Stop Motion Animation, Inquiry, and Metacognition

At integratED PDX, I attended a workshop called Making Thinking Visible with iPads facilitated by Michelle Cordy. Michelle teaches Grade 3/4 with 1-to-1 iPads. One of the ideas that I got from her workshop was about the use of stop motion animation apps such as iMotionHD in order to allow students to record their learning process and then think metacognitively about their learning experience.

The example that Michelle provided was students who were engaged in a bridge building activity. After they were completed the activity, the students were able to explain their strategies for building their bridge and draw on top of the photographs to show specific elements that they had identified. Being able to record and document the learning and thinking process, is such an authentic form of assessment that provides meaningful feedback for the student and teacher. This was such a powerful example of how an app like stop motion animation can be re-purposed for another use and redefine (R-in SAMR) the learning experience.

I think that the application for this type of learning activity is limitless in the K-12 environment. The stop motion apps are very easy to operate that even very young students would be capable of recording their learning process. The set up is also very minimal (a stand for the tablet or device with the app on it), and does not distract students during the learning experience. Most apps will allow you to adjust the amount of time between each picture being taken so depending on the length of the activity the appropriate time can be selected.

Some examples that I can think of are:
– recording science experiments
– recording group work
– process of creating a piece of art work
– solving math problems with hands-on manipulatives

When I got back to my class, I did a little bit of experimenting with this concept. I had not had time to have the app installed on my class set of iPads yet so I had my students take pictures manually and strung them together with Animoto. When my students were exploring various rocks and mineral samples, I had 1 member of each group take photos and upload them to Dropbox and then I was able to post the Animoto videos on my classroom blog, and students were able watch the video, reflect and to make comments about the learning and activity.

This is an example of the video that I produced for my students:


The Benefits of Video Analysis

With the ease of access of video recording equipment (iPhones, iPads, built in webcams on laptops, digital cameras), helping students to use these tools effectively to develop their metacognitive skills is one strategy that I have been implementing over the past few years. What initially started as a great way to share student performances in class with parents has turned out to have other benefits for students’ metacognitive development, and assessment and evaluation purposes.

Throughout the school year, students are provided with multiple opportunities to make oral presentations to their classmates. While students are preparing to present, I encourage them to record themselves practicing and watch back their preparations and self-identify strengths and weaknesses. This helps them to focus in on what they need to practice prior to the actual presentation. Often students are surprise when they look at themselves because they have habits that they do not realize. We have discussions about self-assessment and assessment for learning throughout the process.

On the actual presentation day, I have 1 student who has the task of being the ‘videographer’. This is a great task for students who need a meaningful job during presentations or they may drift off or cause disruptions. Depending on the grade level of your students, you can discuss camera angles and get into fancy post production; however, in Grade 4 I tend to stick with the straight forward video camera.

After the presentations, I find it helpful to be able to re-watch performances to look for specific elements (i.e eye contact, posture, gestures) and be able to provide detailed feedback to students. I provide students a copy of their own video on a USB stick to watch at home and share with parents/caregivers. I have found that USB sticks limit privacy concerns as there is really no need for other people to be able to watch the videos. While they are watching their performance, I ask them to identify things they are proud of and areas of improvement. Following this step, I am able to conference with students, compare our assessments, and if necessary show them a certain section of video to help explain to them their assessment and discuss next steps.

Eventually, students develop a portfolio of their performances over the year and they are able to look from September to June and see their development. As some other teachers also use these strategies, students will be able to compare their development year over year as well.

As a teacher, having a library of previous performances also assists in developing ‘exemplars’ and providing students with examples of approaching expectations, meeting expectations, and exceeding expectations.

Student Led Conferences: Round 1

This term my division (Kindergarten to Grade 6) introduced Student-Led Conferences as a method of reporting student learning to parents. This was the first time we formally held these conferences and it was a learning experience for everyone. Although I had not conducted student led conferences myself before, I had heard a lot about them and had done some research. We were also fortunate to have another teacher on staff who had done them before. One excellent resource that my team used was from The Ontario Ministry of Education: Student-Led Conference Webcast Series.

Preparations for student-led conferences took various forms. Beginning in September students began keeping a portfolio of their work samples with reflections attached. I have chosen to have my students do a hybrid-portfolio with a traditional paper/binder component and a web-based electronic portfolio ( I think that this provides a nice balance for keeping record of students work in different forms of media depending on the task. It also allows the web-based electronic component to be accessible to parents at any time, so students can be frequently sharing those components with parents. In the portfolio binder, students have divided their binder into various sections – Math, Language, Units of Inquiry x 6, Specialty Subjects, Extra-Curricular, and place any work samples they would like into the binder. Most students want to select samples that would be considered their best work, but students are welcome to place any work samples inside. All formal assessments (i.e. math assessments, summative tasks, published writing) are also included in to the portfolio.

Approximately 1 week prior to the student led conferences, students began role-playing their student led conferences. As this was our first time doing these, it was also the first time for many of the students so this was a really important phase for developing their comfort level and confidence. Each student selected 2 pieces of work that they wanted to share with their parents – 1 piece from a homeroom lesson (i.e. math, language, unit of inquiry), and 1 piece from a specialty subject (i.e. french, music, art, phys.ed). If students wanted to include a performance in their portfolio from a task, students were able to use video recording equipment and show their parents a video during the conference.

