Monday, January 6, 2014

Using cupcakes for assessment, really?

This holiday season, I received this sweet little book in my stocking and oddly enough, it made me think about assessment.

For those folks that know me well, I am a big fan of cupcakes.  But what does assessment have to do with these yummy treats? 

Jenel Markwart, a grade 6/7 teacher at École Centennial School, uses the idea of making cupcakes as an analogy for assessment with her students.  It is simple, easy to explain, relevant to students of all grades and is easily tailored to your own classroom/school culture.

Using the 4 point system currently in place in Regina Public Schools and the Ministry of Education in Saskatchewan, the cupcakes are used as a gauge to determine where student learning is at a particular moment.  Students can easily see and reflect on what level they are working at based on the descriptors for the number of fingers. 

Better yet, the idea of making cupcakes brings the idea of learning a new concept or task into a more concrete example of level of understanding.

A student working at level 1 is beginning the journey.  They have all the ingredients needed to make his or her cupcakes and is working toward building up the knowledge, experience or practice in order to know how to go about putting these treats together.

A student working at level 2 is progressing and approaching some level of understanding.  They are certainly on the right track.  They have now mixed the ingredients together in a bowl but still do not have a real cupcake with consistency.  Sure batter is alright but you wouldn't bring a bowl of batter to a birthday party, right?

A student working at level 3 is meeting the requirements of the task at hand.  They have successfully made a cupcake and can do it with consistency.  They have met the outcome of making a small cake and can be very proud of their success.  They also have the ability to do this again if asked with basically the result.

A student working at level 4 is established and has mastered the art of making cupcakes.  Their level of understanding of the concept is 'icing on the cupcake'.

Students can easily identify their level to the teacher based on the 'i can' statements of the outcome they are working on.  This visual is also a great way to explain the assessment process to parents at the start of the year.  It seems so simple, yet is very effective - and fun too!

Jenel's ideas are reaching other teachers at different levels who have adapted the 4 level cupcake assessment visual for their own classroom.  Trina Crawford at École W. S. Hawrylak, a grade 2 teacher, has added this instructional practice for assessment to start the new year.

Trina incorporated the progression of the cupcakes, the number levels, a brief description suited to her students, as well as the abbreviation of the level used in the progress reports for grade two.  Sweet success!

As an educator, I can see countless possibilities for the use of this visual, or a modified version of it.  As a runner/thriathlete myself, I could easily spin this visual around to having all the equipment but not using it for level 1, lacing up your shoes and gear for level 2, to actually swimming/biking/running for level 3, and finally to completing a race upright and standing as the crowning glory for level 4.

For further information on how to incorporate this visual into your classroom, feel free to contact your friendly neighbourhood Instructional Consultant for details.  Thank you to Jenel Markwart for her creativity and dedication, and also to Trina Crawford for taking this idea and running with it!

Frankie Pelletier
Instructional Consultant
Team Awesome (Lerminiaux)

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