In Ontario’s elementary schools, we assess six Learning Skills. They are:

  • Responsibility
  • Organization
  • Independent Work
  • Collaboration
  • Initiative
  • Self-Regulation

Over six posts, I want to lay out how I plan to teach and assess and each of these skills this upcoming year with my grade 5s.

Here are the earlier posts on Responsibility and Organization.

Today, we continue with Independent Work.


In my early teaching career, I probably expected too much from my grade 5 students in terms of independence. Not that students at this age are incapable of it. Quite the opposite. It’s just that I assumed that ALL students should be coming into the grade with ALL of the skills we expect of an independent student, rather than seeing the year as a collaboration between teacher and student in developing those skills for the intermediate years.

This year, independence will be our major learning skills focus, along with collaboration. We will have many conversations about what independence means, create success criteria for independence in different subjects and learning areas, and find plenty of opportunities to praise students demonstrating the skill.

I’ve found it really important to remember that independence does not equal solitariness. Students can demonstrate independence by working with peers, teachers, and/or their parents. Independence can look different for different students, depending on many factors, including personality, learning abilities and level of home support.

Probably the most important thing to remember is that independence requires risk-taking and many opportunities to make mistakes. While knowing when to seek teacher support is a valuable skill for everyone, we want to create students who are willing to try things on their own (or with peers) and unafraid to “get it wrong.” I’d much rather see students get halfway through a tricky math problem independently rather than checking in to see “if it’s right” every step of the way.

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