Saint-Didier primary school


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Assessment staircase

A belt-based system has been incorporated in the class to allow the pupils to assess themselves in French and maths. It's a shame that this system does not yet exist for other subjects, but I hope to rectify this in the future.

Why was such a system incorporated?

  • So that each child can progress at his/her own pace, without having to keep up at any cost or, inversely, wait for the majority of the class to catch up.

  • So that each child has a clear picture of what he has already achieved and what remains for him to do.

  • So that the child is motivated by the idea of growth through learning.

Every child has a folder with a list of all the assessment tests for their cycle. There is a list of each year. Everyone also has a staircase, which looks like this for Primary Year 1.


The first column is for oral communication tests, the second for reading-writing, the third for maths and the last one for space and time tests. In Primary Year 2, there are two more columns: problem solving and language skills.

All the tests are available from the beginning of the year and the children can take whichever ones they want, whenever they want. When the child passes a test, he can colour in the circle in the corresponding column, starting at the bottom of the staircase. If the child fails a test, he can retake it as many times as he wants.

The tests do not have to be taken in any particular order. The children take the tests for which they feel ready, in any order they like.

When all the circles of the first step are coloured in, the child is awarded a class white belt. The teacher places the belt around the child's waist while the rest of the class claps in encouragement. The child talks about how he feels and how he achieved the belt, and his classmates can ask questions. The other belts can be achieved later in the year: yellow, orange, green, blue, brown then black.

How can children choose which tests to take when they are so young and, as is often the case, cannot read?

With the Primary Year 2 children, one day is set apart for the maths tests, while another is reserved for French tests. All the tests are contained in a folder which can be consulted freely by all the pupils. The children can discuss which tests to take, a process which, in my mind, is educational in itself. Once tests have been chosen, the children are no longer allowed to speak. Each test is taken individually, without any help. I only intervene to clarify the instructions. The child can take one or more tests during each session. All test papers are handed to me for correction.

It is impossible, however, for children to make this choice by themselves before they can read. With the non-readers, I propose specific tests on topics that have been covered. I describe the test and then the children decide whether they want to take it. If they do not pass, I will propose it again another time. This is the solution I have adopted for now; perhaps I will eventually think of a better one, offering more freedom and independence.

What happens if a child reaches the black belt before the end of the school year?

In this case, he can make a start on the tests of the following year.

I have been able to observe that this form of assessment is very motivating. Notably, failing a test is not seen as a 'dead-end' since the children know that they can retake it. Most pupils want to succeed, and want to learn in order to succeed. The belt is a powerful symbol of success. It is a source of pride: some of the children wear their belts at school every day. The staircase also has symbolic value: every step higher represents self-improvement, and continued growth.

Corinne Famelart

This page has been translated from French by Andreas Theodorou.




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summary > school > cycle 2

Last Update :04/28/05