Monday, October 15, 2012

Make Learning Visible

What you see here is a "Proficien-tree".  When a student has proved himself to be proficient in a particular outcome I write his name on a leaf and the student puts it on their class tree.  There is no competition, just a nice metaphor of how our knowledge grows and blooms.  

I have 5 trees around my room (one for each of my classes).  My students love them.  After every test or flashback day, they go to their folders looking to see if they earned a leaf.  

How to make your own proficien-tree:
Get one planter for each class.  
Get rocks to hold your tree in place.  Luckily I live near a river and collect free river rocks.
Cut some branches off a tree.
Make leaves.  

I started by buying the scrapbook punches you see above ($16 each).  However, the leaf punch has seen better days and I've only owned if for a year.  I used the flower one in spring, so the students could put pink flowers on their tree.  Then I found foam leaves from Oriental Trading.  I can use most of those, but some are just too small to write on.  $8 for 500 leaves....OK.  It saves me time from punching out the leaves, it saves tape too since the leaves are stickers. 

What I like most about the trees are the teachers who walk past my room, stop, and come back to ask about the trees.  After a while, some will come back just to see how the trees are growing.  
I also like to remind the students of how far they have come.  They'll be struggling with something and get down on themselves.  I say, "Look at your tree!  Look how far you've come.  We can get through this."


  1. I love this idea! I use punches all the time in my classroom and I learned that if you punch a piece of aluminum foil, it will sharpen your punch.

  2. I love your tree! What a wonderful idea for the students (and everyone) to see the growth throughout the year! Thanks for sharing.

  3. I love the idea to show student growth. How do students know if they earn a leaf? Do they have guidelines to look at?

    1. The students earn a leaf if they earn proficiency on a test. Usually, they go look for a leaf in their hand-back folder before I have a chance to even go over the test results.
      Before I teach an outcome, I give each student a list of the skills needed to be proficient in that particular outcome, so they know what is expected of them.

  4. LOVE THIS IDEA!!!!! And I love that you found leaves at Oriental Trading, best place ever. Unfortunately I cannot put 4 trees in my room due to lack of space, maybe they would be just as cool on a wall more like a bulletin board? Thanks for sharing!

  5. What do you write on the leaves? Just their names?

    1. I write their name, the outcome they passed, and if they scored Proficient or High Performance. For example I might write: Joe 5 P. Joe passed outcome 5 with Proficiency.