Always Room for Improvement

As this semester comes to a close, I do what I normally do which is take time to reflect on how I can make the learning process for my students more engaging and meaningful. Though I like predictability and routine, it doesn’t work so well for me in the classroom since I teach the same thing all day long. So when it comes to a new semester with new students, this is when I like to shake things up a bit.

What I liked from this past semester:

  • Using Flipboard a public platform for sharing student work
  • Using Recap as another means to check for understanding while also helping students to practice speaking skills
  • Finding readable primary source materials for The Crusades and then having students turn those into #booksnaps

What I need to work on or change for next semester:

  • Put together a reading schedule for students to ensure that all of the required readings are covered earlier in the unit
  • Create more opportunities for writing
  • Give students more opportunities for mastery learning

Most of these changes will not require a lot of work, but rather revising or tweaking current instructional practices. Though I believe I offer many opportunities for student-centered learning, I could…I must…I will do better.

#bringiton

Make it Better Moment #30daysofblogging

frogI know there are proponents out there who insist that a due date is a due date…no ifs, ands, or buts. And I understand that because, at the end of a quarter, I have to submit grades. There isn’t a way to push back the due date for final grade submission. But for all of those other times…when I can…I give students a Make it Better Moment.

If it’s not the end of the quarter, I believe that it’s important to give students the opportunity to submit late work and/or to fix their work if it is incomplete. Is it more work for me? Of course. But when it comes to students…children, in my case, I think a little leeway is warranted…and in some cases, welcomed.

Let’s face it. Students today have a busier life than we did. I know for a fact that for my middle schoolers, after school gets out some of them have to pick up little brothers and sisters from elementary school, others have to make dinner for their family, a few more have to babysit siblings until their parents get home…and then there are those who have to do a bit of all three. And that’s on top of perhaps, playing sports, going to tutoring, and finishing up any work that didn’t get done in class. So yeah, their life is busy. So I understand when their assignments don’t always get done on time.

Just so we’re clear, I give time to complete most of these assignments in class. But not all students work at the same speed. Some students are more methodical, others have a difficult time staying focused, and then there are those who just work at a slower pace than what the pacing guide allows. So I try to be flexible…to accommodate for their needs…because my job is not to penalize students. It’s to help them learn…to guide them…to encourage them in this learning journey.

So we have Make it Better Moments.

These Make it Better Moments is what puts the onus of learning back on the students, again. Sure, they were given this task earlier (with the original due date)…but sometimes students just need another shot at showing their best work.

Today is one of those days. And though I have a bit more to grade…I feel much better knowing that I gave my students another shot at showing their learning. I can’t control much in my life, but I can control the learning opportunities that students have in my class (well…fire drills, assemblies, etc. notwithstanding).

Make it Work Moment #30daysofblogging

I am not sure where the time went…but it flew by this week. My students have been crazy busy working towards finishing our unit before the end of the semester. Currently, my students are working on creating an Instagram post from the perspective of a historical figure who lived on a manor during the Middle Ages in Europe. But because our district firewall is like Fort Knox, I have to constantly find workarounds…

But because our district firewall is like Fort Knox, I have to constantly find workarounds…

To get students to practice analysis and writing skills, I created a Life on a Manor Big Idea assignment. This series of tasks has students analyzing documents, using the CER writing formula to put together evidence, and then creating an Instagram post from the historical figure’s perspective. Students used a variety of technology tools: Padlet, GoogleDocs, GoogleSlides, and Flipboard. I created an Instagram template in Google Slides for students to use. Then when they are finished with choosing the perfect picture, developing two hashtags about the thoughts and feelings of that historical figure, and writing their post, they will take a screenshot and upload it our class Flipboard magazine.

The Flipboard magazine will act as our collective “Instagram” feed about life on the manor for the lords, ladies, knights, peasants, and serfs. I’ll share the links to the magazines tomorrow after students have commented on their peers’ work.

The district firewall is not a means to give up on finding creative ways to engage students. I know my students are on Instagram…they know how this site works…so why not figure out a workaround that will give them the sense of using a tool they already know?

I can’t wait to see their final projects tomorrow…