Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Planning Time: What About Assessment?

I would like to welcome Jennifer Ohrling back for another insightful post into her thoughts on the planning time role in Kindergarten. I am excited and sad to share that my colleague is moving on next year to a new role that will support educators in FDK board wide in terms of behaviour, flow of the day, classroom environment etc. Many colleagues have asked me and Jenny about assessment in terms of the planning time teacher, although she talked briefly about it in her previous blog she has expanded on what she tried this year and how it worked for us as a team. Our teams approach is not one that is "correct" or "best", but it did work for us and we feel it best supported the whole child.

After my blog post about Kindergarten Planning Time, Tracy has shared with me that many educators have asked about the role of assessment on the part of the Planning Time teacher.  I briefly touched on documentation in my first blog and purposefully didn’t get into too much detail about assessment.  I did this for a few reasons, the main one being that I believe that if the PT teacher is actively involved with the team that the role of assessment will be communicated with the team.

I believe that the role of the PT teacher in terms of assessment will be different for each teacher depending on the relationship with the team.  In FDK when you are truly following the play-based approach to learning you cannot simply tell another adult in the room exactly what they are responsible for assessing. 

The PT teacher automatically becomes part of your FDK team and I suggest that feedback can be given and shared between educators in the following ways.   

Documentation – We are learning that documentation is one of the best ways to capture students learning.  Technology is making it easier and easier to capture magical moments and share them with the children and the FDK team. 

In The Art of Awareness: How Observation Can Transform Your Teaching, Deb Curtis and Margie Carter state that:
 "Documentation cannot only capture the details of significant events and learning for the children but can also serve as a source of rich learning for teachers."

My favourite ways to document are through the use of Notability and PicCollage (which are excellent apps available for download on an iPad).

There are so many ways to document student learning and once you and your team are comfortable with it you’ll see what a magical tool this can be for assessment.  In my PT role this year I provided documentation for the teams on an irregular basis.  Other teams may find it more beneficial to request one piece of documentation per week or choose a group of students you are hoping to receive documentation on each month. The journey of mastering the art of documentation is a magical one and I encourage all educators to conduct your own research on this magical tool.

Assessment Book – This simple idea has proven to be invaluable for many teams in regards to planning for next steps for students and having notes for report cards, learning stories, and ongoing documentation. The teacher and ECE each have their own lined notebook that is divided into with student’s names. I have seen FDK teams use these observations notes for planning, documentation, parent conferences, report card writing, and so much more.  There are a couple of ways you could have your PT teacher join the process.  One, by making your books available for your PT teacher to record any observations he/she may see, alternatively your PT teacher create their own book in order to have information at his/her fingertips to share.  I can’t emphasize how important observation is and how pertinent any notes from observers entering the room can be to help understand a child’s development. 
Notes – This year I created a simple page that I photocopied and kept in my “teacher bag”.  I wrote Mrs. Ohrling’s Observations across the top of the page and a place for the date and name of student(s) I was observing. 

I would take notes of something I observed and leave it with the FDK team.  My observations were sometimes based on Personal/Social observations I had made and sometimes based on more academic observations.  It is important for PT teachers (and all members of your FDK team) to be well-versed in the most recent Kindergarten curriculum document.  That way the curriculum can be “uncovered” through observation rather than “covered.”
Small Group Instruction – At times I have been asked to lead a small group instruction.  I have enjoyed working in small groups with a variety of topics including: how to use white glue, sorting and organizing the money collected for Terry Fox, how to take turns and follow the rules while playing a board game, how to write a story, and so much more.  The feedback from the PT teacher with these groups is invaluable.  This may be the only time a child talks about a sibling at home, or how much he/she loves to use glue.  It is important to share what you have learned about the children with the FDK team. 

Class-at-a-Glace Sheet – Some teams make a class profile sheet with a square for each student.  This is a quick easy way to make some observations notes for the team. 

I would suggest sharing this observation sheet with the team on a bi-weekly basis in order for the feedback to be timely and meaningful.  Keep in mind, the goal is not to fill the entire sheet but rather provide rich notes about students.

Guided Reading – Obviously a guided reading group falls under small group instruction but I have separated this due to the fact that some FDK teams will have a specific recording sheet for their Guiding Reading instruction.  It is important that the PT teacher team understands how you would like the information recorded.  Teachers will often leave the books and recording sheets out for me in order to make this transition smooth.  At times the team will write the goals for the group on the top of the sheet so I know what vocabulary, CAP skills, etc. he/she would like the group to work on. 

Report Card Comments – I know this is the section that Tracy’s readers are most interested in knowing.  “Who is going to write the comments on the report cards?”  “Does the PT teacher get a section of the report card?”

In my opinion, if Kindergarten Planning Time teachers provides rich, timely feedback to the FDK teams they have set the stage for a report card that is rich with examples of relevant learning across the curriculum.  In the past year I have made myself available to the FDK teams on the PD days provided for report card writing and those that wanted my input scheduled me for a period of time.  Tracy and her partners asked me to edit the reports and I happily did so adding my own twist to vocabulary and remarks used on their reports.  Other teachers have emailed me a section of the report card and asked me to revise and edit for them.  I have also had teachers say things to me “I seem to have a gap in a child’s report – can you watch over the next couple of days and let me know what your thoughts are about her number sense.”  All of these lead to a well written report card that captures the whole child.  I feel that simply assigning a section of the Report Card to a PT teacher will not capture the whole child and how he/she is learning and developing in that particular area.  It is only with considerable observations, feedback, and teamwork that the child will be captured appropriately on this document.  

I hope I have answered your questions regarding how I see assessment working in the Full-Day Kindergarten Program.  Please remember I too am on a journey of learning and this is only my opinion.  I am looking forward to seeing how other schools are making FDK Planning Time work as I travel to many schools across the board in the coming year.

I urge all FDK teams to remember the importance of collaboration and communication as you go on your journey.

Thanks Tracy for inviting me once again to write on your beautiful blog.  What an inspiration you are to so many!

Thank you Jenny for your insight and honesty. It was a challenging year and I strongly feel that you have defined the planning role so well as a strong educator who flows in and out of rooms with confidence and ease. Your passion for learning and ability to self reflect will make you such an incredible support for all of the educators in our board next year that are lucky enough to have you learning alongside them!


  1. Thanks for providing such useful insight into the PT Teacher's option for assessment. I do like the way you don't "disrupt" the children learning but rather integrate into their play.
    Thanks for sharing!
    Kim Clark

  2. How does the planning time teacher fit into the FDK class? Does the PT teacher come into the class or are students taken out? Also, what do the PT teachers do? Are they responsible to cover a special area, like Music, or drama or dance, as this is the problem for many of us. We are still expected to comment on each student according to a new type of assessment, but still following old guidelines. For example, I am still expected to do music and drama, dance and health? And the students come out for that 40 minutes, so it is extremely difficult to observe and make comments as discipline is also an issues and numbers. How can anyone do this properly with 30 JK/SK level individuals with special needs and discipline issues? This is extremely difficult to do unless things change from the top down. Boards and principals need to see that it all needs to change, if it is to be a seamless day then we should be part of the class and that involves their play based day and not subject only teaching? Am I correct in this thinking? thanks Tina