Saturday, November 12, 2016

PBLA, Time Management, and Creating a Culture of Sharing

Hello again!

Thanks for coming back. Last week I promised to focus more on some positives of PBLA. I also said I would start sharing ideas to help you keep your sanity as you begin to implement Portfolio Based Language Assessment in your classrooms.

Create a Culture of Sharing

When I first starting working at my current place of employment, there wasn't a very strong culture of sharing. Since I am by nature a sharer, I just offered up my creations anyway. It didn't matter to me that almost nobody reciprocated. I just continued to share. Well, guess what? Five years later I am part of a team of sharers. In my experience, this makes for a happier place for us all to work. We lift each other up. I help them with things that fall in my area of expertise, and they help me fill in the gaps in my knowledge and file cabinet of resources. Our clients benefit, and we all spend less time trying to reinvent the wheel. It's a win-win-win. Of course it's your right not to share if you have lucrative plans for those wonderful creations of yours, but I'm telling you that sharing can become its own reward. I would much rather see my worksheets being used by others than languishing in my file cabinet for months on end.

With PBLA upon us, there has never been a better time for us to reach out to one another and lend a helping hand.

Okay, I'll go first. Below are just a few of my early ideas that might help you implement PBLA without spending hours and hours and hours of extra time at school or hunched over your home computer or stack of marking while your family looks on disapprovingly. It's a very short list; I'm hoping everyone reading this will add their ideas.

Become More Efficient

I believe that in order to go from merely surviving to thriving while learning to implement PBLA, we are going to have to find new efficiencies for better time management. For example, if you do not already, you may want to:

  1. Do all your marking on one day per week (I like Sunday for this).
  2. Get a brightly coloured file folder (different colour for each class) to collect work to be marked.
  3. Pass back marked work on the same day each week (especially if you teach literacy).
  4. Find opportunities to assess learners' skills when you are not simultaneously responsible for managing the class, such as during a visit by a guest speaker.  (Each student must ask a meaningful question using the new lexis; teacher sits at the back of the class with rubrics.)
  5. Ditto number four above with presentations. Since PBLA is putting you under more pressure, offload some of your teaching to the students, who can teach one another.
  6. Create space in your file cabinet for all the PBLA templates you need and bank enough copies of each so that you don't spend your week running back and forth to the copy machine. Clearly label them so that you can reach in and get what you need quickly.
  7. Follow Martine's Rule Number One.
  8. Didn't have time to create the rubric for a task? Following number six above, consider handing out blank rubrics while you project the same blank onto the screen. Together with students, brainstorm what the criteria for the assessment should be. Students copy this from the board onto their rubrics. I have had success with both of my very different groups.
  9. Utilize the heck out of peer and self-assessment. (See number seven.)
  10. Reduce the amount of time you spend hunting up the next text by adopting a Back to the Well approach to teaching. My students LOVE it.
  11. See next week's blog post for a detailed explanation of one of my most successful assessment techniques.

Continue the Conversation

Please continue this list of ideas in the comments section below. While my purpose in this post is to come up with ways we can survive and even thrive during PBLA ramp-up and implementation, I am not trying to be dismissive of those who would say that this very blog post could do more harm than good because it puts the onus on teachers to be ever more efficient rather than acknowledging that PBLA itself is being rolled out without sufficient supports for instructors. I hope we can continue to speak candidly and call a spade a spade. I welcome any and all criticism. By speaking freely and brainstorming together, perhaps we can make things better for all of us and for our clients.

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