Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Boardwalk: A Focus on Student Work

I caught a glimpse of the 4th grade Professional Learning Community doing their standards-based boardwalk today, and thought I’d give you a quick look into this best practice.

At the beginning of each month, excluding December, CCE teachers display a standards-based bulletin board. The boards are an avenue to exhibit student work. The boards specific elements include:
o Title
o Standards
o Task
o Circumstances of Performance
o Student Work
o Commentary.

As you stroll through the CCE hallways, it is not uncommon to see parents or students reading the work on the board. You may also catch a glimpse of an entire classroom of students sitting in front of the board as their teacher reads work to them. Coaches, adminstrators, and visitors read the work and have dialogue about the instruction that led to the production of the student work.

As importantly, teachers use the boards to read student work and benchmark their work against standard pieces. After a new board has been displayed, communities of teachers take a boardwalk. They explain to other teachers the purpose of working on the standard the board exhibits, the classroom assignment or task students were asked to complete, and the circumstances under which the piece was created (individually, in groups, after a teacher conference, during work period… etc…). Then, they read some of the student work and discuss how the work meets the standard (teacher’s commentary). In some instances, like on this board, students have compared their own work to the standard and written their own commentary. This allows for a self-assessment of the piece.

Boardwalks are a great way to bring student work to the table. Comparing student work across a grade level allows teachers to have professional dialogue about work that meets the standard. Boardwalks also allow teachers to see if the student work coming out of their room benchmarks against work from other rooms. Often, this comparing of student work leads to discussion about classroom practice and lessons. This gives entry into sharing ideas and improving instruction. Afterall, isn't that what it is all about?

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