows me to reflect on the progression of the essential elements of the PYP throughout the elementary school.

photo-1As I engaged with students in their demonstration of research skills, balancing primary and secondary sources, interpreting research and data, and planning presentation methods, I was able to reflect on how these elements are present and developed in Grade 3. This then leads to further reflection/discussions with other grade level teachers and continuous improvement of our Programme.

Overall, mentoring the PYP Exhibition is a valuable experience. Be a part of this inquiry and celebration of the PYP years. You won’t regret it.



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Reviewing our PoI – part 1

I have been organizing our school’s PoI Review with the PYPCo since January. We started by providing each grade level team time to work through a Google Presentation reflecting on their current units. The template was created using the review rubric in the Developing a Transdisciplinary Programme of Inquiry Document.

Here is an example

After this initial work, a teacher from each grade level team joined the PoI Review Team.
This team would meet several times to tackle the next part of the process. The teachers were asked to come with an open mind and reflective spirit! I collected the data on our current PoI so we knew where we were before we could get where we were going!
We also created a large wall chart of our Programme to refer to during our meetings.

Sample of how we collected data on our TD Theme Descriptors

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Sample of Key Concepts Data

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Google Docs were used for Related Concepts and Subject Focus data as well.



Our wall PoI review

Our first step was to review our Social Studies and Science strands in our Programme, both horizontally and vertically, as these subjects are all inclusive in our Units of Inquiry. This allowed us to see the balance of strands, repetitions, and omissions.

Through this process and exploring other school’s PoIs, we immediately began to discuss/document suggested changes to our Programme while continually referencing our concepts.

At this point, we will share with the teachers our initial findings, including the strengths of our current PoI and recommendations for improving our Programme. These recommendations include some of the following:

-complete change of units
-refining Central Ideas to invite more student inquiry
-refining Lines of Inquiry to ensure conceptual understanding

Grade level teams will then have time to discuss the suggestions and ask any clarifying questions before the Review Team moves on.

I will be sure to share the second part of our process in a few months.

How does your school review your Programme of Inquiry?

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My Journey into the World of Minecraft

Screen shot 2013-01-28 at 6.36.25 PMI am not a gamer like my husband, but I became interested in Minecraft when it was all I heard about from a group of my students. They had joined the ECA last year for Minecraft and were pretty disappointed when they could not get into the second session.

@colingally and I started talking about how we could integrate Minecraft into one of our G3 PYP UoIs, under the theme, How We Organize Ourselves. The previous year we looked at systems in this unit but failed to bring it all together into a community of students who were collaborative, organized, and creative. Minecraft brought these skills and attitudes to the unit along with a whole lot more.

We just presented our UoI at the 21st Century Learning Conference in Hong Kong. Click here to see our presentation.
After reflecting on the unit with my G3 team in our PYP unit planner and sharing our journey at the conference in HK while gaining feedback, I am better able to reflect on my own thoughts regarding the unit and how to improve it for next year.

What worked:

  • Students were engaged
  • Minecraft was relevant to them as some have played it before
  • Minecraft was also challenging to others who have not played it before and it was designed a bit different to what regular players were used to
  • The Social Skills of respecting others, resolving conflicts, group decision making, and cooperation were at the heart of this unit. These skills were developed and reflected on throughout the unit.
  • The Self Management Skills of organization and time management were also needed and developed during this unit.
  • Student who normally did not choose to work together found themselves communicating and working together collaboratively.
  • The creativity of the students in the design of their building/system shined
  • The positive relationships built in the online learning spaces

What didn’t work:

  • More integration and connection to math would be beneficial. A unit on measurement would work with regards to planning the draft of the community on graph paper, focusing on size / scale.
  • Continue to reflect on unit, including tuning in stage, learning experiences, and reflections so that the concepts are driving the unit.

I am happy to see more points for ‘what worked’. However, I know that addressing those points for ‘what didn’t work’ is crucial to improving the unit and maximizing the strengths of the unit.

I am excited to see where this Minecraft journey will take me and would love to hear about your journey with Minecraft and any integration into the classroom you can share.

