Inaugural Post: SBG Reflections

Thanks to Fawn and Algebrainiac for providing the posts that finally got me off my ass to start blogging and to Bowman for the Angry Birds example that I’ll for sure use this fall. Here goes…

WHAT WORKED

  • Having students provide evidence of an improved understanding before reassessing – This really helped to ensure that students who reassessed did better the second time. Also it sent the message that reassessing was about deepening your understanding of a concept, not just being able to understand your errors so that you can “retake” a test. This evidence could have been generated in class, at home, with me, wherever.
  • Saying “No” to kids who didn’t have this evidence – Again I want students to have a high degree of confidence that they will demonstrate a deeper understanding on the reassessment.
  • Having students assess themselves – After revising their assessments students would complete one of these self-assessment forms in which they reflected upon their thinking and answered the following three questions: 1) What does this thinking prove that I understand? 2) What does this thinking show that I do not yet understand? and 3) What are my next steps in my learning?  We’re a 1-to-1 ipad school and I had students insert pictures from their assessment to support their answers using Remarks. This helped students to acknowledge learning successes, identify areas of need and create a plan for improvement.
  • Allowing students to reassess concepts from earlier quarters – Why should something be off limits in Q3 just because it was taught in Q1? The whole evidence thing helps here, as it means the kid has been doing something additionally to improve. I want to reward that.

WHAT DIDN’T WORK

  • Google form for reassessment sign-ups – Tried it but it just became one more thing to check. Apparently I wasn’t alone here but I might try and get my hands on the script that Algebrainiac uses that auto-e-mails me when someone has made a request to give it another shot.
  • Offering reassessment and relearning opportunities at the same time – I found it incredibly difficult to work with students to go over concepts while also trying to set up kids with reassessments. As our reassessment policy is department-wide we’re thinking of having all the kids taking reassessments after school to go to one teacher’s room (evidence would have been checked earlier by their classroom teacher). We’ll see how it goes.

WHAT I KNOW I CAN IMPROVE ON

  • Providing class time for relearning & reassessment – If I want to send the message that my class is about continuous improvement then I need to put my money where my mouth is and provide opportunities during class for that to happen. A colleague of mine gave me this awesome bingo cage that I may use to randomly choose a standard for in-class reassessment. By scheduling more frequent, smaller assessments on previously taught standards for the whole class I hope to diminish the need for student-initiated reassessments. I’ve also thought about dedicating the last 30 minutes of a class once every few weeks to review/reassessment.
  • Focusing on the Mathematical Practices – Like several of the other bloggers who have done similar posts I’m also interested in making the 8 practices a more central focus of my classroom next year. I’ve already dedicated one whole wall of my classroom next year for us to post student “illustrations” of each of the different practices in action.
  • Activating students as instructional resources for each other – Though students in my class always knew to seek out help from their peers I’d like to create more  formal structures for students who understand topics to provide instruction. Student-led “math meetings” during that 30-minute time maybe or student-created instructional videos using Explain Everything? I’m open to ideas.
  • Self-assessment form – I probably went through 10 different versions of the form linked above and still wasn’t totally happy with it at the end. I want students to have a consistent, easy channel to provide themselves with feedback on assessments and sometimes the process seemed a bit onerous.
  • Communication with parents – Like Fawn I could see requiring a parent’s signature as a nice, and most importantly, easy way to keep parents in the loop about their child’s learning. I’ve also thought about using the comment feature in our online Veracross gradebooks more creatively to provide feedback for parents on a specific assessment.
  • Developing assessment tasks – Like everyone else I’m always looking for better assessment tasks and ways to develop reassessments without sacrificing a significant amount of the time that I should be sleeping.

WHAT I’M STILL WONDERING ABOUT

  • Feedback, not grades – Reading Wiliam’s work has got me thinking critically about the ways students receive feedback on their learning in my class, and I’m eager to continue to try and move towards creating a classroom that revolves more around specific descriptive feedback than grades (be they traditional or standards-based).

Whew. Inaugural post complete! Thanks for reading!