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I created this checklist last year when the Ontario MOE introduced "Growing for Success" the first elementary assessment and evaluation policy document to be published in decades! With the changes in policy came a change in the emphasis and format of the elementary report cards. The "Learning Skills and Work Habits" part of the report card was suddenly at the forefront and all the academic sections were made secondary.
When talking to my students after the first "progress report checklist" went home in October, I realized they had no real concrete idea of what the skills and work habits they were being evaluated on really WERE. Some had a vague idea what "responsibility" and "organization" meant, but things like "self-regulation" and "initiative" were foreign to them. I knew that I could not have my students work towards improving these skills and work habits if they did not understand what they meant or what I was looking for.
My first attempt to create a checklist for students looked more like a rubric for teacher use. I only used the standard language found on the Ontario report card. This attempt still did not seem to help the students understand what I was looking for. I converted the rubric format into a checklist, and as a class we refined the language to include "I" statements such as "I accept responsibility for and manage my own behaviour". The final checklist at 2 1/2 pages does seem very long, particularly if you are teaching younger students. It would be easy to adapt and emphasize only a few points under each heading.
After students self-assess using the checklist (I have them do this first thing after lunch each Friday), they are asked to review the their assessments and choose three skills/work habits which they determine need improvement. Students fill out the bottom of page 3 of the checklist recording the three areas for improvement, setting out a brief plan for each area and stating what teacher/parent support they might require. I then have the students show me their checklist and goals. I check for completion and then ask the students to transfer their 3 goals onto the "Weekly Objectives" section of the following week's planner. I remind them to frequently review their goals and plans for achieving them during the week. In some cases the students even use highlighters to give the goals extra prominence.
The following Friday, students fill out page 4 of the checklist. This reflection page asks them:
SO WHAT? What 3 areas did I select to work on so that my learning skills and work habits improve?
NOW WHAT? Did my plans work so that I could improve in each of these areas? Why?
Reflecting upon my work habits and learning skills this week, something that I learned about myself is:
I will use this information to help me to:
After they have completed page 4 of the previous week, they take a new checklist and start the process all over again. I remind the students that if they did NOT achieve their goals the previous week, they should reflect upon why they did not and perhaps choose those same goals again, BUT with a different plan for success. I discuss with them that it takes approximately 21 days or 3 weeks for a new skill or habit to actually become a HABIT. Some goals may last a week or two, some a few months and some the entire year. The entire process is what I emphasize with the students.
Last year, my students quickly began to internalize what each of the skills and work habits entailed. After using the checklists and accompanying goal setting sheets for several months, I saw a distinct change in the ownership of the learning in each of these areas. Students were able to verbalize what they were being assessed and evaluated on, and they were able to set goals which they were able to attain.
One student from last year visited me this week. I overheard him telling some of my new students that my checklists and goal setting had made him "so aware and organized that I scare myself". This student had really struggled the previous year, and I was glad to hear that he felt the use of the checklist and goal setting had helped him learn how to be more successful. Really, that is what teaching is all about!