April 16, 2003
I looped for several years with seventh and eighth graders. One thing I learned which was very important is that no matter how well you know your students at the end of one year, much growth occurs during those summer months. First, I give the students a general survey of questions to find out what changes may or may not have occurred in their lives since I last worked with them. Second, I find it helpful to give several pre-tests at the beginning of the year to find out what they'd retained from the previous year. (I'm always surprised at who remembers what!) Third, I also ask students to set academic, extra-curricular and personal goals for the year. They pass these goals in to me, and each grading period I pass them back and have the students check on their progress. Fourth, I also keep all writing samples from the previous year. At the beginning of the year, I ask them to fill out a worksheet evaluating each of their pieces from the previous year - based on whatever skills were emphasized that year. I think self assessment improves with time and distance, not only for children, but for adults too. Finally, I offer them the opportunity to rewrite one assignment from the previous year.
These are a few techniques which have helped me. From the get-go these different pieces of information tell me quite a bit about their investment in the new year, whether they are interested in starting the new year differently than they ended the previous year, what strengths and weaknesses they can point out in their own work, and if anything significant has happened over the summer which might affect their learning.