A Slice of Assessment

Slice of LIfe

Part of Slice of Life by Two Writing Teachers. Head over there for information and links to more Slicing!

Last weekend was the Karate test. Both of my “big kids” were up for their second yellow stripe. My husband, my 4 year old and I sat squished among all the other parents watching the test. At first I was mostly just nervous for my kids, hoping they didn’t mess up…wondering what would happen if one of them passed the test and the other didn’t. I reminded myself that the class was testing because their teacher thought they were ready to test.

Then I started noticing the slices of assessment…

Before the test, I saw the Karate Teacher, Master Y kneel next to the group of students and give what I’ll call “The Mistakes Talk.” He told them, “You’ll make mistakes. That’s okay. That’s how you learn. Nobody’s going to fail the test because they make mistakes. Try not to make the same mistake over and over again. The judges will take notes so you can learn from today.” Even though it was a test, they knew it was okay if they made mistakes, and that they should continue to learn.

As the students tested, Master Y gave them reminders about their forms that were direct and to the point. Just because it was a test, their teacher was not silent.  K’ihaps can be stronger.”  He reminded them.

Master Y told his students what was next. Before he called out directions, he said, “I’ll call them in order so you won’t be confused.” Just because it was a test, it didn’t need to be tricky.  In fact, as some of the students were testing for their yellow belt, Master Y told the watching yellow stripe students, “What you see is what you’ll be doing in your next test –something to aspire to.”

Each student had a judge watching them. Black belts watched as these beginning karate students worked their way through forms and then sparred with them. A person to evaluate each student, give each student personalized advice!  After the first sparring round, Master Y asked the black belts to tell the students a number to redo. They had a chance to redo something they hadn’t done as well on in the first place! 

At the end of the test, the judges and Master Y went to the back room. As he left, he addressed the students: “I’m going back to discuss what I saw. Sit quietly and think about how you did today and what you saw. And think if it inspired you at all.

It inspired me. I have been thinking about what elements of this kind of assessment I have or  can have in my classroom. I don’t teach karate, and I’m certainly not in charge of the capital A Assessments that my students have to take… but what lessons can I learn about testing? Rolling around in my head are thoughts of individualized assessment, conferring, the power of mistake making, helping students with their confidence, choosing specific goals with students, giving students the chance to redo when possible…

I’d love to hear from you, reader. What lessons can you learn from what I noticed at Karate. Or, what assessment lessons have you recently learned?


2 thoughts on “A Slice of Assessment

  1. I love the idea of a test as a learning experience. I love how the teacher coached and helped kids to learn and succeed all the way through the lesson. I love that students were expected to reflect on their own performance. Way more powerful than what we call testing today. Thanks for this really important post!

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