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Thursday, May 20, 2010

Using Journals and Charts to help older children self-evaluate

I just wanted to write one more post about the self-evaluation element of executive functioning because it plays such an important role in our children's self-esteem, learning progress and social development. In this post I want to focus on how we can use a KWL chart and/or learning journal to help children identify their successes, what they have learnt and what they have yet to learn.

A KWL Chart

Blaxendall (2003) discusses how important advanced or graphic organisers can be in helping students with special needs organise their thoughts and recall important information when approaching an academic task. A KWL chart is one example.

As seen above, this chart has three columns. The first and second columns are completed before a student begins a task or is introduced to a new topic. The first column is a way to help them "brain-storm" or activate their "search engine" for anything they might know on the topic. The second column is to help them think about what they don't know (recognising their limitations), and it also helps engage them with the topic as they think about what might interest them.

The final column is an explicit way of noting down their successes. This chart can then be pulled out the next time they complete a task on the same topic, helping them to recall information and self-evaluate before they start the new task.

A Learning Journal

A learning journal is an informal way of doing the same thing. It can be a place to record words learnt, formulae that need to be remembered, work samples (like work sheets, photos of a project completed) of which the child is proud. All these can help students, no matter what their age, recall important information.

A learning journal should be something that records the most important information, like a study guide, rather than the child having to search through pages and pages of writing or activities that have been done in class.

A final word on self-evaluation

On a final note, it is important to acknowledge once again that children with executive functioning issues can find it hard to find the completion of a task or success in a social situation intrinsically rewarding. That is, they may not get the same feeling of pleasure or satisfaction from a task well done, or from successfully resolving a conflict with a friend. For this reason our rewards systems, or extrinsic rewards, are very important in helping to build their self-efficacy and desire to use the skills they have been taught.


Baxendell, B.W. (2003). Consistent, coherent, creative: The 3 C's of graphic organizers. Teaching Exceptional Children, 35(3), pg. 46.


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