Archive for February, 2011|Monthly archive page

Teacher’s Assessment. Or the Inevitable Arrogance.

In Uncategorized on February 20, 2011 at 5:50 pm

I admit. I am not a good teacher blogger . I prefer writing poems and watching beautiful things. But I do have my “professional” wonderings and one of them occurred today.


What is it? How can we assess humans in the first place?


I read many of Alfie Khon’s articles and agree on many of the points he makes. Empirically (or by experience and reflection), I have had the same ideas and I have been as fervent opponent of homework and grades as he is ever since I became a teacher.


Going to the heart of the matter now, I think that, regardless of the assessment type, it is subjective to quite an extent. Even if you vary and combine the assessment formats (portfolios, complex projects, tests etc), you will fail in knowing exactly how much a student has LEARNT. Let alone how DEEPLY he has learnt. Or HOW LONG his learning will stay with him/her. You can only find out what he can DO on that task in that specific moment of his learning journey.


There are two points I want to make:

1. Teacher to teacher variation

Given the same “product” (which can be a story, complex project, report etc) there will not be two teachers who will grade/assess it alike.

2. Personal bias/experience

 Moreover, even YOU might grade it differently:

at different points in your teaching career (I read about a similar experiment). That makes sense, because we evolve as teachers (or regress in some cases – burnout signal). Our approach to teaching and education shifts in time.

depending on your students (the hallo effect). This cognitive bias appears almost involuntarily and you need to take a good step back to be aware of it. It can appear in regard to the students of the same class or students you had in different generations. Even kids can hardly manage it and I noticed that when they present final projects and have a peer-assessment session: if a kid with not so good a project presents his work after a very good /impressive one the tendency is to underestimate the latter.


On the other hand, if we did not assess students we would not know where they are on the learning (?) continuum. We could not plan for future teaching nor give them feedback so as to set own goals for learning.


So much for accuracy. Or our arrogance in using this word: “assessment”. I think we should add “our” (assessment).

What do you think?


*Photo credit: Morgue File, Anita Patterson 


Why #FF Is Cute….But I won???t Use It Anymore

In Uncategorized on February 18, 2011 at 8:53 pm

I assume this post will be read because people are usually stirred by two things instantly: curiosity and ego (evidence:  I noticed that the blog entry that got almost instant reads – over 500- was the one mentioning Edublog awards).


Before I proceed I have a confession to make: I am a sort of an asocial being. I get along way better with kids. And I dislike words like “award”, “prize”, “punishment”, “boss”. OK, these are three confessions.



With that in mind…let me tell you why #FF is a sort of strange graphic creature to me. #FF is bipolar.



#FF celebrates excellence

Not always. It also celebrates cliques. Or friendship (which is completely subjective).

#FF is based on objective skills, knowledge and inspiration

Not always. It is sometimes based on how often you RT someone’s blog entry or tweet.

You might think that there is a dose of envy lurking within me that prompted me to write this post…Not at all.

What actually got me write it was a realization: Twitter, like any other social media channel, is a matter of being active in this medium. And that, in as much as promotes leadership and excellence, also discourages the community. Paradoxically so. It connects and disconnects. People whose blog posts are interesting or at least genuine remain peripheral. They never get the chance to get into the conversation…because the “leaders” rarely if ever bother to read them and encourage their thinking, work, experience, effort.

What follows is that…the conversation is becoming a monopoly. And that really tires me out…People who RT the same people over and over again.


I value everyone in my PLN. That is why I have a hard time to label them through a hashtag.

There are the geeks who bring us all the new cool stuff…and then the reflective philosophers of education who have a great vision…and then the artists that make our soul dance once in a while…and the conversationalist types that can brighten your day sometime…and the educator who needs help…and…and…

If they are on my list…they mean something to me. I do not need to #FF them.

If they are not…then it doesn’t mean they are not worthy. They simply do not get into my radar of interest.


You might say, “But (s)he is a poor blogger “. Or, “(s)he does not inspire me at all”. I can agree on that…but then…I remember my students who lack some skills at a certain point in time. If I marginalize them…they would never get the motivation to go on. Or try again.

Besides…not ALL blog posts of the most experienced bloggers are great ALL the time…


I am new to blogging myself. And I do not do it for popularity (I dislike SM as a form of self-advertisement) …but because I am happy if a single person can take something from me and use it…try it in their classroom. And improve their lessons. Or get inspired.


I am certain that this post will get many readers drop me. I know anyone and anything can be misjudged. And I can live with it.


While loving my PLN. Regardless of its size. 

*Smile a little now … because it’s weekend. 🙂


Creatively Speaking…

In Uncategorized on February 13, 2011 at 4:10 pm

My hand is the extension of the thinking process…the CREATIVE process. (Tadao Ando)


Creativity pre-exists schooling. Creativity pre-exists textbooks. And even knowledge, as in academic knowledge.

How do we nurture it? How do we make kids aware of their power? How do we do that if we start suffocating them with textbooks, test scores, rules and …and…

Can creativity really bloom in a classroom where everything is set at a specific time and all students are required to do the academic “work”?


My 2nd grade students and I tried to change our perspective on creativity. I think it is important, from time to time, to make things more explicit – especially for young learners…So how did I do that?

  1. Presentations/videos to start the discussion

Use the “I used to think…Now I think..” strategy (from ProjectZero)

I used more ways to create the platform for discussion – see below.

*My PPT – I used Mike Oldfield’s track Tubular Bells 


VIDEO that inspired me (also shared with the kids)  : 

The student answers below…


2. Powerful quotes

Encourage kids to express their opinion. I used the 4 corners strategy – I strongly agree/I agree/ I strongly disagree/ I disagree.


Some answers here…


3. Ask KIDS about their own creative process


They share what inspires them…and that can enable others to use the same sources of inspiration.


