Forced!

This is rhubarb ready to be harvested; you can be sure that we had a delicious rhubarb crumble for tea last night!  The reason that the rhubarb sticks in the forcer are so much taller and brighter coloured than the rhubarb in the open ground is that it has been stretching to reach the light.  Also, without light chlorophyll can’t develop in the leaves so there is no green to mask the bright red of the stalk or the yellow in the leaves.  Rhubarb is a very low maintenance crop to grow.  Even if children don’t cook it in school they might be able to sell it to their families.  I have also heard that the roots make a great natural dye ……more of this in a future post.

However, of more interest to me at the moment is the way that it can be forced.  The same has happened to the rhubarb as happened to the grass which  I wrote about a couple of weeks ago.

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And also happened to these seedlings which I put in the airing cupboard to germinate but forgot to take out straight away.

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Encouraging children to talk about what has happened in all of these instances and why the plants are so pale and ‘stretched’ (the scientific term is etiolated) would be a great way to assess their understanding of what plants need to be healthy and why.  It would also help to reinforce the message that rhubarb and grass are plants too!  So often children think that plants include flowering herbaceous plants but forget that vegetables, trees and grass are plants too.

Recording Outdoors

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Sometimes it can seem as if there is only one path when it comes to recording and assessment and woe betide anyone who tries to do something different!

Earlier today I was asked by a colleague about my experiences of recording and assessing children’s work and learning while outside.   As I described in this post, I found playground chalks a valuable way to encourage children to record their learning; photographing any relevant drawing or writing meant that a permanent record could be kept of children’s work. (Although I always found that there was a tendency to take too many pictures due to the worry that there would not be enough evidence of what we had done).

I also liked to take photographs of what children were doing, for example I meant to take photographs when I took the children outside to make shadows.  However, by themselves I found that the photographs had little value.  Some of them looked posed and many of the pictures looked very similar even though the children in the pictures had demonstrated different levels of learning.  Annotating them helped but, to tell the truth, unless I made extensive notes during the lesson (which meant that I had to stop teaching) I often forgot what the pictures were meant to be showing!

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Instead I found that it was more valuable to ask the children to both take and annotate the photographs, perhaps adding a description of what they were doing or describing what they had learned.  One of the things that I liked about this approach was that the work showed different levels of attainment and allowed children to challenge themselves but did not restrict individuals by differentiating through task or by labelling them.  It also meant that children tended to have a good understanding of where they were with their learning and what their next steps were, especially if I found time to listen to them tell me about their pictures.

With younger children I still used to end up doing the writing, but wrote down what children said (I found a dictaphone invaluable for this).  Tomorrow I shall describe some other ways that younger children recorded their experiences outside.