Friday, January 6, 2017

Goals for second semester

As I've been wrapping up grading from semester 1 and planning semester 2 for my classes, I'm realizing that I did not set goals at the start of this year the way that I have in the past. Better late than never!

Changes for my personal teaching:

  • Get back to individual feedback meetings. I blogged about them here, but the general idea is that I set aside 20 or so minutes to meet with each student approximately every two weeks in order to sit down together and look over their work and have a feedback conversation. I've found these incredibly helpful for students to actually attend to my feedback, understand what I mean and why I think it's important, and explain their thinking to me. This year has been very tricky since the schedule was changed and students lost a floating free period that I used to be able to use for these meetings. I am recommitting to instituting them again, using class time, if needed. It's been the best way for me to get through grading big projects in a timely manner since it's actually fun and rewarding to sit and discuss students' work with them rather than grading on my own after a long day (since, let's face it, grading gets put off and off).
  • Be more on top of students who are struggling. I am committing to looking at work that is turned in every week to check up on students who are missing work or need additional support. If anyone has a good system for keeping track of interactions/observations/progress for all students and how they make sure that no one is falling through the cracks, I'd love to chat.
  • More nuanced and thoughtful reflection questions - I think that the balance of reflection vs. doing math has been better this year, but I'd like to focus the questions I ask students in order to hone in on specific mathematical practices rather than just general "what's going well? what do you need to work on?" type questions. I also want to bring back, "what's one good thing that happened this week?" - it was a great way to regularly check in and connect with students.
  • Collaboration quizzes to give more direct feedback to students on their groupwork and engagement and help them internalize expectations more effectively.
  • More peer feedback. I've started doing this more this year, and love how much motivation it creates for students to express themselves more clearly and justify their thinking. I'm hoping to use peer feedback this semester to help students get better at analyzing strategy, getting positive feedback for extensions they create, and to deepen their understanding of different approaches. One of the lesson study groups worked on peer feedback last semester and I'm really excited to learn from them. I would also like to use a Slack channel for classes so that students can discuss and share ideas outside of class more easily.
  • Better differentiation. I'd like to meet with students to set individual goals and do more follow up to help them stay on track with these. I think that there's already a fair amount of choice in problem sets and homework assignments, but I'd like to do a better job of teaching students how to use those choices better. One way will be to have them reflect at the end of class on the type of work they need to do to follow up on that day's learning (review of prior concepts, practice, connections, and/or reach problems). I know that they are learning project management skills in their other classes, but in Math, the product is the process, which is more abstract and harder for them to track and plan. 
  • Continue and get better at classroom routines that foster reflection and a clear arc from start to finish. 
    • I have often used Desmos Activity Builder to start and end class, but would like to do this more consistently and help students get better at constructing meaning from problem-based lessons by selecting useful reflections and comments to share. I still have work to do on making sure that meaning and connection emerges from students' own thinking and not ignoring times when they don't emerge or simply telling students what they should have learned. One way is to do more planning of student responses and how to connect these and have the main ideas of the lesson emerge from them, sharing methods and responses that did not emerge as part of that process. 
    • This also connects to better note-taking. I have given feedback to students once or twice on their note-taking and organization and definitely need to do this again. I haven't really figured out a solution for sharing board work and "notes" from class since I've emphasized process and individual needs. I do share presentations, if they were used, but those generally do not contain worked solutions. If anyone has good ideas on this, I'm all ears. 
    • I would also like to do this on a unit-level rather than just lesson-by-lesson by using student-generated essential questions, concept maps, and study-guides more this semester. There is still a fair amount of tension between student-generated conclusions/connections and teacher-generated ones that are more "efficient" and feel more comfortable and structured for students, especially if they're oriented towards maximizing content acquisition. I am working to help students get better at this and at understanding why I think that it's important, both of which are necessary to get more buy-in for the process and rewards that actualize when students do more of this work. One way is to be more transparent about the structures that I'm using and why - I observed a teacher recently giving an intro to a lesson by explaining the groupwork structure that he would be using and what he hoped it would achieve, and I think that enlisting students as teammates in this process is hugely beneficial. 
  • Continue the following changes I implemented last year:
    • Each assessment includes reassessment of previous content
    • Visibly Random Groupings (new groups daily) and whiteboarding
    • Homework that's spiraled and includes Retention, Review, Reflect, and Reach sections; students self-select problems to do (should sometimes group students by homework problems completed the next day though)
    • Students submit all work digitally, all feedback is recorded digitally in one place (online gradebook)

Big Picture Curriculum:

  • Decide on mathematical practices and habits that should be emphasized within a given year/semester/unit and link them to specific lessons and activities. I've been doing a much better job this year of giving students regular feedback on these, but haven't been very intentional about which habits will be emphasized when, noticing which ones students are making progress on and which ones need more work, and how (besides getting feedback) they might get better at them.
  • Create more opportunities for interdisciplinary connections. I've put out some feelers to Science teachers and will do the same for Computer Science, English, and History to see where we can join forces and create projects that can support and enrich both disciplines.
  • Formulate a more cohesive picture of our curriculum and mission so that our core sequence is less content-driven and so that we can explain to students and families why acceleration is not necessary or desirable. This will require a reducing/reworking of our acceleration pathways, enriching/differentiating core classes, and deciding how electives should support the overall program. 
  • Start developing a portfolio assessment for one Math course. It might not be ready to go this semester, but if I can pilot a beta version in one class, I can work on tweaking/developing it more over the summer so that it's ready to go in more classes next year.
  • Work on developing group assessments (and other differentiated assessments) for at least one unit in each class.

Professional Development:

  • Continue lesson study this semester and figure out good systems for sharing the results that each group has found, both within the discipline team and with the school community more broadly. Possibly help other disciplines/divisions begin the lesson study process. Think about presenting about lesson study next year and the types of resources and supports teachers would need to get started with this.
  • Figure out what I want to work on over the summer. Major contenders currently are:
    • Attending PCMI
    • Teaching at summer institutes for teachers
    • Start compiling our existing curriculum into a more easily shared and edited form for students, families, and teachers
    • Curriculum development for my school, focusing on alignment between courses, portfolio assessment, projects that connect to other disciplines and class trips, parent education, and developing new electives
    • Summer math support for students who are doing independent work or working more directly on accelerating/remediating/enriching
    • Coordinating with the middle school on curriculum, parent education, and development of mathematical practices

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