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Observations and Interpretations, Week of Oct 26

Brie Stark's picture
Observations and Interpretations

Week of October 26, Brielle Stark


Project: Writing Workshop



  • The subjects could either opt to write a scary halloween story or story based on the world series (their two main interests of the week).
  • Previous to this observation day, the subjects had had time to prepare their topics by doing some free writing (rough drafts).
  • This day, some chose to keep writing on paper, others worked on the computer and some chose to use the time to read more chapters in their respective fiction/nonfiction books about brain and behavior.


  • For the writing workshop, there is a mini lesson on writing/reading skills, followed by either time to free write or time to read their chosen book
    • Grammar is taught my individualized methods.  As the teacher proofs and discusses the papers with the subjects, the grammar is based on the individualized aspects of the subjects paper.  The goal is to discuss together to explore the grammar, rather than give a less-personalized view of grammar.
  • The reading workshops and literature circles serve to let the subjects explore deeper aspects of their books
    • In the literature circles, the subjects read together then see how each other reacts to certain themes from the book
      • The goal is not to summarize what they just read, but rather to explore the different styles/metaphors that the author uses.  Basically, to have a 'conversation' with the author through reading their book.
  • Inquiry is not only based in the sciences.  Inquiry, in general, is a "way of thinking." 
    • For example, for the brain and behavior unit, the students choose to read fiction or nonfiction books that cover topics like mental health and behavior.  They are able then to tie their reading skills in with the content of the unit, establishing better grounding and a more connections between the topics.
  • 6-week assessments were given to the subjects in order to assess what the previous six weeks of content and inquiry had given to each individual
    • The assessment was about topics that were all previously explored and was focused on making connections with the previous content and the ability to take away knowledge from doing things like hands-on projects
      • A great example question dealt with Oobleck: 'we found that Oobleck can have both solid and liquid properties.  List some properties that you found and label them with an 'L' for liquid or 'S' for solid.'  This caused an application of knowledge in many ways: taking the discovery day of investigating Oobleck; remembering the content that they discovered about solids and liquids; applying what they saw and observed from the hands-on day to the content they learned.
    • The assessment also recognizes the different levels of recognition with content and projects that comes with both maturity and time in the classroom.  There are recognizable differing levels of learning and connecting the hands-on knowledge to the content knowledge, all of which are done in different stages by individual.  For example, one learns capitalization in the second grade, but perhaps a fifth grader still cannot master the concept.  However, over time and more inquiry, the fifth grader masters capitalization.  It is all a matter of individual time and learning process.
      • The assessment acknowledges this in that it offers a way to assess each personal development and, when giving further such assessments down the line, can offer a good sample of how the subject has grown over the duration of the course. 
      • Putting some of the questions from this first assessment into the next assessment, some 6 weeks later, can further assess if the subjects recall the content they learned from a very distant concept (ex. Oobleck) and also whether or not they have made deeper connections to the subject through other inquiry activities or from personal experience or time.
  • An important thing we discussed today was that teachers teach they they believe to be essential.  Individual student choice is also important because it implements the knowledge that individuals have the ability to learn about anything they want, no matter the level; it also increases their personal interest/curiosity.  A good mix of teaching and individual student choice is necessary for growth and development.


I believe that a great way for assessment is through growth.  While growth isn't a concrete measurable thing (like scores on a test might be), I must wonder if the value of growth outweighs the value of a test score.  The difficulty of measuring growth seems to even out with the benefits of assessing growth rather than assessing concrete measurements.  While it is certainly subjective to both teacher (as evaluator), student (as personal growth) and parent (seeing another aspect), I believe that the overall concept of growth and the assessment of growth should be implemented in a curriculum.  I'm not sure how to assign a 'grading rubric' to growth, but I think it is worth investigating, especially in areas that place a lot of value on inquiry education.  Inquiry, essentially, is a way of thinking about things that lets one make connections between different types of content--not by dictation of the connection, but by exploration.  Inquiry, just like the concept of growth, is not at all concrete.  In fact, some often argue that inquiry isn't teachable or gradeable because it's so intangible.  However, I believe that that intangibility and ability to discover things both individually and with others creates a sense of 'owning' the content that you learn.  While it may certainly take longer to master something, the fact that you 'own' it brings all the more personal interest and weight upon the content.


Disclaimer: I have no previous affiliation with the workings of the school, and my writings reflect my own observation of events that occur and are not suggesting concrete fact.  If you have questions, please email me at