Well… yes, admittedly.
“Ontario Learning Skills” or some derivation thereof is the most-searched term that brings people to my blog, according to the stats provided by the built-in program offered by Weebly, my web platform company. So, in the spirit of cranking out those last few report cards this week, let me offer a few more thoughts about learning skills in today’s blog post:
First of all, make sure you have some data, and not just from this past week!! Collect and record formal Learning Skills data periodically throughout the term – you can record this on a template I have posted here before or via some other method. Just think about a few kids at the end of each week, while looking at a list of criteria, and jot down a few observations. These can also be done on the fly, as a child does something that you notice, and then jot down in his or her file. Then, when you sit down to write report cards at the end of each term, you will have some concrete evidence to use for reporting purposes.
Secondly, involve the students in learning about learning skills. Co-construct definitions and look-fors, based on the ministry report card. Record and post these around the room for student reference, and refer back to them yourself periodically. I’ve now introduced four learning skills with my students since Sept. This week I will review them, having my Grade 3s complete as much of the chart below as possible, and will then have them add “Responsibility” and “Initiative” later, as we address those.
I have posted sample self assessments previously on this blog and at the bottom of the page in the "Asessment" section of my website, but today I share a document from the Ministry website, namely a blank Ontario Report Card. One of my former student teachers recently reminded me of this activity which I have often done with students in the past – I’ll do it againearly next week: Have a little chat with your class about report cards, and how they think the marks are arrived at. Then get them to complete a fake report card on themselves, being as honest as possible (you could do just the learning skills at one session, then academic marks during another lesson, and have them notice -- or you point out -- the correlation!)
Finally, a note about “other subjects”… Some of us can become so focussed on the core subjects and how we see students performing there, that we forget the world is a bigger place than just Reading and Math, so to speak. I have often spoken with my students’ gym, music and drama teachers about their observations of a particular student. Sometimes, they are able to provide a different perspective on a child, and offer real insights into strengths and positives. Other times, these colleagues can help to say something that needs saying in a gentler, kinder, more hopeful way.
I don’t believe in glossing over a student’s difficulties. After all, I am a mother, and I want to know what my kid struggles with, so that I can help. On the other hand, as a former mentor of mine used to say, “this is somebody’s baby you are writing about”. Everybody is loved by somebody. That little brat’s mother loves him and sees something good in him. Surely you can find one good thing, too?!
(A post-script and qualifier about Learning Skills comments: If at all possible, write them in prose, and have someone read them for tone and style before you submit them. I find it extremely difficult to write about my students in point form, as is the custom at my current school. Everything I wrote above becomes a mute point when I have to knock off 21 report cards all written in those jarring, naked bullets. I have extensive anecdotal and paper-documented evidence for most strands and many of the learning skills, and I can craft this into the most marvelous, honest, heartfelt paragraph about each child in my room. But I have not figured out for the life of me how to make the shit shine, so to speak, when I am forced to write in point form!! If there is anybody out there who is a masterful point-form report card comment writer, please, PLEASE consider writing a guest blog post for my website. I and many of my colleagues would be very grateful! Please contact me if you would consider taking on such a project!!!)