Transforming Instruction

by Anne Davies

Last week the Kelowna Summit focused on supporting vulnerable learners. It was a great success. I enjoyed the research that was shared, the conversations that occurred, and the renewed commitment to support all our learners. Today I received an email from a primary teacher. She had a question about one of the ideas I shared. I thought I would share my response with others. Here is the thread….

Hi Anne,
I saw you speak on Friday and I really enjoyed it.  I realize that I need to have my grade ones assessing themselves more. I really liked your target examples but can’t remember the wording that was in the targets. I was wondering if you could send me a sample?

Thank you,


Hi Niki,

Thanks for your note. The target was…

Right on
Working on It
Needs Improvement

I first saw this in the Edmonton Catholic School System in 2001. A teacher from each level shared the way they were using it to help students self-assess. This photo is the one Lisa McCluskey used.

Sometimes people use symbols. Donna Cunningham talked about using….

Flying pig
Walking pig
Sleeping pig…

And that was high school. Really! And it worked for her! 🙂



Hi Niki,

PS   One quick note… the self-assessment will go a LOT better if you co-construct criteria first.

For example,

What do good readers do?
What do good writers do?
What’s important in a journal entry? You choose the question – it is about whatever you want students to know, do, and be able to articulate.

As they respond just record what students say. Make a list. Try to record it the way they say it (it is also a language development opportunity). I’m including some examples for you from the video clips I shared:
The reading example is from Jennifer Flight’s Grade One classroom. The writing example is from Sue Smith’s Grade Two classroom.

Once students have helped to set criteria, then get them engaged in doing. (Note: If you decide to skip the student involvement part you can expect this process to only work for your most able learners.) If you want to learn more about this process, read Setting and Using Criteria.

Then, when they are part-way through the task, stop them and ask them to tell a neighbour one thing they are doing that shows they are good…. whatever it is. Then, when they are done have them again tell a neighbour.

I would take a few days to have students involved in “telling” their self-assessments to other students and to you. Then, they can “show” their proof of meeting a specific idea listed on the criteria sheet (either in the work samples or by role playing the actions).

Then, take the self-assessment to paper. Remember, when working with vulnerable learners, teachers need to be very conscious of the gradual release of responsibility…  the deliberate move from me (the teacher), to we (all of us together) to me (students becoming independent).

Let me know if you have more questions. They help me know what is helpful to share 🙂


PS  To save time and the environment, some primary teachers have stamps made with the ‘target’ on it. Then children simply stamp near the work they want to show for their self-assessment… then they just colour in the section on the stamp print on their work. They can also use the same colour to highlight the evidence in their work. They can stamp just about anywhere on their work (it saved a lot of copying and taping/gluing).

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