Friday, October 2, 2015

What Did You Do Today?

Guest Blogger: Colleen Mullaney

“What did you do at school today?” was a common question that I got when I went home from school while sitting at the dinner table.  My response was simple: “math, science, lunch, recess, and reading,” never actually answering the question of what I did in school. 

Now as a teacher, on the other side of things, naturally I see it a little differently.  The checklists that a number of EG’s math teachers have created, adjusted, and refined over the last couple years, have caused students to become machine like.  They crank out the work, going from video notes, to practice, to exit quiz and then move to the next level, only to repeat the process throughout the week.  So how do you help them to slow down, think about the work they did that day, and monitor their progress? It started with moving a magnet from one box to the next on a chalk board when a student would finish a level.  But what about the in between work, the little accomplishments, the small victories? Then it hit me! Let’s utilize those 5 minutes at the end of class that students use to pack up their stuff instead of finishing some work.  I would like to say it was simple and came to me easily, but what you see below is version 5 of this reflection.

At the end of the period, with about 4 minutes left, students are given group folders that contain their reflections for each skill.  All I ask them to do from day to day is check off what they did from Day 1 to Day 5 and at what level.  The key at the top explains the abbreviations in each square. 

Now here is where the true reflection starts.  Typically our students are taking an objective quiz every 5 days or so.  Once they receive those quizzes back, they answer the following questions on the back of their “work trackers.”
After showing students examples of what good reflections and poor reflections look like, it’s their turn.  They begin look over their quizzes and record their grades.  I also have them look up their overall grades too and then answer the questions.  As they do so we look at how long they are spending on each level, what day they get to level 3, if they were absent during the week, etc.

So what do I do with the reflections after the quiz? On one hand, it is used to monitor student progress and hold them accountable for the work they did that day.  On the other hand it is a conversation piece too.  If a student wants or needs to retake the quiz they will come in to make corrections on their quiz.  Before we even begin to look through the quiz and start corrections we have a one on one conversation about their work throughout the week and how it has reflected in their grades. I start with the front with all the check boxes and talk about pacing, length of time spent on each level etc.  And that usually gets them to understand why they earned the grade they did.  The level of understanding they have gotten through throughout the week usually matched the level of understanding they show on their quiz.

I was really excited about doing this reflection for all the reasons above, but there was one hidden perk that I wasn’t really expecting.  Students are not looking at their score and putting it in the retake or no retake piles I have in my room.  They are taking the time to look through their mistakes and look at the questions they got wrong.  Especially for the students who get through a majority of the checklist and don’t earn the grades they want or demonstrate the knowledge they think have of the topic.  They are looking for the ways they can improve and why they got the questions wrong.  They see and realize how easy of an improvement it could be.  They will retake their quiz and demonstrate they really do know this topic at a higher level. 

Over all, I have really enjoyed watching the students complete these reflections and it has given me more opportunities for discussions than I ever imagined. The reflections stay in their folder until the unit test, so it helps them to narrow their focus on the objectives to study before the test.  I have kept the ones they have completed so far, unsure of what to do with them yet.  But considering this reflection is already on version 5, I can only assume there will be more versions to come!

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