Thursday, July 30, 2015

Goals for 2015-2016

I find these goal-setting types of posts pretty helpful. Ideally, I will actually go back to this and reread it at some point into the school year. Maybe when we do the #1TMCthing check-in at the end of October? I just reread some of the goals that I had set in previous years and it's pretty hit and miss in terms of how much I actually accomplished. My main concern is that I have too many goals and it's maybe unrealistic that I will be able to accomplish all, but what's that terrible saying that I've seen in a bunch of classrooms that doesn't actually make any sense? Oh yes...

That literally makes no sense. The stars are farther.

Anyway, without further ado, my goals for the 2015-2016 school year!!


  • Give back quizzes with feedback only, share the grade after class (we will have an SBG online gradebook this year that will hopefully make that easier), as described in this post by @mythagon.
  • Students must correct original quiz and demonstrate evidence of work/learning done in order to reassess. They may not reassess on the same day. Still debating whether I want to put a limit on the number of attempts. I thought about making all of the attempts count (with a weight making the later attempts count more), but decided that this is not in the spirit of SBG.
  • Teach students how to use feedback effectively. This was from @pegcagle's session at #TMC15 and is my official #1TMCthing that I have publically promised to follow up on this year. One way to do this is to give back feedback mixed up and not attached to assignments and have students in each group try to figure out which feedback should go to which person. Another idea that I want to try is to have students exchange papers and coach each other on what to do with the feedback they received. Last year, I did a bit of peer feedback prior to turning work in to me, with some success. I need to make this a more consistent part of my class.
  • Incorporate homework and classwork into students' self-assessment of their practices. Last year, I asked students to do this for projects, but I would really like a portfolio each unit with self-assessment that is more global and includes homework and classwork with linked examples of their work as evidence. This idea is based on a post by @jacehan.
  • I really need to get homework and projects graded more quickly so that students are getting feedback at a time when it's still useful to them. I got bogged down with grading big time last year, and I need to be better about staying on top of it. Update: after reading "Creating Cultures of Thinking" a few weeks ago, I would like to set up individual meeting times with each of my students outside of class every 2 weeks (we'll see if the schedule supports this) in order to discuss their progress in the class and go over their projects and reflections with them. One of the ideas in the book that I found really fascinating was that instead of thinking about time as the most limiting constraint, as we usually do, we can instead think about energy... what feels energizing and what feels draining. It might make sense to change something that takes less time, but is draining with something that takes longer, but energizes you. The example given was grading papers at home, which can be exchanged for in-person meetings with students with the paper graded in real time and written feedback accompanied by in-person interaction. I would like to try this model, knowing that it will mean trading off some time, but hopefully, will feel less painful than grading projects late at night.
Class culture
  • Continue using daily random groupings and whiteboarding, as described by @AlexOverwijk to increase student participation and engagement. Based on a Twitter conversation with @fnoschese about gender balance in groups, in which he discussed the research that groups in which there are as many or more girls as boys have higher performance outcomes for girls than groups in which there are fewer girls than boys (single gender groups are okay), I will be tweaking the gender ratios in my random groups to help make them more balanced, if needed. But not always. It depends. Basically, it's on my radar, but I'm not 100% sure that gender always trumps other status issues and I really do believe in the overall benefit of visibly random groups.
  • Continue my policy of having students volunteer to participate in class discussions, with the caveat that each person must participate at least once or they must start the next day's discussion. In addition, when groups report out, I can call on any member of the group.
  • Introduce talking points and exploratory talk ideas into class discussions, as described by @cheesemonkeysf here and as described in a similar Visible Thinking routine called Micro Lab. Teach language of argumentation and mathematical discourse, as described in the Claim-Support-Question Visible Thinking routine.
  • Continue assigning bi-weekly reflections as a way for students to reflect on their learning and also to build community and feelings of connection. Move from reflections that are only about learning and affect to reflections that also dig deeper into mathematical concepts and connections. Incorporate reflection questions into daily homework or exit tickets to have more formal processing opportunities and feedback on thinking routines and classroom structures and how they are impacting student learning. 
  • Build student-student connections to strengthen class culture. I really enjoyed the activities that @sophgermain demonstrated in her session on restorative justice, which facilitate student-student connections in the classroom. Some examples:
    • There are two circles of students facing each other, a question is asked and each person speaks for 1 minute on that topic (examples of questions and topics below), then one circle rotates to a new partner and another question/topic is asked.
    • Making one circle for the class and popcorn or going around the whole circle sharing on a particular topic or to give appreciation to someone.
    • Have students write their names on a piece of paper, then distribute randomly and each student must write something nice anonymously about the person whose paper they received. Can repeat this multiple times and then return to the original person.
    • Ask students to share at the end of a task who was helpful to their learning and how. 

  • Be more intentional about homework. I blogged about this here already, but I'd like to assign fewer homework problems, spiral it in more intentional ways, and always provide answers in advance and worked solutions from students' own work after we discuss homework in class. Homework will be organized into three sections: Review (questions/problems relating to old material), Reflect (processing questions relating to new material, connections between content), and Reach (deeper/harder questions from mostly old material).
  • From @bowmanimal's post on homework, I'm going to ask students to give themselves feedback on their homework and emphasize it as a learning tool. I normally tell students to limit themselves to 45 minutes per assignment and then provide a day every 2 weeks that is a designated catch-up day when they are expected to go back to old assignments that were not finished and put more work into them. I will do this more explicitly this year.
  • I am still playing around with how I want to handle homework questions. I tried using a Google form, as described by @z_cress, last year, and it was a bit hit or miss. Quite a few students simply didn't do it and of those that did, many filled it out too late for it to be useful in my planning of the next day. In @pegcagle's workshop, she discussed using entrance tickets as a way to assess which homework questions are worthy of discussion and to anchor that day's learning, with questions like, "Which homework problem was the hardest for you? Which homework problem was the most interesting?" I definitely like giving groups a few minutes to discuss homework questions together and asking students to present solutions to problems that many are wondering about or that are especially important, but am still working on how to do this efficiently and in a way that maximizes everyone's learning. I definitely treat homework as a vital part of class, with questions that bring out connections between topics and that preview new content or skills that will be useful in that day's learning.
  • I will continue having students turn in pictures of their homework digitally while keeping an organized notebook. I really liked that students had access to all of their work and that I didn't have to track papers last year.
  • I would like to emphasize organization a bit more. Ideally (if I can make myself do this consistently), I would like students to create a table of contents at the front and number pages in their notebook. I was reminded of Magdalene Lampert's structures for student notebook writing in @sgnagni's post describing the sections that she had students create (Date, Problem of the Day, Experiments, and Reasoning). For my high school students, I am thinking something like:
    • Date
    • Questions being investigated
    • Tasks/Mathematical Work
    • Summary and Reasons
  • I would like to continue giving students 5 or so minutes at the end of each class to organize their written work and complete the summary section of their notes. I started doing this halfway through the year last year and students felt that this was very helpful in solidifying their learning, especially if much of their work had been done on whiteboards and they wanted a record of their thinking for that day.
  • I will spend more time planning tasks in anticipating student responses and how I will treat them. I did too much of this on the fly this past year, and while much of the time, it went okay, I am starting to see the benefit of spending more time on advance planning. I would also like to provide rubrics for all projects in advance. I did this sometimes and always got positive feedback when I was able to do it.

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