*A student of mine created a Storybird on inspiration and invited me to collaborate. I wrote a single page so she could come up with her  own answers. 🙂

4. Challenge kids’ creativity

Use language, art, science, mathematics…basically, any area of human endeavor.


More specific strategies and tips:

1.   “Do  X …as…”  

Example:  Do a poem as a …line/ dance/ collage/ drawing

                Do the addition as a…diagram/drawing/craft piece

 2. Use the “What if?..” question

Example: What if ice cream grew in trees? What if you became invisible? Here is a 1,000 idea-list for what-if strategy!

3. Use the BAR strategy : 

Make an item Bigger, Add something to it or Replace something. 

4. Use Combination 

List the attributes of two dissimilar objects. Combine all the attributes to make a single object

5. Different uses

Find 10 uses for empty plastic yoghurt containers. (You’ll be amazed at what kids can come up with!)

 6. The prediction 

Predict what X will be like in 10 years. (X being anything at your choice)

7. The Picture

Draw a simple diagram and let students work out how to link it to your topic.

8. The Ridiculous 

Make a ridiculous comment that would be impossible to implement and provoke students to substantiate it .

Example: Houses should be build without roofs.

Possible argument: Indeed, because you can see the beautiful night sky. 

9. Step inside: Perceive – Know- Care about

Students imagine being “inside”a character, object, abstract thing (e.g. the sword on a battlefield, the numerator in a fraction, the window in a story etc)

10. Color, Symbol, Image

Ask students to use a single color, draw a symbol and then an icon for a topic (e.g. global warming).

11. Headlines

Ask students to come up with newspaper headlines to summarize, in a creative way, what they are learning. 

12. Reversed brainstorming

Instead of asking students to come up with solutions (like in any regular brainstorming session), challenge them to do the opposite.

Example: How can we increase pollution? 

By looking at things from an opposite perspective students actually enrich  the pallete of solutions…

13. Combine the arts with language

Use Storybird, comic creators, photo tools, videos in your language-related classes.

Use music as a background to enhance creativity.

Use everyday objects that might go with a story. Show them at the beginning and let kids discuss what they might be for.

Use web apps like One word

14. Change your classroom space

How much does your classroom space invite to curiosity and creativity?…

*Angela Maiers asks that more eloquently…

If you are on this path…below I want to share some links that might help you:

Inquiry, Creativity and..Fun

In Uncategorized on February 2, 2011 at 9:01 pm

Some of you who read my previous blog entry ( know that my students and I inquire into the arts, music and writing as tools for self-expression. Some of you also gave me ideas and links to use – a warm thank you to you!

Reminder: My students are second language learners. They are second graders (7-8 year olds). 


I promised I would share our learning journey…So here is how I tried to accomplish my goals:


Change the classroom space – so it would look like and feel like an art room.

  1. Image2133Copy_of_image2094Copy_of_image2099Copy_of_image2116Copy_of_sam_0353Graffiti2

Mission accomplished!

         we painted the furniture

         we created a graffiti wall

         we painted the window glass

         we will hang painted fabric on the walls

 The focus was on the PROCESS & COLLABORATION rather than the final product.


     Create an Inspiration Board – so kids would share and get inspired in return.

Mission accomplished!

Kids brought books, pictures, photographs, quotes, toys, jewelry and whatnot J! They also offered an argument for their choice (How does this inspire you?)


 Turn the kids from CONSUMERS into PRODUCERS of artwork

Mission accomplished!

As I am the English language teacher, I focused on Web applications that combine illustrations and writing. We created comics, posters, drawings, stories on We will also create poetry and photo shows using the links in our class wiki (


    Johny the Young Pirate on Storybird


    Take field trips to art galleries and museums – so students would get to see authentic artwork and meet artists in their workplace

Mission accomplished!

The kids went to 2 art galleries, to a museum, and (wohoo!) to the Institute of Belle Arte where they could actually see college students CREATING art pieces! Seeing artists at work was a powerful experience for them. They will also go a web designer studio and see how technology can impact our notion of art and beauty.


       Integrate TECHNOLOGY

Mission accomplished!

Out of our 3 hours of English daily 2 were spent using Web applications and the blog. Wallwisher, SpicyNodes, Wordle, Scribblar and others (aside from art-related web apps) were used to record student thinking, their creative process and encourage reflection and collaboration.

Wordle: Art *Wordle by Andrei


Bring in guest speakers

We invited the Arts teacher to answer to our questions!

Goal: I would love to Skype with an artist from another part of the world but none has offered so far…(Need to work on my social skills, maybe? So I can motivate people to collaborate…)


Create Reflection Journals – a new, more creative approach

Zoe Elder (@fullonlearning on Twitter), a terrific teacher AND my remote resource of inspiration, was kind enough to let me use her very own journal and I shared it with my students. The kids were all “wows”and “ahas” when seeing that our thinking is more powerful when we “translate” it graphically! Unfortunately, I need to take a new set of photos of their reflection journals because my US drive was in coma L. I also created my own journal which I share with students!

*Zelda’s journal – thinking visually 


*My journal – I know, I still need to use more colors 🙂



We have our Wonder Wall and student questions are recorded there. They have personal questions that are pursued until the end of the inquiry unit. I also challenge them with my own questions from time to time (see below).




Aside from the very process of creation (of a story, comic, poster etc) I would challenge students in other ways. I posted videos and photos in the class blog and gave students various tasks:

         make your own quote about art

         give us tips on what inspires you to create

         imagine a new scene for the video you watched etc.

Some of the videos and pictures can be viewed below. 

A SHORT LOVE STORY IN STOP MOTION from Carlos Lascano on Vimeo.

let yourself feel. from Esteban Diácono on Vimeo.