Students Taking Ownership of Their Learning

I find my school week quite different from previous years.  I started off my week by dragging my self in on Monday similar to my students, I hated Mondays, they are exhausting.  Work was work and I left it there.  The weekend was mine and if at all possible I didn’t bring anything home.  I know, terrible teacher!  I use to tell my students, “I don’t give work over the weekend.  I’m not taking anything home, I don’t expect you to.” My first post indicated how much of a rut I was in, but I digress.  The week developed with the desire to have my students doing “good” science but rarely surfaced.  I would get beat down but the apathy and lack of focus of my students.

Fast forward to this past week.  Monday was exhilarating.  My students were greeted with enthusiasm and excitement of what will happen, what will we learn?  Each day justifies my decision to transform my teaching.  Tuesday took me away from my students to work on curriculum.  I’ve been deeply involved with curriculum since 1993 when a partner now administrator, Bob Pacioni had me develop a greater appreciation.  I found myself addressing the questions of what transformations I had made and less about the curriculum.  Colleagues were curious, some deeply interested in learning more, but most decided that it was a lot of work, which I agreed.  The comment that I had a hard time responding to, “Good luck with this, it looks great and I hope it works for you”.  My response, “It has to work, cause I’m not going back”

The first summative assessment was given to my students.  I used formative assessments to gauge where and to what level of understanding my students were currently at.  The summative assessment confirmed my suspicions that we need more practice.  This was not what the assessment told my students or parents.  They only saw red bars on Activegrade, which resembled a big red cape similar to what bull would see being wave by a matador.  The questions and emails were all justified, and calmed with explanation.  (Parental learning curve shrinking).  The “ah-ha” “winning” moment of the week was the day after the summative assessment during the next whiteboard session.  Walking around the class discussing with students their findings, I noticed some students had their learning logs out on their tables.  I asked one of my co-taught students, “why do you have your learning log out?”  “I didn’t do well on a few of the standards and I looked my work over at home and I think I get it now”, she replied.  “I just want to make sure I don’t make those mistakes any more”!   That students’ comment is the reason this is going to work.

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Transformation reflection

Students and parents have been introduced to standards based grading and the response has been overwhelmingly positive. The change in my pedagogue, as anticipated, has been accepted with excitement by most students. Our first whiteboard sessions have been painfully quite as with most of my PLN. However, I have seen some extraordinary evidence of the “growth mindset” with my students. To see students take ownership of their learning, and to hear phrases like, “I want to make sure I know how to do this”, or “Mr. Stokes, can I explain this to you, to see if I understand this”, just give me goose pumps. Students tell me they’ve never liked science until now, what a shame. Some of my advance students, the ones that are really good at playing “school” have had a hard time letting go of their attachment to a book. They still want a book. I believe I will put their minds at ease. After our next paradigm lab we will compare our results with the book. Mistakes I’ve made so far are easily correctable, parsing out too many objectives, I want to be thorough. We have set discourse for the year and students are falling into place. I must learn to keep my mouth shut and let the whiteboard sessions take a life of their own. Kudos to my 5th hour for the best whiteboard session so far and here is the whiteboard of the week for our rod lab.image

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Status quo is not an option!

I don’t claim to be a writer, there I got that off my chest. That being said, this blog will document my experience as a 21 year veteran but a first year modeler. I’ve realized that my students were leaving my classroom at the end of a course not prepared. I fell into a trap of content and test prep, ergo status quo. This conclusion was reached during my experience with modeling. I can thank Bryan Battaglia for inviting me to participate in the modeling method, I only wish I would have done it 4 years ago when he first asked. We completed the workshop on July 13, 2013 and I wanted to start school on July 14. I’ve literally lost sleep over the changes in my pedagogue I want make this year. The first change is utilizing the constructivist and Socratic style. I cannot imagine how boring and rigorous my class must have been before. Actually I can, I apologize to all my former students for not challenging them on a higher cognitive level. The second change is the standards. I’ve used the organization of binders, extra credit, news paper articles, and the worst HOMEWORK, for assessing my students in averaging their grades. Not one of these items told me what standards my students knew or understood. Standards based grading will now be my students guide to learning. I would like to thank, Don Pata, Laura Ritter, Bryan Battaglia, Gary Abud, my modeling workshop members, Frank Noschese, Kelly Oshea, Shawn Cornally, and Rick Wormeli, and the rest of my PLN that I’ve stolen, borrowed, and pirated their knowledge and experience.

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