Tuesday, January 05, 2010

instant feedback

Did I mention how obsessed I have been with crocheting? I did a lot of crochet over the break. It was lovely: mindless hours looping along, seeing something grow and take shape.

If I had spent even half those hours planning for school, I would have all month planned to the minute. Alas.

I did make sure to spend some time doing a rough plan of the week, and specifics for Monday. I came up with a cool writing activity about making goals. I was all excited about it. I made a form page for the kids to do their 'final' goal setting, so it would be all uniform and clean, and then I would put them up for display. (Because one of the reasons I'm a bad teacher is I don't have a lot of student work displayed.) I typed out what I wanted to say and everything.

When I started the writing period with the class on Monday, it seemed to be okay. I talked about goals and how being vague isn't helpful. I came up with a hypothetical vague goal and had volunteers help make it more specific and measurable. (Hello, can you tell I've internalized a bit of the charter school culture? :D) They seemed to get that. But then when I gave them time to come up with a list of their own, it just didn't work. Half the kids weren't doing anything at all, and the other half were half-heartedly doodling things like, "Do better." A couple times I stopped them to give more examples, from my own list and from a couple hard-working student volunteers. But still, not much happening.

I was really disappointed. I told them that, too. I had to have them do the official page as homework since they weren't getting it together to do it in class.

And then of course, the homework was also half-assed.

I was supposed to finish a chapter of math before going on break. Actually, I originally scheduled myself to finish it in the beginning of December. Please tell me, other elementary teachers, that I'm not the only one eight years behind the curriculum pacing guide!

We pretty much finished the skills before break, but there wasn't time to take the test. Obviously I won't give a test right after a long break, but I didn't want to just teach it all over again. So I planned a group activity.

I gave each group a skill to review and reteach. They went back to the book and made a poster with notes and instructions and problems to work. I was worried that it would be chaotic and only the three good kids would do any work and everyone would still fail.

However! The group work went really well! The groups busily got to work! Several of them worked together on what to write, or rotated writing. A few were spacing out, but nearly all the class was working! A miracle!

Today, the groups presented their skill to the class. And lo, it was good! The class was eerily quiet. Most of them diligently took notes and completed the practice problems. (As the minutes wore on, a few more students would get lost to the world of distraction.) But they were paying attention! Test is tomorrow. I've yet to be satisfied with test grades this year; here's hoping these aren't miserable.

Starting a group project for social studies. Today I split them into groups, gave them a basic group info sheet, and let them go. There were some raised voices, but there was also voting, and "who wants to do this?" and "which one do you want to do?" and some actual decisions made.

Glory be, hallelujah, I don't have only bad moments this week. Lord knows I need a little encouragement from feeling like the worst teacher ever. Apparently the answer is for me to not actually teach them. Harrumph.


NCavillones said...

I'm glad things seem to be going better and I'm happy to see a full-on teaching post! Feeds my inner teacher geek, it does!

I don't know if you're asking for advice or not but I wouldn't give up on that goal-setting exercise. You need to insert a step between modeling your own goal-setting and having them do their own independently. It sounds like they just need more practice and hand-holding to make the idea more concrete for them. So, before leaving them to do it on their own, I would do this:
1. after modeling your own, ask for a few from the class, and repeat the exercise with them.
2. Give them a list of vague goals to work on in small groups.
3. Review
4. If you think they have it at this point, challenge them to do it on their own, give them a time limit, then do a share-out and ask for feedback.

It will take some more time but if you think it's a valuable exercise, then it's worth it! If there's anything I learned from teaching 9th graders, it's that they need constant modelling and confidence building.

Keep up the good work! So glad to see more writing on your blog these days. :D

Schoolgal said...

I so agree with the above comment.

Being new to elementary school, you are probably not used to putting up b-boards in class. Have a place to display test results, or using different stategies to solve word problems, etc., or something special you planned--like goal setting. There are so many planned activities in math (like factoring, etc) that can be displayed.

Also put up published pieces or reports. I usually displayed any responses to literature, and if the lesson can incorporate art, that is great.

With Chinese New Year coming up, here is a great b-board suggestion. Read "Demi's Book of Dragons". The kids love the illustrations. It is all in couplets.
Have children create a dragon and write a couplet. Give them large sheets of drawing paper so they can draw their dragon. When their work has been edited or revised, give them a small index card. Include the title and couplet and display it under their drawings.

This lesson incorporates Social Studies, Art, and ELA.

sobeit said...

I agree with both of the previous comments. I had a conversation yesterday with another teacher about writing. Students today are not motivated to write. They would rather play on the computer or complete a project/center. My best writing activity last year was based around a book that we were reading. The students were invested in the book, therefore they were motivated to write about it. They were also competitive and wanted to be the best at adding to the life of the characters.

Don't give up! Model, Model, Model! They will grasp the concept!