How to Measure Learning in the Lower School

Posted by bhulsey - 14 September, 2012

Meade Davis is a new first grade teacher at Randolph, and a visit to her classroom reveals the magical connection she’s already developed with the children under her care.  She’s also innovative and creative, and earlier this week I heard about an extraordinary demonstration of community learning at its best.  Mrs. Davis’s class blog has her students eager to share, learn, and embrace the tools of the 21st century and the Information Age.

Her students blog about what’s happening in their lives.  I love a blog as a teaching and learning tool because it demystifies writing and it grows organically over a period of time.  That means that Mrs. Davis, her students, and anyone who visits the blog as a guest will watch as the writing gets better and better throughout the course of the year.

Writing is hard, and you have practice and practice if you want to excel.  That’s what her class is doing in their blog.  One boy wrote, “I plad soccer.  I plad defins.  I aso plad ofins.  Tin I wint home.  I tooc a baht, tin I wocht powrajrs.”  He’s spelling out his words phonetically, and he’s on his way to telling a story about his life that holds together.  The more he reads and writes, the more comfortable he’ll be with both.  Practice matters!

The blogs are funny, too.  One boy wrote in that “My Brothers Birthday Party is in 4 days.  My Mom acsudenly bot something we are rety have. She had to take it back.  She is still looking for a nuther gift.”  Most of us are wired to be story-tellers, and when we apply that instinct to the written word, we develop a skill that will last us for as long as we live.

In addition to being a great learning tool, blogs are interactive, and help us connect relationally through the written word.  Blogging is a great demonstration of community learning.  Parents and grandparents and other guests are responding to these posts, providing encouragement, asking questions, and even offering the occasional mea culpa.  Students get great responses from the audience in short order, and this again encourages their commitment to practice a skill that’s really difficult and challenges their ability to answer higher-level questions.

One student, for example, wrote, “I had ches club.  It is fun.  I had chess on wensday.  I have a magnet and a chess a tabol at Randolph School.”  His mother chimed in “Great post!  I can’t wait to see what you write about next!”  His dad (whom I know well and is ever the provocateur) posted, “Hi!  What is your favorite chess piece and why?”  His son stepped up and wrote, “Mie favret peas is a bishop and a rooc bcus the bishop can go diagnnly and the rooc can go in lins.”

Finally, Mrs. Davis’s blog is a tool for all of us to learn some lessons we need to have learned in the past and can all stand to learn again.  On September 11 a girl wrote poignantly, “Doo good fings.  Do not doo bad fings.  Doo good fings insted of bad fins.  Ef yoo do bad fings to paepl thae get scors and thea hrt bad.  We shuld al luve ech uthur.”  Randolph’s commitment to nurturing all could not be summarized any better, and when we take time to be the best we can be, share with one another, and make a contribution to the greater good, we make good on our commitment to be an exceptional community of learners.

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