Recently I trialled a mud mapping activity with my year 5’s. The aim of this activity was for students to collaboratively make meaningful connections and synthesise learning through the use of objects, post-it notes and sketched images. They then presented the mud map, articulating their understanding and connections regarding natural disasters, community preparedness and digital solutions.
I was delighted at the result. The classroom buzzed with discussion, objects were manipulated and connections sketched. Importantly, as students presented the mud maps there was opportunity for me to collect data that was a true reflection of understanding.
I love engaging students in an inquiry unit of work, providing opportunities for discovery and learning. Unfortunately, this hasn’t always transferred over to the assessment tasks. Habitually I would hand out the end of unit test to the sound of groans and dejected sighs. After 50 minutes of anguished silence the tests would be collected and often the results told me a few things. Firstly, students who have high literacy skills will have succeeded in reading the instructions and answering questions, even if they didn’t fully grasp the concepts. Secondly, students with low literacy or attention deficits will have failed to thoroughly express understanding.
As primary teachers I think we are great at inclusive teaching but still rely on data collecting methods that disqualify some students from expressing understanding. I acknowledge literacy development as a hugely important skill but believe that too often we rely on written literacy to collect data about student progress (especially in HASS and Science subjects). As educators, the challenge is to find time and activities to make learning visual with an opportunity for verbal literacy so all students can express understanding.