Six Year Olds CAN Self-Assess

Since we just finished report cards and parent-teacher-student conferences, I’ve been thinking a lot about self-assessment.  I have tried this often in the past, but met with little success.  Part of this has been the age of the children that I teach.  Six year olds in general think they can do anything, and the self-assessments that they have done for me have, with the odd exception, reflected this.  Also, in retrospect, I realize that I created too many different self-assessments, so that the children never felt comfortable with one before I had moved on to another.

Primary self-assessments usually ask students to reflect on their strengths and then colour in, for each area, one of three pre-made faces: one with the mouth turned up, one with the mouth turned down and the other one that I never know what to call (the mouth isn’t turned up or down, it’s just straight across).  I have prepared self-assessments in lots of curriculum areas, but have always been discouraged by the fact that almost every child had a paper full of coloured happy faces.

Despite my lack of success, I have really wanted to make this work.  This past fall, borrowing heavily from the work of Dawn Kesslering, I designed a new self-assessment tool that included components from all the strands of our language arts curriculum and our math curriculum as well as some personal and social indicators.  When we used the tool together last fall, it took us about forty minutes to complete, and I had to explain for each of the thirty-one areas what each of the faces would mean in that context.  When we had our conferences, I asked the children to share two things from the tool that they were good at and one thing that they wanted to improve.  The parents and I smiled at each other over their heads as they explained how good they were at subtraction (we hadn’t done any yet and none of them understood what it was) or how well they left spaces between their words when they wrote (very few of them did).

We redid the same self-assessments last week just before our conferences, and I was amazed at the honest and accurate reflection they were able to do.  Only one or two students still felt they could “do it all”.  What really surprised me, though, was the way they were able to pick out areas that really were strengths for them, and zero in on areas that they wanted to improve during the conference with their parents.  Lesson learned.  I can’t wait to see how they do in June. 

Then there is the intriguing fact that out of thirty-one items, the twins, in separate interviews, picked out exactly the same ones to show their mother. . . 

6 thoughts on “Six Year Olds CAN Self-Assess

  1. Kathy, so glad you are here in the edublogosphere – I have heard so many good things about you – so nice to have your voice join us. I look forward to reading more of your insight s about teaching at this very important stage of a student’s career. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Kathy, I am very glad to have discovered your blog (via a Tweet from Clarence Fisher) as a window in action research with first graders. I look forward to following your posts and sharing with primary teachers in my district (and in workshops).

    From California,
    Gail Desler

  3. Hi Kathy, just found your sites today and was engulfed and enthralled! I am not sure if it was on one of your sites where your students created animal wikis? Also, I am wondering if you would share your self assessment? I couldn’t enlarge the picture you showed above. Thank you for the incredible resources and wisdom shared!

    1. Hi Leeanne. I think my students did create animal wikis many years ago, but alas, I cannot find them. Perhaps I somehow created them under a different account… If you are thinking of something more recent, then I believe it was someone else.
      The self assessment post you commented on is from seven years ago. Like everything else in my classroom, assessment has changed and I no longer have that self-assessment tool. You could easily create one yourself with three faces, happy, sad and undecided and a short description and picture of what outcomes you want the students to assess. That is what I did at the time.
      I’m sorry I’m not more help on this.

  4. We use a lot of self assessment in first grade and decided to use the bean, sprout, flower analogy rather than sad, so-so and happy faces. i am always surprised at how honest and accurate they are at 6yr old….for the most part 🙂

    1. I LOVE your idea of the bean seed, sprout and flower!
      Truthfully, the post was written seven years ago. I now very rarely use the faces for assessment. I most often have the students put their fist on their chest with everyone facing me. I read aloud the criteria we agreed on ahead of time and they assess themselves using the thumbs up or thumb laying on their fist for each one. No one has to know but themselves and me if I happen to glance at them as I look around the classroom. It takes up much less time and serves the same purpose.

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