Adding Evaluative Comments to Children's Work Samples
© Beverley Paine
When writing comments about children's work teachers need to be clear about:
They also need to be sympathetic to the children's concerns and feelings about the process of evaluating work and its potential effect on the learners. Grades and comments should not be seen as reward or punishment for work done, or the standard of work done, but as a tool for planning for learning opportunities. Evaluation is an essential teaching tool, providing the teacher with valuable information about learners' interests and needs, as well as conveying an active concern about these issues to the children.
Ideally the children will participate in the evaluation process, by discussing what they want to learn and brainstorming different ways and resources they can use, as well as working out what indicators they could use to assess that they have achieved their aims. After the activity they can discuss or write about how effective the learning method and resources were, how they performed, what new skills or understanding they've achieved, or what they need to work on next.
What does all this mean for homeschooling mums and dads though, who often don't see the value in recording comments on samples of children's work, especially those following an unschooling or learning naturally approach to education? Consider the following example I wrote several years ago:
Self-initiated task (7yrs)
Roger's drawing of a robot he had made out of LEGO bricks shows his ability to draw to scale and to keep things in proportion. He has really captured the depth of the robot, showing very good ability with perspective. This was not surprising as he has demonstrated it with his earlier pictures of houses. However, this is the first picture of a real object in 3 dimensions I have seen him draw, and it was a difficult and complex subject. His colouring, in pencil, shows attention to detail and is accurate. This demonstrates his continuing fascination for perfection!
At a glance several characteristics of Roger's development are apparent from my comments, which offer more detail and insight than the drawing alone. Taken together with other samples of Roger's art work it's easy to see how his ability to draw, and to notice and pay attention to detail, progress as he grows. This knowledge about Roger's ability, drawn from my observations and comments, enabled me to encourage his emerging interest in technical drawing by offering activities that used and developed relevant skills. I recognised that Roger preferred drawing rather than writing as a learning medium and shifted the emphasis when doing unit studies from lots of writing, to using illustrations, charts, graphs and diagrams to also convey meaning.
As you can see, a brief comment beside a sample of your child's work can be an extremely valuable aid to homeschooling, without really taking up much of your time - apart from the time taken to think critically about what, why and how learning is happening, and where you and the child wants it to go next.
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We began educating our three children in 1985, when our eldest was aged five years. In truth, we had helped them learn what they need to learn as they grew and explored and discovered this amazing world since the moment they were born. I am a passionate advocate of allowing children to learn unhindered by unnecessary stress and competition, meeting developmental needs in ways that suit their individual learning styles and preferences. Ours was a homeschooling, unschooling and natural learning family! There are hundreds of articles on this site to help you build confidence as a home educating family. I hope that your home educating adventure is as satisfying as ours was!
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