I feel as though I have failed my students.
Over the past few weeks, I have been experimenting with self-directed learning. This takes the form of them working at their own pace through the curriculum with deadlines and markers set by me to make sure they stay on track. When they come to class, we do the warm-up together, maybe I do a small mini-lesson, and then I set them to do their work.
When they complete a task, they bring it to me to be checked off.
Here's the problem: I gave a test before break. It was a total disaster. The high score was still under a 50%.
Part of this was simply because they didn't read the directions. When a question asks for the answer in scientific notation, the student needs to put it in scientific notation. When a question asks the students to explain their steps and the simply put an answer, they aren't completing the task.
The issue of not reading direction or checking their work isn't unique to my students in any way. It seems to be pretty universal and the person who can figure out how to fix it will write a book, make a million dollars and retire to the Bahamas where everything they drink will be served with a little umbrella.
Part of it was due to the fact that several of the questions asked on the assessment were in different forms than I've asked them to write about previously. We have talked about their reasons for what they do, and the importance of justifying steps, but I haven't asked them to WRITE as often as I should have.
I have to admit that a major portion of the mistake on this test were made because I wasn't providing enough oversight and checking in on their work over the last few weeks. As a result, it seemed to me that they understood what was happening and were familiar with the concepts, but this was clearly not the case.
So now what?
I had an administrative walk-through last week and the feedback I received was less than glowing. They provided me with many avenues in which changes could occur and I am going to start implementing several of them.
So here's my plan going forward:
1) I will be severely limiting cell phone use. We will have clear times when they can and can't use their phones to limit the amount of Facebook-surfing and teaching-ignoring they can do. If I am addressing the class either with instructions or by going over examples, all phones must be away.
2) I will be creating rubrics for my assignments and have them displayed all over my room. I thought that I did a good job of making my expectations clear, but I'm starting to see that may not be the case.
3) I am starting to teach my students how to take notes. I have very few concerns about this in the geometry class, but my Math 8 classes struggle with keeping their notes organized. I'm not sure that anyone has taught them how to do so beyond "you should write this down." Today, we talked about organization, headings, examples, and keeping thoughts separated much in the style of Cornell notes. The majority of the students seemed amenable to this and willingly copied what I had on the board. The trick will be weening them off of copying and into doing it in their own style and in a consistent place for easy reference.
I have very little faith that they will be able to keep track of their notebooks, so I will be ordering books for everyone and having a specific place in class where they can keep them.
|Something like this|
I made sure to express that I held the lion's share of the guilt for the lack of conceptual understanding and, for the most part, the students seemed to grasp what I was trying to convey and went with me on the note taking. My goal is to get them started with a structure and then let them branch off as they discover what works for them.