Working Towards Mastery

The last five days concluded the first full week of school with students.  This past week teachers started to dive into content and policies were in full effect.  My school had its curriculum night on Tuesday and Wednesday.  It was there that many teachers explained their expectations, homework and grading policies to parents.  My presentation was similar to last year, but I added a brief component related to grading/feedback.  This part of the curriculum night presentation stemmed from the events in the paragraphs below.

Earlier in the week I spoke with my classes about giving them chances in class to review feedback and redo assignments.  I told them that students are able to do this when the environment allows for second chances exist. This year assignments completed in class will note a NY or M near the top of the paper.  I’m actually borrowing this idea from a class I took years ago.  I introduced this process to students earlier in the week using an anchor chart.

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The NY means that the student isn’t yet meeting expectations for that particular skill.  Students are asked redo any assignment that includes an NY.  They don’t need to necessarily redo the entire assignment.  Instead, I’ll highlight a certain section that needs to be changed.  Students then redo and return that assignment.  An M indicates that the student met the expectations for the assignment. Ideally, the NY papers eventually turn into M papers. So far the process is working well.  I’d say the majority of the NY papers that are returned have turned into papers that meet the expectations.

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Management is something that I’ll be looking at improving.  Finding time for students to redo the projects hasn’t turned problematic, but I’m looking at designating a certain time in class for students to work on the NY papers.  I haven’t yet set a deadline to when I’ll accept all the redo papers. It’ll most likely be a week for the trimester ends, but that decision hasn’t been set in stone.

Currently, I’m only using this process for projects completed in class. The good news is that students are starting to redo and turn the sheets back in.  Another positive is that students aren’t focusing on the grade on the project.  They’re looking at what concept needs strengthening, asking for help when needed and redoing the project.  In doing this students are working towards the mastery of concepts rather than focusing entirely on the grade alone.

 

Open House Questions

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My school had its official open house last week.  This anticipated annual event invites parents to visit the school for to take a look at what’s happening in the classroom.  This is not a time for parent conferences but an opportunity for parents to visit the school, meet teachers and get a glimpse of classroom happenings. It’s a busy night.  Students often become tour guides and they lead their parents through the classroom that they’re in throughout the day.  Parents often look forward to this night as they can see their child’s work.  Each teacher puts their own spin on the night.  Some grade levels work together and have the same theme or activity while other teachers have a school scavenger hunt.

For teachers, it can be a whirlwind of a night. Setting up activities, organizing work and finding ways to hang up student work is usually all part of this night.  The focus is on showcasing student work.

I believe having an open house night is one way to help build the community and school connection.  It’s beneficial although I always leave these nights with questions of how to make this connection better.

For the majority of parents this is one of the few times that they’re able to  walk the halls of the school and actually see student work from multiple classrooms.  I believe that these types of open house nights strengthening the school and community connection.  Parents leave the night with a better understanding of what their child is doing in school.  While meeting with parents I overheard a few conversations.  I heard parents making positive comments of what their child is doing in particular classrooms.  This is all good news but I wonder if there’s a better way to improve this connection.  While thinking of this I started to put together an informal list of what some teachers are doing to address this.

There are a few teachers at my school that use social media to improve this connection.  I know of three teachers that have their own classroom Twitter handle.  They Tweet out pictures,activities and/or projects that students complete.  A few teachers at my school also use student digital portfolios to showcase student work. Parents are able to view student work and comment on their child’s work through this platform.  From what I hear and see, parents in these classrooms seem to have a better understanding of what’s happening in those classrooms.  All teachers send out classroom newsletters twice a month.  The letters are often used as a general curriculum communication tool. I believe in a balanced approach to building the connections between schools and the community.  It’s obvious that teachers aren’t able to showcase everything that’s happening in their classrooms, but what’s happening shouldn’t necessarily be hidden either.

Let me know what you think.  How do you strengthen the school and community partnership?