Sunday, August 19, 2012

msSunFun #3: Goals for the School Year

I'm so glad that the theme for this week was changed to goal-setting for the new school year because this is something that I've needed to sit down and write for a while now, and this was the perfect kick-in-the-butt to get myself to do it. I have set goals for a few years now, but this year, I'd like to go back and you know, actually see how I'm doing. So maybe there will be a prompt later in the year to check in on our goals?

I have two overarching goals this year:

  1. Richer Mathematics
  2. I would like to deepen the curriculum, to push for understanding that is more abiding and less surface-level or focused on discrete skills. The specific ways that I hope to achieve this are by having students do more:
    • writing, processing, reflecting, and explaining

      We already do a lot of this in class and I've required students to do journal writing for two years now, but I want to make this part of daily homework assignments and incorporate into assessments. I don't want writing and reflecting to be an add-on that happens every week or two, but incorporated into the fabric of the class. To that end, I will be asking students to respond orally and in writing to prompts at the end of most class periods and as part of most homework assignments. I will be asking students to make videos where they explain their approach to a problem. I would also like to put more "explain this" type questions on tests.

    • problem-solving

      In my previous post, I wrote about the various different approaches that I've tried to incorporate rich problems and tasks into my classrooms, and how I plan to use them this year. The basic gist is that I want to use more problems that are content-related in the classroom, pose more problems for kids to think about outside of the classroom, and continue to provide extra, "fun" problems to interested kids. I think that the group-sized whiteboards I made this year will help encourage better groupwork and communication about problems between students. I'm still thinking about how to assess students' work when assigning more difficult, open-ended problems, both in terms of giving good feedback and in terms of coming up with a grade of some sort at the end.

  3. Communication
  4. I would like for there to be more dialog between myself and students, more opportunities for them to give feedback on how they are doing and what they need and for me to communicate more clearly and more often back to them how they are doing in the class and what they should be working on to improve. 
    Last year, I had time to meet with students in the two-year Algebra sequence about once a week to discuss how they were doing and what I wanted to them to work on, but it wasn't until the end of the year that I realized that I was doing a lot of the work for them (keeping track of missing assignments & assignments that should be corrected, as well as assessments that needed to be retested) and that they were depending on me to tell them what to do. Last year, I started making them keep track of this themselves and even gave points for having a pretty clear picture of where they were at when I checked in with them. I want to start this much earlier this year. 
    I was also very unsystematic about reassessing - there wasn't a clear schedule and I didn't always follow up with students who blew it off. I would like to be more organized this year - I will have a calendar where students who miss assessments or those who are reassessing will sign up, and keep better track of students who need to reassess but avoid doing so. 
    I would also like to encourage students to communicate with me about their needs. I'll be using Edmodo for the first time this year, which will allow me to periodically post surveys or questionnaires to get more feedback from students. I'm planning on taking more pictures and notes during class and sharing my observations with students throughout the year rather than just at report card time. I'm also toying with the idea of involving parents more, either through Edmodo (which allows for parent accounts) or by using Evernote to keep track of the student photos and notes and emailing them to families. I need to think about this a bit more - I'd love to hear how others choose to involve (or not involve) parents and why.


  1. I LOVE your idea for the large, group whiteboards!! I am heading to Lowe's this week! Thanks so much for sharing the idea!

  2. I definitely stole it from @fnoschese, who has a big post about using whiteboards at So glad that it was useful to you!

  3. Interested to see how you will keep track of reassessment...I tried using a whiteboard, but it got messy and students & I forgot, and I also tried posting it on Google Calendar, but they didn't check that. I like your blog!