The third quarter is in the books. I tried a lot of new things this quarter and I have say, by and large, I am glad of it. The biggest changes started as a result of a conversation I had earlier in the year about why I didn’t have standards of the day posted. My principal was showing a new district admin around the campus and they stopped in my room. I answered that standards of the day don’t work really well when the students are all over the place in terms of what they are doing and learning. Some have been in my class for a week and others for a year or more. So he asked if that meant they all had individual daily standards of the day because “that would be pretty cool.”
Yea, it would.
I have long wanted to be able to work with each student to create an individual learning plan. Instead of me telling them each day what to do, why can’t we – the student and I- create a plan for where the student wants to go in the year? Its a pretty daunting task when you really think about it, sitting down with each student, each day, and talk about what they are doing and what they need to keep going. But I realized it is not too tremendously different than what I was already doing. Some kids were working on self designed projects, some were working on basic projects I had given them, and still others were working on special projects for other people, like what happens in a job. So I thought, what the heck, go for it.
I decided that I would, as much as possible, talk with each student each day about what they were working on, and develop a plan for what is next. Sometimes that would mean what they were doing today, but other times the talk was what was going to happen tomorrow. So far it is working pretty well. It is shifting responsibility for what is happening in the room from me to the students. They don’t come in and wait for me to tell them what to do, they already know what they need to do. They may not know how- that might be their daily goal, figure out how to accomplish something- but they know what they need to do.
The grade book was the scary part for me. How could I keep a grade book if everyone was truly doing something different? The answer was simple; don’t keep the grade book. As Alice Keeler would say, let it go! The final assignment for the quarter was for students to tell me what they learned, and provide evidence. If I was going to see it all in one sitting, and I was going to sit down with each student each day, why did I need to keep entering numbers in a spreadsheet? I didn’t need to. I was giving them verbal feedback each day, that was better than a number or a grade. What really surprised me was not only did very few students seem to notice the grade book was empty but many students asked if it would be OK if they could redo this or that and show it to me tomorrow when it was better.
Um, yea, that would be good.