To view more of my student’s work in their Minecraft world, visit our class blog at (student videos)

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From edmodo to Google Groups

I have used and blogged about edmodo before as a learning space for literature discussions. Since our school has gone full speed ahead with Google Docs and Google Site Portfolios, I decided to try and use Google Groups this year instead of edmodo for my Grade 3 Literature Circles.

I set up a 3SS Reading Group with our school gmail accounts. The students didn’t have to remember another username/password as they were already comfortable with their school gmail accounts. In Groups, they easily click on the discussion prompt and respond to the questions/thoughts as well as reply to each other.

So far this has been successful. I have added our Literacy Specialist as a member of our group so the students are collaborating with others outside our classroom too. The students are able to communicate with each other on the novel we are reading together whether they are in school or at home.
They are-
-explaining their thoughts on the novel
-interpreting character’s actions
-applying their prior knowledge from other texts
-understanding different points of views

For our next novel, the students will take turns posting the initial questions/prompts for the group.

The following snapshots show a few examples of student’s thoughts on our current novel, Poppy by AVI. As always, if you and your students are reading Poppy or another novel and would like to connect, please let me know!






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Reflect with VoiceThread

One of my teaching goals this year relates to Reflection.
-more time for my students to reflect in the classroom
-making available other tools to reflect with beside pencil and paper
-reflecting on the process as well as product
-ensuring time is spent on reflection in the planners for my UOIs.


My G3s are currently working on a summative piece in our unit of inquiry, How We Express Ourselves. While they work on their summative, they are logging their progress and reflecting along the way via VoiceThread.


I have used VoiceThread before to share student work in Readers Theatre, field trip reflections, and other student experiences. This year, I introduced VoiceThread to my G3s earlier in the year so the students were familiar with the tool and how to comment on other student’s slides. Although this time, they are keeping their slides to themselves for the time being as a means of self reflection.

Below are a few samples from my G3 Students

This has been an effective way for students to stop and think about their progress. For my ESL students, they have found they are able to share more of their thoughts and feelings for they are not made to write everything down.

I am sure many of you have used VoiceThread before, but I thought the benefits behind using it as a reflection tool were worth sharing. When these are complete they will simply embed into their Google Sites Portfolios.

Do you have any other ideas to share on how you use VoiceThread?


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A little help from friends

Nothing Ever Happens on 90th Street  by Roni Schotter is a story about a young girl named Eva, who has trouble coming up with something to write about. After she receives some advice from her fellow neighbors she tries to use the advice and has another go at writing.

This book is referenced in as a mentor text when working with the revision stage of the writing process with your students. Below, I will share what I took from this idea and how I implemented it in my Grade 3 classroom.


First, my students were asked to write about a time when nothing happened to them. We brainstormed different possibilities; waiting in the car for mom or dad, waiting in line for lunch, waiting for the school bus. Each student then wrote a draft.

I then read the beginning of the book to the class, including the part where we meet Eva, who is supposed to write about what she knows, but finds nothing ever happens to her. I also read about the advice she received from several of her neighbors.

After that we talked about each neighbor and the advice they gave.








We posted the neighbors and their advice around the classroom for students to refer back to.









After that, I read the rest of the book, and we looked at Eva’s revised writing and tried to figure out whose advice she was using.








I then asked the students to take their draft of a time when nothing happened and visit the neighbors around the room. They were to think about their advice and write down any revision notes in their notebooks.








After the students wrote down their notes, they were ready to rewrite a revised piece on a time when nothing happened. They didn’t share with any of their peers whose advice they were using, for a peer would later read their published piece and try to figure out whose advice they followed.

Below you will see a sample of  a draft piece of writing, the notes taken from the neighbors advice, and a revised piece.



These are the notes the student took as she went to visit the neighbors for advice.


Here is her revised version



We were recently practicing for our oral presentations and one of my students said his presentation was too short. Another student, walked over to Mr. Sims on the wall, pointed to him and said, “Mr. Sims would tell you to add more detail!” What a great connection!

The revision stage can be very difficult for students as they are often attached to their draft and don’t want to change anything. After introducing our new neighbors, the students have really begun to understand this stage and how they can revise their writing.

What have other ideas do you have to help students understand revision?

Posted in Reading, traits of writing, writing | Tagged , | 1 Comment