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Practical tasks to gauge learning
Mon, May 31, 2010
The Straits Times

AT KEMING Primary, not all children sit at a desk to complete a mathematics paper.

To test whether they grasp the concept of length, for instance, different stations are set up in class, with one requiring pupils to use bars as a unit to measure items. Another has them decide whether to align paper clips along the straight line or the curve of a knife to measure its length.

To ensure that Primary 1 and 2 pupils are assessed regularly and in a holistic manner, the 16 prototype schools have designed specific assignments to gauge their progress.

A comparison of the Chinese lessons at CHIJ Kellock and Haig Girls' School shows there can be some variations.

CHIJ Kellock's pupils use mobile devices to record their conversations. Teachers can review the recordings and provide feedback to help pupils improve their oral skills. At Haig Girls', pupils role-play during Chinese lessons. Their performance and ability to say their lines are then assessed by classmates and teachers.

Schools also organise field trips allowing integrated learning and assessment to take place.

A visit to the zoo, for example, can be used as a topic for a short writing assignment or used to set maths tasks, with students plotting graphs detailing the number of each type of animal.

Report cards full of test scores and class rankings are now replaced by holistic reports and sometimes portfolios - comprising checklists, mini-tests, reflections and their best works.

For Haig Girls', this report has a list of qualities and learning outcomes pupils are to achieve at the end of each term. How well a student fares in each item is indicated by the number of smiley faces given - one showing room for improvement and three showing they have done well.

At Keming Primary, reports are qualitative, with strengths and weaknesses of individual pupils being highlighted.

Students benefit in the end.

Said Yasmeen Kaur, a Primary 2 student at Haig Girls' of her Chinese lesson, in which she acted as a construction worker: 'When my friends speak softly, I will give them fewer marks. By giving one another marks, we learn from one another and become better.'

LEOW SI WAN

This article was first published in The Straits Times.

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