Wednesday, December 17, 2014

First Attempt...Students Reflect Upon Their Own Learning

We have talked a lot about a growth mindset this year in our class.  Every day we discuss the common mistakes that we're making (mostly in math) and the common mistakes of most 5th graders.  We have frequent, open, and honest conversations.  A parent volunteer once commented on how she couldn't believe how open the kids were about mistakes.  I have my parent volunteers teach small groups, but the kids self-assess and volunteer to join the various little groups.  

Today, I wanted the kids to reflect on their growth and to write down their feelings on paper.  (We do so much online.  This time I wanted a record on paper.)  First, I modeled a reflection and had the kids help me write one based upon progress with the Decimal section of IXL As a teacher, I was tickled pink as I watched the kids write. I was delighted to see that they were honest about their progress. Kids always seem to know how they're progressing if they've received frequent feedback along the way. Not only do the kids get specific feedback from me, but they get immediate feedback and reteaching hints from the ixl program.  

Here are three examples of student writing. *Note: I'm not assessing their writing/handwriting skills. :) 

I have done well in standard C.4. It has you convert decimals between standard and expanded form.  It was hard for me at first to convert the decimals or write them in expanded form.  But now I got the hang of it.  I am still a little shakey on Standard C. 11.  It is hard for me to do the long division.  But it is getting easier!  Another shakey one is C.10.  It just hard for me to read it and get it in the correct order.  But again it gets easier.  I get about 70% correct on C.10.

On standard C.3-C.8 I have masterd and identify the decimals easily.  I had a hard time doing C.10. it was hard to put the decimales in order from least to the gratist. I whould now my mastake but I did not read the top right or the number. I like to put decimals in order but I have to look clostley.  C.3 and C.8 where easyer then C.10 I am all most finished with decimals.

On standard C1 and C14 I can identify a decimal by looking at a picture and counting by tens.  I can identify comparing decimals and fractions on a number line.  On standard C10 I think that puting decimals in order is fun but, I also think that it is hard for me to put decimals from least to greatest or greatest to least is hard.

I've had kids write reflections before, but I need to thank Starr Sackstein for the idea to have the kids actually add the standard that they're addressing right into their writing. It makes sense!  Kids pay attention to our class objectives and focus on how well they understand at the end of a lesson or series of lessons.  Keeping it real- not all kids are making the connection between understanding the lesson objective, putting forth some effort to learn the standard, and demonstrating mastery.  I have a few battles.  But for the most part, the kids are being very motivated by tracking their progress.

I have noticed a huge difference this year amongst my students as we've focused on the learning rather than the grades.  I HAVE to fill out a report card with letter grades. But this year, I let the kids fill out their own and I tweaked them if necessary. I'm looking forward to the next conference where the kids will actually have evidence of their learning that they can talk about with their parents.

The conversations that I've had with my students about their learning have been amazing!  The challenge is to find the time. I've had the most success with finding a minute here or there as I'm walking around helping kids. I've also found that using Edmodo helps me to have little mini online conversations. As the kids turn in their work, I try to tell them something good that they've done. But I always try to add in something specific that they can do to improve and let them resubmit their work.  This kind of feedback is what I've done for years.  I know that there are formulas and acronyms out there now for how to give feedback, but it's really nothing new to me.

One element that I've needed and done before (but just barely started this year) is a data notebook where the kids can graph their progress on the "Quick Quizzes" that we do.  The quizzes are usually five questions straight from the "homework" assignment. They are quick formative assessments that tell me what we need to work on and where the understanding is breaking down. They are also conversation starters about common mistakes.  I'm getting such a late start this year because it's just one of those things that unfortunately got pushed to the bottom of the "to do" list as I started school.  It was just a crazy start of the year having to move, starting school myself and being so sick. (Excuses! But, it did impact how the year started.)

Now that I have the data notebooks in place, I'm excited about adding in their reflections. I think the information in the notebook will offer parents a better picture of progress than a letter grade.  The notebooks will also give the kids something to refer to as they conference with their parents. (I have them direct their own parent/teacher conferences.)

The movement for #TTOG (Teachers Throwing Out Grades) seems to be gathering momentum. I'm not on Facebook so I'm not involved there. I've known that grades are basically useless information for a long time, but I can't see them disappearing any time soon. For me, I will continue along this path of trying to keep my students focused on the learning. I'm seeing some great benefits so far.

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