Saint-Didier primary school

Belts in cycle 3 

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The belts are used to assess cycle 3 pupils or, to be more correct, they are used by the pupils to assess themselves.

What are they exactly?

The belts are a whole series of tests covering:

- maths;

- oral communication;

- reading;

- written communication;

- grammar;

- conjugation;

- spelling;

- behaviour.

There is a table for each of these subjects containing all the tests. The columns, of different colours (white, yellow, orange, green, blue, brown, black) represent the level of difficulty. The rows represent the skill group. Here is the table for reading:

It is of course feasible to have belts in other subjects. I am currently working on belts for science.


DETECTING I can detect a given word in a list.
I can detect a given word in a text.
I can identify words with letters missing.
I can identify nonsense words in a text.
I can find information in a programme.
I can find a telephone number in a directory.
I can find an item in a catalogue based on its description.
UNDERSTANDING I know who is writing and for whom.
I know the different characters in a story.
I reply correctly to simple questions about a text.
I know whether a story is made up or whether it could be real.
I can put sentences into the right order.
I can use resources to answer difficult questions.
I can read a whole text then recite the main ideas.
My classmates understand what I read to them.

I can read a text or a poem of my choice without mumbling.
I make myself understood when I read a text, by respecting the punctuation and not mumbling.
I can read a dialogue with others.
I watch my audience while I read.
I am expressive while reading.
I can read a text correctly, even if I haven't seen it before.


From the first column, it is easy to see which skill group the individual goals belong to. 

Every child has their own chart from the beginning of the year, so he knows exactly what he has to achieve in the different subjects.

How does it work ?

Every day the pupils take tests in a particular subject. Thus, the eight subjects are covered in each test cycle of two week's duration.

The children have to register for each test the day before: this way, I have time to prepare the tests that have to be prepared. A registration chart is handed around the class, and pupils register by placing their initials in the appropriate box. Although the children are under no obligation to take a test, I have had to limit each child to one test from each skill group - the assessment would never end otherwise. Also, the tests do not have to be passed in a set order. For some children, the yellow test could be easier than the white test. This is the registration chart for reading:

Actually, there are three sheets since there are three groups. The children register on their notepad first, referring to their assessment folder to see which tests they have passed or have yet to pass, and what each consists of.




One of the pupils goes through the test rules (all pupils work alone; if they are any problems, tell the teacher only). I then hand out the written tests. Here is an example :

Surname : First name: Date :


Goal no 2: understanding

Primary Year 4 blue test

Place the sentences in the right order, by numbering them.


1. He turned the steering wheel in one direction and then the other, then he had to apply the handbrake because the car had started skidding, slowly at first but then faster and faster...

2. He then said to me, "We'regoing to put them straight again. Get out and guide me while I drive".

3. I didn't want to, I was afraid that my father would return, and notice that we had touched the car.

4. But Olivier did not listen to me.

5. My father had parked the car opposite the grocery.

6. We talked for a while then we started getting bored.

7. Olivier got out of the car to stretch a bit and then he told me that the wheels were turned.

8. Olivier and I were sitting in the car, waiting.

The tests for reading aloud are taken at another time of the day.

After the children have handed in their papers, they can do their own personal work. The personal work period acts as a 'buffer' since children who take fewer tests will tend to finish earlier than those who take more tests or harder tests.

Maths test

Updating the global summary


I mark the test papers (i.e. they are not self-assessed). I do not add any comments, and I do not highlight mistakes. I simply note down the result:

- pass,

- fail,

 - near-pass.

After receiving their test papers back, the children can colour in the boxes on their test chart corresponding to the tests passed. This way they can see exactly where they are in an instant.

The children can, if they want, hand me back the test paper; this tells me that they want help or explanations about their mistakes.

Finally, everyone has the opportunity to express themselves and their feelings, their joy or disappointment.

I always mark the test papers by myself. I never go through the test papers with the children. If several children ask for help on the same topic, a work group may be set up in the personal work period.

The tests are different every time so it would be pointless for children to memorise the answers.

Updating the math summary

Fanette has passed all the green tests.

What does it mean 'to be a white belt'?

The pupils often use expressions that sound strange to visitors, e.g., "I am a yellow belt in readin." This simply means that the speaker has passed all white and yellow tests in reading.

If a child says,"I am a class white belt", it means that he has passed all white tests for all subjects (not including behaviour, which remains distinct). On achieving this feat, a real belt is given to the child, who then has to answer the following three questions: "Did you do it on purpose?", "Which one was the hardest?" "How did you pass?", then he has an interview with the rest of the class.

What are the advantages of belts?

1. When asked what they prefer in cycle 3, the most popular answer given by the pupils is the belts. Not bad for an assessment! 

2. Every child experiences their own difficulties. As far as assessment is concerned, the range of abilities is no longer a problem.

3. For the teacher, management of children of varied ability is facilitated since the children themselves register for the tests.

4.Every test is an attempt to build on previous successes. Fear of a lower grade is replaced by hope of passing.

5. Failing a test is not considered to be a setback: the children can start over. They can even prepare for it.

6. The fact that all tests in a given subject must be passed to obtain the belt encourages the pupils to concentrate on their weak points.

7. The pupils become aware of their weak and strong points, and how to deal with them.

8. The belts allow for assessment of oral expression and behaviour, subjects which, despite their importance, are ignored by traditional assessment systems or are assessed by totally subjective means.

What are the disadvantages of belts ?

1. During implementation, the system must be explained to parents.

2. Some parents are totally attached to grades and ranks because they are more interested in how their child is doing in relation to others rather than in what their child is learning.

3. For the teacher, there is more work and a lot of rigour is required. Notably, huge efforts are required when the system is being implemented and when it has to be adapted to the annual programmes. The day-to-day time demands are also higher than with traditional systems.

Remi Casteres

further reading

Assessment staircaise for children ages 5-7

This page has been translated from French by Andreas Theodorou.




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summary > school > cycle 3

Last Update :04/30/05