Carnival of Evidence – A Different Approach to End of Year Elementary Portfolios
It is a Friday near the end of the school year. For Kindergartners in Mrs. Bragg’s room, it is Carnival Day. The game centers are ready to go, prizes are arranged on the counter, popcorn is ready to be put into bags, and the camera is ready to capture student reactions as they enter the room. The Carnival Day is a tradition. It is a chance to celebrate all that the students have learned, and give the students a chance to show what they know to their parents.
Mrs. Bragg feels that the time and effort that goes into planning for this day is well worth it. “My students love it and remember it, but each year I wonder if I have the energy to do it again. And then, I hear from the students comments like, ‘There’s a lot more than I expected’, and ‘This is so fun’, and that’s why I will do it again.”
What makes Carnival Day a unique way for students to demonstrate their learning are the games themselves. All are standards based. All have extension questions or challenges to let students really show a deeper level of mastery. Mrs. Bragg starts by identifying the central standards for the year in math and literacy. Once she has mapped out the concepts, she takes a look at what game would best let students show evidence of their learning around each concept. Seven game centers seems to be the just right number. This allows a class of 22 students to be divided into groups of 2-3. She tries to pair students with others who they will work productively with. Parents help to facilitate the games and have a chance to watch students work with words and numbers.
Mrs. Bragg has found that each year she has had to add increasingly more complex enrichment questions to each game. “My students are able to show much higher levels of mastery than when I first started Carnival Day. For example, instead of just reading a word, my students are now reading sentences.” In the Pick A Duck game, students use a fishing rod to catch a carnival duck from the pond. Each duck has a word written on it. Some students may read the word. As enrichment, students may be prompted to name a rhyming word, identify diagraphs or count syllables. In the Plinko game, students drop 2 tokens into the Plinko board. They then write number sentences using the 2 numbers that the tokens land on. Extensions include asking students how many more would they need to add to the answer to make 10, how could they right the number sentence another way, or can you change the number sentence by adding 3 to one of the numbers? Spin to Win is a chance for students to identify numbers, count on to 20, and identify a number that would be 2 more or bigger or less than. Face painting is a time for students to demonstrate their speaking and listening skills by talking about what they would like to have painted on their face, and why. Students collect tickets as they spend approximately 10 minutes at each game. Tickets can be exchanged for small prizes. The students are proud of the skills they have learned. Parents have a chance to actually watch and listen as their students demonstrate their Kindergarten skills, rather than look through a traditional portfolio of student work. Because each game has multiple entry points, all students are able to confidently demonstrate their mastery level, in an environment that is celebrating everyone’s learning.
The Carnival Day is a unique way to think about a summative assessment of student learning and how to communicate learning to parents. The concept could certainly be applied to other grade level classrooms. Carnival games could be replaced with game show style games or a set of problem solving challenges. Not all parents may be able to attend. Sending home directions for how to do at home games that would allow students to demonstrate the same skills, along with facilitating questions and a set of parent friendly mastery level descriptors could accomplish the same goal.