It’s official. The 2015-16 school year has concluded. The final bell rang last week I’m starting to look at my summer book list. My reading takes on different forms during the summer. I have a few books on hold at the local library just for that purpose. I’m looking forward to digging into those later this week. Before reading these I enjoy catching up on blogs that I missed during the last hectic month of the school year. This year I’m also looking back at my personal goals for this past year.
As I reflect back on the school year I often categorize how classes went that year. Were the classes successful? How did students learn? Did I create an environment that optimized student learning and their curiosity? Did I leave a lasting impact that students will remember? How many of these students will invite me to their graduation. Okay, the last one was a joke. Kind of. I tend to reflect back on these questions as well as others. Last August I wrote a post about the goals that I had for the new school year. This post is designed to reflect on those goals.
1. I plan on taking the first few days of school to engage students in community building activities. The class will be completing a “get to know you” survey and set expectations for the class. We’ll also be completing the marshmallow challenge and have some rich conversations around math and mindset. I feel like instructional strategies make little impact if students have a fixed mindset. The same could be said for teachers. Before delving into content I want to ensure that the classroom community is moving in the right direction.
Looking back, I was ambitious with my planning. At the time I thought this was a realistic goal. I started off the school year with community builders. We completed the marshmallow challenge and other activities. I didn’t actually survey the students. Instead, students wrote in their journals about math experiences. I reviewed their journal entries and had brief conversations with each student. The students felt comfortable in the classroom and seemed to develop rapport with each other.
I didn’t get into the rich discussions about math mindset as much. Having a growth mindset has been emphasized in my district but the practice of it in individual classrooms vary. This is also a byproduct of the mindsets coming from other students, at home and at school. Honestly, it was challenging to not dive into content immediately. Regardless, the classroom community was set on a sound foundation. That foundation played a pivotal role throughout the rest of the school year.
2. I‘d like to make learning more visible in the classroom. I’m planning on having students use math journals to reflect and document their learning journey. I’m also planning on using effect size data to show student growth over time. To do this I’ll need to create additional pre-assessments to analyze pre/post data. I’m also planning on moving away from letter grades on unit assessments. Instead, I’m going to have students reflect more on the skills being learned in class. This is a change from past practices so a lot of modeling may be needed.
I had students use math journals this year. I intentionally had students use them to reflect on assignments/projects throughout the year – more so at the beginning of the year. I also dabbled with students using foldables this school year. The foldables were used primarily for process-oriented skills involving conversions. These were glued or taped into the student math journals. By the end of the school year the math journals were thick and looked like scrapbooks. I’m looking at changing this format next year.
I used effect-size with one of my classes this year. Students took a pre-assessment and explored a particular concept for around three weeks. After the three weeks, they took the same pre-assessment. I calculated the effect-size and placed the data in a spreadsheet that was shared with my teaching team and administrator. I felt like this was good practice as my district is moving towards effect-size next school year. Students received both the pre-assessment and assessment back at the end of the unit to see how much progress was made.
My unit tests didn’t include letter grades on the top of them. This seemed to bother some students as they wanted to know their exact grade. By the end of the year,
all some students weren’t as concerned about the percent/grade. I emphasized, as much as I could, that the skills were the focus. I believe progress was made in this area and I’d like to keep this practice intact for next year.
I tend to agree with the philosophy that deep reflection can lead to growth. I’m looking forward to the new school year in August and have some new goals that I’d like to put in place. For now, it’s time to reflect and recharge before the new school year comes around the bend.