There’s still two weeks until students come back to class, but since most of the rest of the MTBoS is already back my brain is churning about all the things I want to do this year. Not that I’m making any big changes, but there are lots of different aspects of the year that I keep thinking about and all those ideas rattling around are starting to get too noisy. So I’m going to write three (maybe four?) blog posts:
- Teaching goals for the year
- What I want students to do in an Algebra 2 class
- What I want students to do in an IB Studies 2 class
- (Possibly) Grade leader goals for the year.
This is all aiming high, as I’m historically not the most dedicated blogger. Especially once school starts. But too much is unrecorded and if I don’t put some of this stuff down I worry it will be too amorphous to be instituted this year.
I should also say that these teaching goals are sort of outside of my #1TMCthing of including more social justice in my classroom. Not that I don’t think that’s important, but as I indicated in my last post it intimidates the crap out of me. These posts will be things I want to start doing from day 1, and the Social Justice stuff will come with time as I become more familiar with the curriculum and with social justice topics.
So anyway, my goals for the year:
1. Close every lesson – The last year or so I’ve gotten really lazy about closing lessons. In fact whenever I saw a summary slide from a previous teacher’s work I would always chuckle that there was no way we’d get to that. But after listening to Tracy at #TMC16 I’ve come to believe that it’s so important. This year I’m also shifting away from SWBAT-style aims to Essential Questions, and I think the whole idea of a closing makes more sense now because we have to see if we can answer that question. I also found last year that I wasn’t doing nearly enough formative assessments throughout a unit. Kids would do homework but weren’t getting any feedback from me at any point before an actual assessment, and those count for a lot. So I need to be more consistent about, at the very least, summarizing what we’ve learned, and hopefully also finding ways to give ungraded feedback to kids so they can track their own learning.
2. Be intentional about note-taking – After looking through various student notebooks last year, I realized my kids have absolutely no idea how to take notes. Some kids tried to write down every single word that’s on the screen, others scribbled the Aim and put down some out-of-context math work that they’d never be able to study from. Our department tends to just tell kids “Write this down!” but aren’t very good about taking the time to discuss what good notes look like and how to take good math notes. I’ve done guided notes in the past but I’m not crazy about the idea because I want them to be more self-sufficient, especially the seniors. Learning to paraphrase what a teacher or a slide says is a very valuable skill that I want to think about. To that end I’ve already created a slide that looks like notebook paper, and I’m also going to start taking notes on chart paper next to the board so students can see how I might organize my notes. It’s time consuming at the beginning but it’s something I think is important so I’m going to try. And once I set it up well enough, then I stop answering questions they should have in their notes (which I think…Sarah? suggested) to make my point even clearer.
3. Use Desmos more – Descon 16 was amazingly inspirational. There are so many things we can do with the software if we just spend a few minutes ahead of time, and I want to utilize that more. Especially card-sorts (which I LOVE pedagogically but HATE logistically). The biggest challenge here is that we are not a one-to-one school, and most of our laptops are terrible. With only 40 minutes in class, by the time the laptops are on and actually ready to go you don’t have a lot of time if you want to make sure they are off and away by the end of class. Plus I don’t even have a full class set of functional ones, so kids have to share. And if we have five sections of a class, it gets tricky to keep them all charged (and that assumes no classes meet at the same time). I don’t offer these up as excuses not to, but more as a reminder that I need to think through a few more logistics than just “What cool activities can I do?!” But I think it’s possible, and a lot of the kids have smart phones, so if I’m careful I can make it work.
I like this list because it addresses a bunch of things that annoyed the hell out of me last year. Test scores were always frustratingly low because I did a terrible job of letting kids know just how little they understood about topics (biggest takeaway from last year: Kids don’t know what they don’t know). And then when we went to do test corrections, theirnotes were a hot mess (if they even had them). And I hope Desmos can 1) Help me talk less in class, and 2) Help solidify their understanding of concepts more than just me talking them through practice problems. And I think all of these things don’t require some drastic reimagining of my lesson planning process, just the adding of a few more things to consider when I work.
So those are my goals. As always I welcome any feedback you might have!