Reaching every Student

I try to make my class as flexible as possible, so every student can work at the pace they need and feel successful. This flexibility has limits as I do have a limited amount of time I can spend curating activities, retakes and small group instruction for students. I need to make some adjustments in how I get students the additional help they need. Morning tutoring and lunch time for retesting will be where I focus right now.

Currently, I have 13% of my students who borderline on their grades and another 15% who need some serious intervention.

There is a balance I find hard to find where I am working harder than my students seem to be. How do I get them to buy in? I’m not sure I have solutions. I do know the things I’m trying to focus on this year don’t seem to be making the problem any worse than it is every other year and I feel better about how the class is going.

I’m using more positive behavior focus. I’m pushing a growth-mindset nearly every day. I’m working on working flexibly with number sense. I’ll see if these things continue to feel like they are making a difference in more than just the climate of my classroom.

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Everybody makes Mistakes

I set up a Google Forms quiz and it started with a high-level question and was set up to sent students to higher or lower levels based on their answers. Awesome! It worked great and I opened up the results tonight so excited to see how it worked on the back end. Only, in all my toggling and setting up of this and other forms, I missed the box to auto-collect their emails (and their names since they use school email addresses).

Oh, dear. I’ll need to apologize and have my students resubmit. Fortunately, it was a quick assessment 2-4 quick questions and they won’t have to “think” this time, just put in their same answers as today.

I’ll need to apologize and have my students resubmit. Fortunately, it was a quick assessment 2-4 questions and they won’t have to “think” this time, just put in their same answers as today.

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Pear Deck

Today, I used Pear Deck with all of my classes. It went okay. Two of my classes were highly engaged. Two others seemed more distracted by how cool the tech was than the lesson. Which was alright for today, as I had a lesson that was more teaching the tech rather than content. I’ll try again with those two classes and see if the shiny aspect of the tech has worn off enough to focus a little more.

It’s not the Pear Deck wasn’t engaging for those students. I’m still finding what will work for those students. This class is a first for me; they seem oblivious to the face that I’d like to have their attention. Sweetly, joyfully oblivious. So, I have things to learn. I did some reading during planning today and have a few things I’m going to try tomorrow. They are good kids, and I’m sure we’ll work out the issue. Not all the students are missing the signal for focus, and I’m so thankful for those who see me there striving to help them. Love them all!

While falling the rabbit hole of links on Twitter just a bit ago, I found some decks created by (I believe) Seth Leavitt from materials on the Estimation 180 site by Andrew Stadel. I used one today after editing it slightly. Students liked the ability to engage in the lesson in a new way. I like the way Pear Deck gives all the students a voice.

I could see Pear Deck being something I would pay for in the future. For now, I’ll continue to test it out in class. And work with my students on how to best use this tool to further their learning.

How a problem is presented.

Today, we logged into Khan Academy in class and I introduced the site to the majority of my students. Since we were learning a new tool and not math, we checked out the K-2 mission. I had 5 students ask me for technical help on the same type of question. They were sure the answer they had was correct and the program just wasn’t letting them advance.

Here’s an example of the problem they were looking at.

5 = 2 + ?

The answer had to be seven, so why wasn’t the program letting them answer?

I asked one student if they’d ever seen a problem with the answer (I should have said “sum” instead) on the left rather than the right. “No.” They hadn’t. I wondered about how we present problems to students. If all addition problems are only ever shown as addend plus addend equals sum, then the student can stop even seeing the operation signs and stop thinking as well. It made me recall a lesson I learned in grad school about how we (teachers) need to be sure and show our students different forms and views of shapes that meet the definition. Students who have only ever seen a right triangle when being shown with one leg parallel to the bottom of the page may not recognize it as a right triangle when it is rotated. Similarly, they may not recognize a pentagon as a pentagon if it isn’t a regular pentagon.

Maybe this was a simple error and not a major lack of understanding, but it gave me pause. I want to be thoughtful in the problems I have my students tackle and growth their brain against. I need to make sure how I present problems to students adds to their understanding, enlarges their perspective and experience with numbers. My assessment should check their understanding and not offer things they can do with a superficial understanding of the math. Or worse, things that can be solved correctly with an incorrect understanding.

Class Pictures

Every year we take a faculty photo and it reminds me of elementary school. This morning we started our day in the 6th-grade gym at school, chatting in small groups as we nodded and smiled and sized each other up. We line up according to height, so it’s easier for the photographers to put us in order for the picture. We measure ourselves against our peers as we find our position. Measuring our growth and the growth of our students is a topic of concern for many right now. I don’t want to discuss standardized testing, I think talking about it gives it too much power. I don’t worry about the test, I cannot, for I have more important things to spend my time doing.

Just like any teacher, I want my students to grow. As teachers, we want students to discover a passion for learning, to realize that learning is important and that learning should never end.

While it is important to check where we are on our learning journey and to see if we are approaching the goals we have for ourselves and that others have for us, I never want to forget that a student is more than a single number, more than a score. A label does not define student and I work so that in my realm of influence a number will not limit them. I count it a failure as a teacher if a student is discouraged by a number.

As I measure my students this year, I want to measure with more than a number. My goal is to find ways to fill out a whole picture of what my students understand, what they wonder about and what they are inspired by. The picture that is developed for each of my students should help them toward their goal, it should give them a benchmark to reflect on and view of what’s possible. My challenge this year is to put that vision into practice, to find what that looks like in my classroom.