Celebrating success

November 16, 2008 at 8:25 pm Leave a comment

The school I’m placed in at the moment, along with many others I’m sure, uses the concept of Star Work as one of the motivators/rewards for pupils. The piece achieving Star Work status is displayed at the entrance to the classroom, and the teacher sends home a certificate. At first I thought that sounded good. But, I’m finding it difficult to use this system and I’m now a bit troubled by it. How can I single out one piece? It necessarily involves looking at something other than the success criteria for the lesson (if only one child achieved the success criteria then that lesson was a disaster!). What does it say to a child if they achieve the success criteria but their work is not Star Work? I suspect it says, “Your work is also being judged against some other criteria we’re not telling you about, and against that criteria, it just wasn’t as good”.

I’ve been teaching the class poetry in creative writing lessons. I did choose three poems to be Star Work, but I’ve been trying to value all their work. I got them to write a good copy of their poems about Autumn, which I’ve mounted onto leaf shaped bits of paper (nice idea, but cutting leaf shapes was far too time consuming!). Some of these I’ve displayed on the walls, the rest I intend to turn into a book, though again I suspect this sends mixed messages (why are some on the wall and some not?). I think my greatest success so far is simply reading out their poems to the class. I’ve done this during the lessons and also instead of a story. I don’t choose which ones to read in advance – I read every finished poem, in the order I find them. The children listen very attentively (I think mainly because they are waiting for their own work, though they like hearing other people’s too).

It was during one of these reading sessions my reservations about the Star Work system increased – one child asked “What happens if it [my poem] is really good?”. I guess she is hoping her poem will be the Star Work. Will she only feel her poem is really good if it is Star Work? I think she has seen the truth, in that way children do: she knows she achieved the success criteria, but she also knows that’s not what Star Work is about; it’s about whether something is “good” or not, and what on earth does that mean?

Do you have any thoughts on this? Do you feel Star Work does work?

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Entry filed under: assessment, pedagogy.

I think I need some Critical Skills (reach for) The Sun, Moon and Stars

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