I had an awesome year, but…


Next year will be so much better!! I learned so much this year and I love my job more than ever. Im gonna punch next year in the face.

Here’s a few things I’ll keep and a few things I’ll change:

Flipclass: Some parts I liked, some parts not so much. I found that taking the lecture out of the classroom and moving it to the home environment was not effective. Now, I’m not saying that direct instruction doesn’t have its place. The videos I made did get watched and they were helpful to many students. It’s just that I had them at the wrong point in the learning process. The awesome thing is that the kids showed me this by how they used them. I had intended for them to watch a video on a particular topic, then come in to class ready to discuss and dive into activities. But hardly anyone was watching them (they didn’t know why they needed those skills yet).  So we’d do our activities, then have some sort of assessment.  The kids who weren’t making the right connections between the activities and the problems or tasks on the assessment did poorly on those assessments.  But then, they used the videos to get some help before they reassessed on that topic (and really these were the kids who I made the videos for in the first place).  Seeing this, I kept making the videos, but with this purpose in mind. Which leads to my next topic:

Homework: As I started the year having students watch videos for homework, I had a bit of a dilemma after scrapping that idea. Should I go back to p.342 #1-30 even? Should I give just a few problems (a la Dan Meyer)? Or do I just not assign homework at all? I ended up doing some of each, and while I preferred no homework, I found it hard to get everything done in class. So I’m giving homework problems again next year. But i think I’m gonna like it because I’ll be using SocraticBrain.com, which tracks homework progress automatically. I plan to put certain skills in there throughout the year to make sure that we are keeping them fresh. Which leads to my next topic:

Spiraling skills: I feel like this was my main problem this year. I didn’t do a good job of keeping skills coming back throughout the year. One place I failed was not reassessing enough. This is another place where SocraticBrain.com will help out. When I make a rubric, I can include whatever skills I want on it. That way, all skills can be tracked all year. So lets say I give a task where they need to solve a system of equations by graphing it, and a student makes a mistake with slope. I can enter a new score for slope in the gradebook, so that I and the student both know that even though they may have had it at some point, slope needs some work now.  I also am planning to implement some “Algebra Skillz” after talking to a colleague about it. He does a set of basic skills each week with different sorts of incentives for getting them done. They can work on them whenever they have time, and they check each others work. This way they’re constantly keeping tabs on any basic skills that may need work. Which leads to my next topic:

Standards based assessment and reporting: Love it. Not a fad. Gonna keep doing it. Just changing systems. I used ActiveGrade this year and it worked great, I definitely recommend it if you’re looking for a SBG system. I think it’s even linked with Haiku LMS now too, so check it out. But the benefits of teaching next door to the creator of your system are too many to pass up. My friend and colleague Stephen (@socraticbrain on the twitter) has put quite a lot of work into making SocraticBrain.com and next year I’ll be using it for Physics and Algebra!! If you can’t tell, I’m pretty excited about that because it’s awesome. It has algorithm generated questions for homework and quizzes, rubrics for graded tasks, ClassDojo style assessment of discussions, and all of it is automatically entered into a standards based gradebook. It’s kinda hard to describe out of context, but look out for plenty of posts next year about it. Speaking of awesomeness:

Inquiry learning: Sometimes it went well, sometimes not, but I always learned something. One major reflection from this year is that questions are extremely important and that they should come from the students whenever possible. I found that our physics lab discussions were not successful because we did not always have a clear goal in mind. I knew what types of questions the kids would be able to answer as a result of the lab, but they didn’t. So the plan next year is to start all labs with “what types of questions should we be able to answer using this model?” For instance we could watch a video of a bowling ball and a tennis ball being dropped from a window. The students will probably want to know which one is going to land first (and hopefully some other stuff too).  So then we could bust out some carts and tracks and start to develop a model for accelerated motion.

I think that I did a decent job of coming up with and/or finding some good inquiry activities in algebra. I even got a shoutout on Dan Meyer’s blog for some of the cool activities we did (and also got linked to from Frank Noschese’s blog, dropping the big names here) 😉 So I’m doing something right I guess! That said, I know I have a lot to learn about executing a good 3act. I’ll be watching Dan and Andrew to get better at those (and you should too).

What are you planning to get better at next year?  Can I join you?  Anything I can do to help?

4 thoughts on “I had an awesome year, but…

  1. This is exactly how I feel on every single one of these topics… except that I didn’t use SBG this year and intend to next year (and am really looking forward to it). I’ll be trying to do something like SocraticBrain, except through Google Spreadsheets.

    I especially feel like the “I’m gonna punch it in the face” sentiment. Hopefully we both feel that good at the end of next year.

  2. I was wondering if you could explain more what you mean by this?

    “So the plan next year is to start all labs with “what types of questions should we be able to answer using this model?””

    Every time I’ve successfully implemented inquiry-type stuff into my labs, it’s been such a success with student learning and engagement. I want more!

    • For example, we could show a video of a car speeding down the street toward a pedestrian crossing, before doing the CV Buggy lab. Then the students have in mind that their model should make a prediction about whether someone will get hit or not. I haven’t been great about doing this every time, but like you said when it works, the engagement level is high.

      • Ahh, ok, I think I see what you mean now. Give them a sort of modeling “hook” to see how they can apply it (and, in your example, how they *will* apply it). Thanks!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s