The evening of student led conferences, appointments were made so that students would arrive every 5 minutes and stay for 15 minutes (i.e. 4:30-4:45, 4:35-4:50). This would mean that there would be 3 or 4 families in the classroom at any given time to allow for appropriate space. When the parents arrived, they were provided with a generic list of questions developed by our PYP Coordinator that they could ask their child to help them explain their work. Very quickly it was clear that 15 minutes would not be enough time, as once students began sharing they were quickly headed in their desk to find more things, over to the iPads, and to get their French binder. It seemed like sharing was infectious! The smiles on their faces as they were showing off their work was wonderful! Luckily, I my schedule was not full so the room was never over crowded but in the future I would schedule the conferences every 10 minutes for 20-30 minutes.

Following the conference, in class students were asked to blog about their experience! The feedback from the students was very positive. A lot of students were surprised how interested their parents were in their work – the steps they took to learn it, what connections they made to the Learner Profile, questions they still have.

We are going to hold student-led conferences again in the spring and I am looking forward to seeing the development. I am hopeful that students will be able to show their growth from September by comparing their work from the beginning of the year with more current work.

Although portfolios do take a large amount of class time to manage and organize, when you host events such as student-led conferences it makes it clear that it is a good use of instructional time. I am going to continue looking for new strategies for students to reflect on their work/artifacts as this seems to be the most challenging part for students.

Word Clouds as an Assessment Strategy

I am always searching for new assessment strategies to engage my students and recently one strategy that has been popular in my classroom and with some of the teachers in my division has been word clouds. Depending on the context, word clouds can be used for assessment for learning (diagnostic), assessment of learning (summative), or assessment as learning (reflective).

A word cloud is a cluster of words, with varying size dependent on the popularity of the term. This is an example of a word cloud that I created with my class, after we examined poetry as a form of expression through

There are many websites that you can utilize to create a word cloud. I have used Wordle, and Tagxedo in my classroom and both are very user friendly. There are many other options out there as well.

Word clouds can make a great assessment strategy as they provide a visual image that can be utilized as a discussion starting place. Based on the context, word clouds can serve varying purposes. Here are some ideas related to how word clouds can be utilized in the teaching and learning process.

Assessment for learning (diagnostic)
• Prior to beginning a unit, ask students a basic question and record their answers or have them type them in a word processing document. A Google Doc or other collaborative space like a wiki works excellently as students can all input their ideas at the same time. If you create a chart with two columns – the students names in one and their response in the other it makes it easy for the students to know where to enter their ideas.
• The word cloud will give you a great frame of reference for the most common ideas presented by the group as a whole.
• It will also show the vocabulary they are using related to the topic.

 Assessment of learning (summative)
 • At the end of a unit, ask students a “big question” and record their answers or have them type them in a word processing document or Google Doc (see above for tips).
• The word cloud will give you a great reference point for the depth of understanding within the group or individually (depending on if you put each students response as a word cloud, or as a group).
• It will also show the vocabulary they are using related to the topic.
• It is interesting to do a before vs. after view where you place the two word clouds side by side and see the development of their vocabulary.
• Extensions/Applications – Asking student to explain the most popular terminology on the word cloud or select the most important words that they feel are necessary to explain the concept.

Assessment as learning (reflective) 
• Have students reflect on what their word clouds includes.
• Are they using the vocabulary or terminology associated with the unit?
• How did their ideas grow from the beginning to the end of the unit?

– Always type the text into a word processing document first, as I have typed it in the website box before and had an error and lost all of the data!

Reflective Practitioner
A few of the teachers in my school have also taken their report card comments and create word clouds to look at the vocabulary they were using in their comments. Where there words that they were using too frequently? Was there too much “teacher jargon”? Was there a common theme for a specific student between various teachers? It was interesting to see what the report card comments looked like as a word cloud.

Where does assessment fit in the teaching and learning process?

Where does assessment fit in the teaching and learning process? 
For me, assessment is a continual process that happens throughout the teaching and learning process through formal and informal methods. At times it can be difficult to separate “assessment” from the teaching and learning process because it allows me to adapt my teaching on the go, and meet the students where they are and move them forward.

It is important to recognize that “assessment” is a very broad term and there are different forms of assessment that teachers employ during different phases of the teaching and learning process.  Currently, assessment is commonly broken down into three categories: (1) assessment for learning (2) assessment of learning (3) assessment as learning. For more information on the differences between these categories the document Growing Success: Assessment, Evaluation, and Reporting in Ontario Schools provides an excellent and up to date overview.

Over the past few years, I have been developing my knowledge of the IB Primary Years Programme and recently attended a workshop on assessment. During that workshop we examined the section of Marking the PYP Happen, related to assessment. As we were working our way through the material, I was brainstorming the big ideas to help myself grasps the material. When I was finished some of the people in my group saw what I had created and were interested in looking at it.

When I created the diagram, it really reinforced how central “assessment” is in the teaching and learning process. I have printed a copy off and put it in my day planner as a constant reminder of how important good assessment practices are in the teaching and learning process.

This diagram is only my interpretation of the ideas expressed in Making the PYP Happen and certainly can be improved.

How would you suggest improving it?