Face 2 Face Sessions

After my last post, Justin was astute and kind enough to point out a flaw in my HMW question: it was so specific that it was answering itself.  The first order of business then was to re-craft my question in time for the face-to-face at the WE Global learning centre in January.  My question now reads:

How might we use self-assessment and reflection in primary music classes in order to maximize student ownership and motivation?

The reflection activity I was in the process of conducting before the face-to-face went really well.  One of the side effects of working with my class to be more reflective and goal-centred is that they are more focused during class time.  Here are a few examples of goals that my students set for themselves:

We are currently preparing the second solo for our digital portfolios.  This time, students know what to expect, and we have revisited their goals in preparation for next week's recording sessions.  I can't wait to see how they do!  I plan to use the same self-assessment tool I used last time, even though it wasn't perfect, so I can compare their assessments more accurately.  Re-thinking this tool is something I want to focus on for next year.

At the beginning of my cohort21 journey, attention span and reporting were issues that I raised in searching for my question.  I have explained above that attention span has improved, but I can now say that my report card comments for this class (just finished on Friday!) were easier to write because I felt that they were grounded in evidence and student ownership.  This is really making me feel great these days!


I really dislike having to assign a 'grade' for primary children in their music classes.  This struggle with assessment was what led me to Cohort 21 in the first place.  My HMW question came from my thinking during the first and second face-2-face sessions.  I realized that my trouble with assessment was partly due to a lack of evidence, and that this was in my realm of control.  Also, in my initial research, I realized that my little students did not have much ownership over their improvement - they loved music classes but they weren't really thinking about their own growth.  By combining these troubles and realizations, I arrived at my HMW question and I'm really satisfied with it:

How might we create a motivating system of self-assessment and reflection for grade 3 musicians using portfolios and curated performance activities?

I was really motivated after the 2nd face-to-face and quickly set about getting my first planned experiment underway.  After talking with my group of colleagues, I decided that using Seesaw was the way to go.  In December, I undertook my first portfolio entry.  I recorded each of my 17 students individually doing their own solo.  Then, I posted it to Seesaw as an assignment where I was able to ask specific questions about their work in a few target areas we have focused on.


Students responded to me after they watched/listened to themselves.  These responses were mostly really insightful and thoughtful.



My next experiment was a self-assessment document, where students evaluated their work in the 4 main areas we discuss and work on in singing activities.

Then, I asked them to choose two things to focus on for the next solo, and write about  two specific goals.




That's where I am now - I am collecting the goals next week, and will post them on a bulletin board to make them obvious and keep them front-of-mind as they prepare for their next solo performance recording.  I'm excited to hear and read their own responses to their performances after my experiments!  More to come...


I decided to focus on the area of assessment in primary general music classes.  This has always made me uncomfortable; who wants to cripple a child with judgement of their little singing voices, or clapping hands!?  Since I have always resisted having to assess the little ones, I just didn't really do a good job of it.

This brings me to my cohort21 journey:  How can I use technology, self-assessment and portfolios to encourage students to demonstrate growth and to assess their skills over time?

The Coordinator of Teaching and Learning at my school helped me to gather my initial data gathering, by meeting with my grade 3 class (17 students) in small groups and interviewing them with my three questions.  They were:

  1. How could you improve as a singer?
  2. How do you think Ms. Paul knows how you are doing with your singing?
  3. What activities do you enjoy the most in music class and primary choir time?

This was a valuable process, and having me removed from the conversation was very helpful.  We gathered excellent comments from students, and I gained several insights as a result.  Some were:

  1.  Students in grade 3 had many ideas about how they could improve, but admittedly did not really do any of those things.
  2. There were a wide variety of favourite activities - virtually everything I already do is someone's favourite.  This opens up a lot of opportunities when thinking about portfolio creation.
  3. The students know that I can tell how they are doing - they give me a lot of credit for knowing how they are progressing, but they don't have much ownership or accountability for their own improvement.

From these insights I have started formulating a plan moving forward where I will be scaffolding singing tasks, focusing on goals and improvement, and helping students to create a digital portfolio of recordings which will demonstrate understanding of a variety of musical elements and skills.  I look forward to working on this as an action plan when we get together at the next face-to-face meeting.


c21_logo_mediumWelcome to you Cohort 21 Blog. This journal is an integral part of your Cohort 21 experience. Here you will reflect, share , collaborate  and converse as you move through the C21 Action Plan process. 

This is your first post and an opportunity to share a little bit about yourself as a learner and leader. Please respond the to the following prompts below:

1) Reflect on your own personal learning journey and K-12 education. Identify one learning experience that you can point to as having made a significant impact on some element of your own growth and development. It could be that teacher and subject that really sparked significant growth or a trip that opened your eyes to a whole new world or way of thinking or a non-catastrophic failure that you learned so much from.  Briefly describe the learning experience and identify the various supports, structures, mindsets and relational ingredients that were put in place by the teacher or facilitator that directly contributed to your growth and success. 

The mosts I ever learned about being a teacher was while I was a student in high school.  This is a true fact, and it is due to a particular teacher who recognized my potential and goals and put me in a position to lead, learn, and improve.  As a student, I was given the teaching opportunity of a lifetime, as the leader of the junior band at my school.  This was a large group, probably 60 grade 9 and 10 students.  Beginning in grade 11, I was the director of this band.  It was a different time, with fewer rules and less concern about all the things that could go wrong.  I was really in charge - sometimes the teacher wasn't even there.  I ran rehearsals from top to bottom and directed performances and festivals.  This was the best learning I ever experienced.

  • Supports: a mentor
  • Structures: a thriving program of co-curricular music
  • Mindset: my student is certain of becoming a music teacher, so if she is capable I should provide relevant learning
  • Relationship:  the total confidence and support of a valued mentor.

2) What is the one Learning skill (MOE) or Approach to Learning (IB ATL) that you feel is MOST important in this day and age? How do you intentionally build it into your curriculum and develop it in your students throughout the year?

Independent work: I feel that this is tremendously important as students are increasingly able to access vast information and collaborate so easily through a variety of platforms.  Sometimes, you have to do your own work.  In music, the best way to improve is through practising, and no one can do it for you.  Having the confidence to put your own ideas into the world will be fundamental to every student.  In my classes, I ensure that students are practising independently through reflection activities and conferencing, where we discuss individual progress.  Also, there are times when I will not allow group work in order to give time and space to individual answers that come from the student alone.  With positive feedback, they learn that their own ideas are great and that they don't always need to filter their work through other students.

3) Insert an image below that best captures the essence of that Learning Skill or ATL.

When you are finally performing, you are on your own!  Developing Independent Work habits makes it possible to perform.