Year 3- Tweaking

Classes start tomorrow, “officially” launching my third year teaching. While I find myself with some anxiety about tomorrow (did I plan everything? Do I have enough time for what I want to do? Or not enough time? Did I get all my materials? Did I forget to copy something? How do I pronounce their names?), overall I’m looking forward to this school year. This is the first year I’ve been able to focus on a course that I already taught once, so I get the chance to tweak things, which is exciting.

Some things that I’m trying/tweaking:

  • Group roles (again). I tried these last year with the suggested POGIL roles, didn’t really go over well. Possibly because I didn’t support/enforce roles as much as I should have. And then I tried again with some modified roles, and same thing. This time, I pulled the roles and descriptors from some of the mathematics Complex Instruction work (“Strength in Numbers: Collaborative Learning in Secondary Mathematics”) and am planning on taking some time during the first few days for students to look at their roles and examine what kind of leadership each role requires. Of course, it helps that this year I was able to think about roles and rework what I wanted to do with these before classes actually started…
  • Pseudo-standards based grading. My school is not an SBG school, though the entire junior biology team has gone SBG. But an idea I got from another teacher this summer was spiraling quizzes– where topics stay on the quiz for 3 weeks (they give a weekly Friday quiz) and this gives students a chance to show improvement/mastery. Going to try this with chemistry. I reworked our gigantic curriculum map so that each unit has 5-7 “big” standards with each objective on the curriculum map as a “sub” standard (really, is there better vocabulary for this? Because I haven’t figured it out.) And each “big” standard is hopefully going to be a focus on each quiz, with quizzes ranging from 5-15 points. Full discloser: this is totally experimental. But what I found in the past two years is that the students don’t really notice that I’m trying experimental things on them. Or if they do, they don’t find it unusual. Not sure if that’s a byproduct of the new initiative/testing environment that they’ve spend their entire school careers in, or if my student population gives teachers the benefit of the doubt, but I’ll take it.
  • Interactive(ish) notebooksI loved the idea of interactive science notebooks, but couldn’t really justify the “only write input on the right side page” part. And maybe the problem was I wasn’t giving students enough direction on how to process on the left side page. So I’m changing it to one left-side page for each day is devoted to some processing/reflection and the rest is for their daily work. (I stopped making individual copies of handouts and made them write everything in their notebook last year. Saved tons of paper, but perhaps not ideal in terms of giving students something to use in studying… Still thinking about how to help them with making their work/notes useful…)
  • Google classroom. Last year, I used Doctopus & Goobric to have students submit lab reports. And then my district rolled out Google classroom for everyone, so trying it out. I’m already seeing the “scroll of death” as one teacher called it, in the main page for each class (when there are only 3 announcements/assignments listed so far!) but my school’s homework site was also just a “scroll of death” with assignments, so I suppose it’s not that different.

And then, as last year, I’m incorporating POGILs (modified, sometimes taking out some of their paper-based models and replacing with a hands-on model) and Chemistry Modeling Instruction and other random things to get at content. (By the way, I’m really sad that chemthink.com seems to be down, possibly long-term. If anyone has another, similar resource, I’d love to hear about it.) This year I also want to see how the structures I put into place help students really interact with the content. How do I support groupwork to help their groups function well, and how do I help students see learning as a progression?

Hopefully I’ll remember to take the time during the year to actually reflect and post here about how things are going…

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