• Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 549 other followers

  • “Writing, to me, is simply thinking through my fingers” — Isaac Asimov

  • Recent Posts

  • Pages

  • Categories

  • Archives

  • Blog Stats

    • 151,101 hits

Students Drive Their Learning

I know I may have mentioned this a time or two, but it bears repeating.  This is my fourth year of teaching.  My first year, I doggy paddled, trying to keep my head above water while I juggled the demands of planning five different lesson preps for five different grade levels.

My second year of teaching, I doggy paddled again, because I had switched to a new teaching position in the public school system.  I was also teaching a subject I didn’t know much about for the first time.  There were a lot of things to learn, and I was lucky to get lesson plans formally typed up.

My third year of teaching, I began to put pieces together, and my lesson plans changed.  I taught with a little more confidence, but it was still a hectic year as I worked to finish my Reading Endorsement and other important district training.

I know that it’s only October during my fourth year of teaching but it has, thus far, been vastly different from the other years.

Now that I understand a lot more about why students struggle when they read, I’m beginning to take my lessons to deeper levels and challenge my students even more with a lot of higher-order questions.

I’ve worked a lot with my mentors over the last two years, and this year, one of them, Cinda, has spent an enormous amount of time with me in my classroom.  She’s been modeling a series of lessons with a writing assignment as our final targeted goal.

Cinda constantly challenges me to get my students engaged in metacognition…thinking about the thinking process…questioning what tools they used to achieve certain goals.

She’s started to rub off on me.

As such, I wanted to figure out a way to have my students reflect on the units we cover.  I know that for myself, personally, I grow more during my reflection process than at any other time as I try to figure out what went wrong in a lesson and how I can improve learning the next time.

With that in mind, I designed a couple of forms, which I’m calling “In the Driver’s Seat of My Learning.”

Click to view a larger size of this image

Click to view a larger size

I’m calling students to me, one-by-one, and reviewing last year’s FCAT scores, the first Discovery Education (DEA) assessment, and the first fluency assessment.  I’m asking students to write reflections about their FCAT and DEA tests.

Meeting with each student takes approximately ten minutes, so this is a very slow process; however, it is one that is reaping large rewards.

Students are blown away by the numbers.  I don’t know that they’ve seen them yet.

As I have them write down the number of questions they got right in each category (and explain how many total there were), I watch them take deep breaths and mutter under their breaths.

After they write down their DEA scores, I have them compare the FCAT and DEA numbers and ask them to explain to me what they think we need to focus on.

I’m also showing them their DEA reports, which are in color and color-codes each section.  Seeing things in red (level 1) is quite the wake-up call, let me tell you.

The news isn’t all bad, though.  I work very hard to focus on positives because these children need encouragement or they will give up.  Students are seeing their strengths, and the DEA reports show green and blue for levels 3 and 4-5, respectively.  The good numbers and colors raise their spirits and their confidence.

What has floored me the most is their honest reflections.  Some have commented on the temperature of the room in which they took the test.  Many students were cold and could not stay focused.  My question to them:  “What should you do when you take it this year?”  They answer that they should take a sweater or a jacket.

Some have told me that they had a bad day.

Well, yes, I understand that, and I empathize by telling them at being a teenager is a tough time fraught with many emotions.  However, I also use a little bit of tough love and tell them that I’ve had many a bad day but have gone in and worked anyway (remember when I lost Aubie and the day after Chicky tore her ACL?).

Some of my students have told me that they hate to read, so when their literary analysis numbers are low, I am able to help them make connections between their lack of reading and their struggles with plot, character, setting, and figurative language.

One of my students told me that the FCAT chat was good for her because it put the numbers in front of her face.  My jaw dropped in awe of her directness.

I’ve watched as kids who are normally very distracted become extremely serious.

We are talking about serious stuff.

We’re talking about them graduating.

We’re talking about what they need to do to improve their scores so they can walk across that stage in a couple of years.

When they leave the table after our chats, I believe my students walk away with renewed purpose.

They have their folders in their hands, and they’ll keep their folders, which contain the DEA report and Drivers Seat documents.  My hope is that they will see those folders every time they open up their classroom portfolios to grab classwork or their independent reading books.

I want them to see, at every turn, the goals they want to accomplish.

I can care about the kids to the moon and back.

I can do everything short of standing on my head to help them learn.  Heck, if I thought I could still balance myself, I’d be willing to do that too!!!  🙂

In the end, though, it’s the students who are responsible for their learning.  They are the ones in the drivers seat of their education, and they will ultimately be the ones to decide exactly how far they will go.

I’m a co-pilot, honored to be sitting beside them, helping them navigate their way through, providing helpful advice when I can, and encouraging them every leg of the journey.

Advertisements

Thank you for visiting today and taking the time to leave a comment!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: