Senior 3 English Language Arts: A Foundation for Implementation

Implementation Overview: Senior 3
Assessing, Planning, and Reporting Progress - Part 1

All Senior 3 English language arts curricula are organized around a common purpose: that students attain the learning outcomes prescribed in Senior 3 English Language Arts: Manitoba Curriculum Framework of Outcomes (1999). Beyond that, each curriculum is unique, reflecting many elements:

  • the teaching style, resources, experiences, and gifts of each teacher
  • the interests, ideas, and gifts that each new group of students brings to the classroom
  • the learning requirements of students
  • community and public events that provide learning opportunities in a particular semester or year

Pulling together the threads of the six language arts and each of the specific learning outcomes is an individual, fluid, and creative process. The planning that teachers do is ongoing throughout the semester or year, shaped by the information they gather about student learning.

Getting Started

Beginning with Self-Reflection

As they begin to plan a new course, teachers face the challenge of selecting the learning experiences that will best assist each student in achieving the prescribed learning outcomes. Their primary task is learning to know each group of students in order to structure a course that will address the particular learning requirements of each class.

While each group of students represents a new challenge, teachers bring to their planning the experience they have gained from working with other groups. The attention teachers pay to their own learning and development is an important aspect of ensuring that students benefit as much as possible from language arts programming. Teachers learn on their feet, but they can greatly enhance the value of lessons learned in the intensity of the classroom through setting aside time to think, write, and examine their practice. The fifteen minutes of quiet reflection that teachers are able to find in their crowded schedules may prevent the loss of hours through repeating ineffective practices. Research clearly demonstrates that teachers improve through systematic reflection and self-assessment (Danielson, 1996, 53).

As depicted in the following diagram, teacher self-reflection occurs in advance planning, during teaching, and in taking stock at the end of a day, unit, semester, or year.

Three Phases of Teacher Self-Reflection

  Arrows During Planning
Identify purposes and ensure that all programming components are focused on student achievement of the prescribed learning outcomes.

Teacher Self-Reflection

During Teaching
Monitor: Make mental and written notes on the effectiveness of strategies and practices.

  After Teaching
Look back and examine the ways that lessons learned can be applied to future planning.

Many of the tools for self-assessment and reflection that benefit students are of great value to teachers as well. It is essential, for example, that teachers set specific goals at the outset of each semester or year in order to direct their professional growth and incorporate new ideas into their classroom practice. Goal setting and other self-reflection tools for teachers are discussed throughout this section.

Self-Reflection Tools for Teachers

Goal Setting

Consider goals that represent each dimension of learning outlined by Marzano (1992):

  • Declarative knowledge: What gaps in your knowledge do you most need to address? (Examples: knowledge about the way students learn, about new technologies, media, or text forms.)
  • Procedural knowledge: What skills and strategies could you learn, improve, and/or begin to apply? (Examples: questioning strategies, processes for peer revision, think-alouds to assess student reading.)
  • Attitudes and habits of mind: What new attitudes would increase your effectiveness? (Examples: openness to a wider range of text forms, greater recognition of student autonomy.)
Tips for Goal Setting
  • Select goals through reflecting on notes and observations about your present practice to ensure that goals address your greatest need.
  • Take advantage of the moments of clarity at the end of a course to reflect and decide on goals for the next semester or year.
  • Make your goals, like the goals students set, concrete and achievable.
  • Establish a system to help monitor progress towards reaching a goal (e.g., a monthly conference with a colleague).
  • If appropriate, share your goals with the class and celebrate success together.

Becoming Acquainted with Students

Experienced teachers know how crucial the first few weeks are in establishing a positive learning environment and setting students’ expectations for the semester or year. They begin with learning experiences that communicate to students that this course will be stimulating, demanding, and enjoyable. They use the first weeks to establish routines and policies that will contribute to the smooth functioning of the classroom, and they take steps to build a relationship with each student and to facilitate the transformation of the list of class names into a supportive learning community.

Teachers need to gather as much information about students as possible within the first few weeks of the semester or year. This information can be collected from a variety of sources:

  • work samples from Senior 2. Teachers can draw a wealth of information from students’ literacy portfolios if schools have a system in place to transfer portfolios from one year to the next.
  • cumulative records
  • inventories of student learning approaches, preferences, habits, and experiences
  • classroom work that allows students to introduce themselves (e.g., collages, autobiographies, posters)

Beginning with Assessment

Collecting information about students at the outset is important in building relationships, but it also has an essential pedagogical purpose. Broadly stated, the goal of each Senior 3 English language arts curriculum is to bridge the gap between what students know and are able to do when they enter the course and the learning outcomes mandated for Senior 3. In view of this goal, all planning needs to begin with students’ present levels of performance.

One means of determining students’ present levels of performance is to design an introductory unit that allows students to demonstrate what they know and can do. This unit may be structured to explore representative learning outcomes. To make this task manageable, organize the unit to focus on

  • students’ performance in each of the six language arts or in each of the five general learning outcomes
  • the specific learning outcomes that will be assessed, rather than the many specific learning outcomes that the tasks in this unit may involve
  • the strengths and learning requirements of the class as a whole, rather than the performance level of individuals

The information teachers collect in an initial unit is general and preliminary, but it provides a basis for making decisions about early priorities for instruction, assessment, and student learning. Teachers may find it helpful to record this overview of students’ present levels of performance on a map of the learning outcomes,* using one colour of highlighter to mark strengths and a second colour to mark areas of greatest concern.

Teachers will also begin the process of identifying students who have particular learning requirements and strengths, and initiating ways to provide support for these students in attaining the learning outcomes and in reaching their potential.

Using Initial Assessment for Planning

On the basis of the information they collect in the first instructional unit, and in preparation for further planning, teachers need to ask:

  • What have I learned about the class as a whole? In what areas do these students have particular weaknesses and strengths?
  • What implications does this have for instruction? for assessment? for learning resources?
  • For which students are these generalizations not accurate?
  • How do I need to differentiate instruction to meet the learning requirements of these particular students?

* Maps of learning outcomes for each Senior 3 English language arts curriculum appear at the beginning of each general learning outcome in Section 4 of this document.

Initiating Communication with Families

The fact that Senior 3 students are increasingly independent does not preclude the need for communication with parents* and guardians. Families play an important role in supporting students as they select texts, initiate inquiry projects, and perform or publish for wider audiences. Families also need to be informed about policies regarding class outings, work done outside class, Internet use, assessment practices, and time lines.

Presentations at parent nights and a letter sent home early in the semester or year can be helpful in introducing families to the particular focus of each of the three Senior 3 language arts curricula and to what they can expect of results-based language arts programming. It is important that students and families understand that exploratory and informal work will be assessed, and that it will be assessed in different ways and for different purposes than final products are.

Teachers may find it useful to establish categories to clarify the purpose of each piece of work students do. The categories in the following chart are suggested by Maxwell and Meiser (1997, 322).

* In this document, the term "parents" refers to both parents and guardians and is used with the recognition that in some cases only one parent may be involved in a student’s education.

Senior 3 English Language Arts: Assessment Continuum

Type One:

Exploratory Work and Personal Records

Type One work

  • is often the foundation for Types Two and Three
  • is never assessed for correctness of expression
  • occurs daily

Type Two:

Information Communication

Type Two work

  • follows basic conventions to communicate, but is rarely revised or rehearsed
  • occurs two or three times a week

Type Three:

Formal Communication

Type Three work

  • aims to be error free
  • occurs every two or three weeks
Purpose of Assignment
  • Students record information and ideas for their own purposes.
  • Students write, sketch, or talk to discover what they think about a subject.
Purpose of Assignment
  • Students demonstrate their understanding of a concept or their ability to use a particular form.
  • Students communicate information or ideas.
Purpose of Assignment
  • Students submit texts that have gone through all the stages of exploration, drafting, revision, and editing.
  • Students share final, polished drafts with an audience.
  • journals, notes, logs
  • brainstorming, group discussion
  • sketching, mapping
  • improvisational drama
  • early drafts of formal writing
  • long-answer questions on tests and examinations, paragraph writing, summaries
  • personal letters
  • improvised speeches, interviews
  • Readers Theatre
  • research papers, reports, essays
  • poetry, stories plays
  • formal speeches and debates
  • videos, slide/tape presentations, posters
  • business letters
  • magazine features, reviews
  • The primary audience is the students themselves.
  • Work may be share orally with peers or the teacher.
  • Occasionally, the teacher listens to, reads, or view students’ work.
  • Work is often listened to, read, or viewed by others.
  • Work is discussed in conferences
  • Work is assessed by the students themselves, peers, and the teacher.
  • Work is listened to, read, or viewed by the students themselves, peers, the teacher, family, and community.
  • Work is often published.
  • Work is assessed by the students themselves, peers, and the teacher.
Purpose of Assessment
  • to ensure that students have
    • maintained their journals
    • developed adequate note-making strategies
    • used adequate strategies for exploring ideas
    • acquired adequate information on a subject
  • to provide an opportunity for the teacher to respond to student’ work
    • with a check mark to indicate that the work has been read
    • with oral or written comments or questions that will further student thinking
  • to help teachers decide what further learning experiences students need
Purpose of Assessment
  • to provide feedback on drafts for completeness, clarity of ideas, and organization
  • to assess examination questions, paragraphs, and summaries for content and organization
  • to assess personal letters and improvised speeches for content, voice, clarity, and interest
  • to help teachers decide what further learning experiences students need
Purpose of Assessment
  • to determine how the assignment meets pre-established criteria from the learning outcomes
  • to help teachers decide what further learning experiences students need


Teachers may wish to communicate the purposes and assessment of various types of work through the assessment continuum chart presented on the preceding page. Informing parents of the purpose and means of assessment of various types of work may help them examine student portfolios with greater understanding, realizing, for example, why not every piece of work is polished.

Helping Students Set Goals

Setting personal goals helps students take responsibility for learning and increases their motivation. Just as the goals teachers set need to be derived from information about their practice, student goals should be grounded in the learning outcomes and informed by the results of initial assessment. Through the process of setting goals, students become familiar with the learning outcomes. Students need to know that in setting goals and in assessing their progress, they are achieving certain of the specific learning outcomes (e.g., 1.1.5, 4.2.1, and 5.1.4). Further strategies regarding student goals and self-assessment are found in learning outcome 1.1.5.

Students set both class goals and individual goals:

  • Class goals: Class goals are a means of developing a sense of common purpose within the class. Teachers can share initial assessment findings with the class and invite students to participate in planning. Focusing this discussion on what the student will learn and be able to do, rather than on what the class will "cover," helps students to grasp the concept of results-based learning. Students and the teacher need to collaborate in determining how students will demonstrate that they have achieved these goals. These demonstrations of progress and achievement may be the basics of the requirements for literacy portfolios.
  • Individual goals: As the focus of assessment moves from whole-class assessment to collecting information about individual students, teachers will find a goal-setting conference with each student invaluable in supporting the student in setting personal goals. Through discussion, the teacher and students can look for ways in which students can attain the learning outcomes while pursuing their own interests; goals may rise out of student curiosity and enthusiasm (e.g., the desire to try a new form or medium) rather than out of self-assessment and teacher assessment. Personal goals should
  • -- be a means of moving the student from his or her current level of performance to attaining the learning outcomes
  • -- challenge the student, but be achievable
  • -- be specific in describing how the student will demonstrate that the goal has been achieved
  • -- state when achievement is expected

At the conclusion of a conference, set a date for reviewing goals, perhaps prior to the first interim report.


Implementation Overview: Senior 3