Thursday, February 14, 2013

Responsibility & itslearning

I continue my journey with itslearning . . . and again have learned a lot about myself as a teacher and about my students.  I enjoy my students and I enjoy the different personalities and talents of each.  But, this week, I thought I had a great plan of attack.  But, sadly, I found that things just didn't work out as well as I had hoped.

I wanted to give a midterm to my students, so I create an itslearning lesson that would allow the students to work through some review material with a deadline of taking the midterm being today, Thursday, Valentine's Day.

A group of my students (the top 30%) rock and rolled through the review topics and either took the midterm on Tuesday or Wednesday.

My middle 30% did a couple topics each day in preparation for today's midterm, while the bottom 30-40% wasted their classtime and didn't take advantage of any opportunities such as homeroom or study hall to get the work done.

What is severely lacking here?  One word:

The students bombarded me with question after question on the midterm - and it would be one thing if the questions were quality questions, but many were not.  Frustrating to say the least.

Now, I also put some of the Reponsibility on me.  I created the learning opportunities, but as many teachers find out, many of them are geared for the top 30% to be successful while the rest flounder.  Many of the students felt that because they completed the assigned problems (with help from peers/teacher) that equaled understanding (mastery) - so I pick you up, throw you over a hurdle and you want me to call you a hurdler now!?!?!  Doesn't make sense . . . and doesn't make sense in my math class either.  But that's what I saw this week.

So, it's back to the drawing board!  Things I am pondering:

  • Forget pampering to the crowd and let the top 30% roll baby roll!
  • Create a checklist of topics that must be completed by the end of the quarter.  Already mastered those topics?  Well, then, begin on the next topics in the next quarter.  Why not?
  • Ask students:  Are you ready to take the assessment?  Can you show me that you understand the material? - maybe those two questions become the assessment.  The student must create some type of "display of understanding".
    • I can make practice assessments (checkpoints) that students can then use as "reference points" for showing understanding.
    • Understanding - that's what I want for my students.
    • Rather than me tell them to be ready by a certain time . . . the student decides - I am ready!
    • But, what if they're never ready?  What do I do then?
  • itslearning - it's on the internet . . . how can I get my students to begin accessing material outside of class?  Students could have completed the review material in one day if they worked in class and at home . . . questions? easy, email me and we can have a digital conversation about the material.
  • Hand holding:  Do I do too much hand holding?  It's not fair to me and it's not fair to the students.  But I love success . . . but at what price?
  • I will be a Champion with itslearning.


  1. Kieron, What a great reflection. You are on a roll! That top 30% can and want to move forward on their own - they just need a guiding hand which using its learning can really help. That bottom 30% need more of your time, more modeling and more engagement. They need a hook to draw them in, work with groups as they are unsure of themselves on their own. The outside of class work won't be done if it is routine practice. So how can we flip it a little more - to get them started a little at a time to do things outside of class? Are you using Khan's academy lessons on your pages? Have you seen Dan Meyer's videos? Check this one out: Dan Meyer: Math class needs a makeover. I think you and Dan may have lots in common. So glad to see you are striving to improve your craft! Keep up that great work.

    1. I have looked at using Khan Academy but have found through this experience that the students like to hear my voice and my explanation of the material . . . that is part of the "hook" that I need to improve upon.

      Dan Meyer = I am subscribed via google reader and so have been following him for the past year plus. His ideas are great and I am always looking for ways to work them into my lessons. Wish I had another "outside the box" teacher to bounce/share these ideas!

      Thanks for the reply!