(Wiliam and Leahy, 201).
The whole point is figuring out what my students know--definitely before I test them on it and preferably before moving onto the next concepts. Discussions, questions, tasks--it’s all about getting students to demonstrate understanding. About 5 or 6 years ago I really dug into rich tasks and classroom discussions. This year wasn’t about those things. For the most part, those were already in place. By the way, if you haven’t already read the 5 Practices by Smith and Stein that is THE place to start for figuring out how to have classroom discussion in math class.
Over the course of this year, here are the tools I used/attempted. Some were new to my teaching practice, some were not. Remember, these are the tools I used to help figure out how my students were thinking about math. I’ll go into more detail on these later.
Whole-group discussion and presentation of ideas to the larger group:
-Rough Draft Thinking
-No hands up, except to ask a question
-Think pair share
-Observations (during group and individual work times)
-Students evaluating other students’ work
-Using Google forms and Schoology assessments to gather student thinking.
I’ll write about each of these in more detail in subsequent posts. Right now I want to spend a little time thinking about the process of changing my classroom. It was much harder than I expected.
“Teachers don’t lack knowledge. What they lack is support in working out how to integrate these ideas into their daily practice” (Wiliam and Leahy, 17).
“Four weeks appears to be a minimum period of time for teachers to plan and carry out a new idea in their classrooms” (Wiliam and Leahy, 22).
Here is the suggested process of change by Wiliam and Leahy (p20). I agreed with every part of it, I just didn’t follow it. Like an idiot.
TO DO (p20):
- Action plan
- Identify a small number of changes that you will make in your teaching.
- Max two or three things.
- The plan should be written down.
- Makes the ideas more concrete
- Creates a record
- The plan should focus on the five key strategies of formative assessment
- Detailed in a previous post.
- The plan should identify what you hope to reduce or give up doing to make time for the changes.
- “The only way to make time for new things is to reduce, or stop doing entirely, things that you are currently doing, in order to create time for innovation” (21).
Not making a complete realistic plan meant I was a slave to the tyranny of the urgent. There was only so much class time every day. Filling it with new tools meant everything didn’t fit anymore. I could go multiple days on what previously took one day but that meant I wouldn’t cover as much material in the year. Not covering material has ripple effects in someone else’s class next year. I know I can make arguments about slowing down to speed up but I’m not looking for absolution of guilt. I want to name the mistake and learn from it. New practices take time and they push out old practices. That’s reality. As I queue up new ideas to try next year, I need to take the necessary time and make decisions about what I won’t do anymore.
What’s really hard about it is that I feel like I’m gambling. I’m giving up a decent practice which has proven results and I’m replacing it with a new practice which may or may not work out. The gamble is that the new practice will be even better. My experience this year was that the gamble paid off most of the time--just not always.