Thursday, February 22, 2018

A Year in AP: Student Positivity (Week Twenty-five)

By Mark Heintz

Context

I have two main focuses as I write this weekly blog. Two driving questions that I have in my mind while making decisions.  They are:
  • How do I know if my students know? 
  • How do I get them to know if they know?  
Whether that is a skill or content, I want to know if they know it.   I no longer think it is acceptable for me to guess or get a feeling on whether or not they know it. Getting the students to know if they know it is downright hard, but I am really attempting to get to a point where the students can recognize their understandings or progress on their skill levels and content knowledge.  Therefore, the purpose of this year of reflection is to see how I make progress towards these two goals and elicit feedback from staff, students, and hopefully people who follow along on the journey.  You can read how last week went here.

Week Twenty-five: Answer the Question

This week the content focus was primarily on land-based empires from 1750-1900. Here were the standards for this week:
  1. Understand how old empires dealt with the changes in the global distribution of power. 
This week's skill focus was still centered on analyzing charts, maps, and texts and pulling evidence from documents to support a claim.
  1. Write one cause/effect, and one comparative short response that reflects an understanding of essential content.
  2. Analyze charts, maps, graphs, and texts.
  3. Write a thesis statement, contextualize a prompt, and draw evidence from two documents to support the thesis.  
Cite Specific Evidence

First, how do I know that the students know the content and how to do the skills?

This semester, I am including, or trying to include student's perspective on the week.  For this week's post, I asked two students to document their learning on the standards.  It was a great week to do this, for I missed two days this week due to a family emergency.  I shared a Google Doc to document their progress.  Each day,  I looked at the shared document to view their understandings of what took place during the day.

Bradley and Rodolfo volunteered to document their learning and reflect this week.



Bradley: This in-class exercise further helped to bolster my use of implementing documents into the paragraphs. It also most definitely helped with the “corroboration” piece of the writing. All in all, it was a great help.



Bradley: This particular in-class assignment of writing a contextualization paragraph really helped to refresh my memory. It had been a while since we had done one, so it was a great refresher.

Here is what Rodolfo had to say:

Understand how old empires dealt with the changes in the global distribution of power.



Rodolfo: This exercise boosted my confidence on how to contextualize and correctly explain my evidence. Although my group had some trouble figuring out what to do, we managed to all be on the same page in our writing. I find this very helpful and I do have problems formatting occasionally and it helps to know my elbow mate knows what they are doing.



Rodolfo: We practiced more document analyzing and at that point I felt very comfortable in my writing and it just flows, kind like when I talk. It has been a while since the last the class did a short answer question, but it was relatively easy. The acronym ACE is very effective and it always helps to know that.

My Reflection and Impact

The previous week ended on a snow day.  This week was also a four day week due to an extended President's Day observation.  Because of two shortened weeks back-to-back, there was a little lack of cohesion in the content.  It always rattles me a little bit, but lately less so because I have been moving away from the content driving the course.  I have been moving to recognizing patterns over time.  Looking back on the week, I was able to address patterns across older, land-based empires dealing with European powers.  Even though the students lacked some of the specific content knowledge because of the missing days in each week, they understood whether or not an empire will adapt to the changing global climate.  The weekly reflection continues to serve as a reminder that I am still making huge accomplishments in moments of disruption.

Bradley wrote, "This in-class exercise further helped to bolster my use of implementing documents into the paragraphs. It also most definitely helped with the “corroboration” piece of the writing." I have been attempting to have the students corroborate their evidence.  It has been a tough process to get them to do this.  But when they do, their argument is so much stronger.  Having Bradley document his current understanding of this is very encouraging.

I continue to have students sit in groups of four. I constantly rotate groups. I do this to build a sense of trust amongst all of them and not a sense of comfort with the few of those around them. It exposes students to different writing styles and people to give feedback to and from. Rodolfo stated, "This exercise boosted my confidence on how to contextualize and correctly explain my evidence. Although my group had some trouble figuring out what to do, we managed to all be on the same page in our writing. I find this very helpful and I do have problems formatting occasionally and it helps to know my elbow mate knows what they are doing." While this could become a crutch, it is great to see the students feel that community sense. It is not easy to establish the culture of collaboration in the classroom. When it happens, it is nice to see that the students recognize it.

Overall, a very exciting week.  It is refreshing to see the students see such positive things in February.  They are continuing to improve their writing skills and I look forward to seeing what the students can accomplish in the final week of the unit.

Read week twenty-six here.

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