The holidays provide me an excellent time for self-reflection. With the added pressures this year of a reorganized team, the new FLEX writing initiative, and the increased workload surrounding the EcoClub and its nineteen new members, I have had less opportunity to reflect and blog as much as I’d like.
But with less than a week to go before 2011 arrives, and a solid foot and a half of snow on my doorstep keeping me are rooted indoors, I take this opportunity to reflect on some accomplishments this year, and some noticeable disappointments that need to be recorded to ensure they are retooled in the future.
- The differentiated opportunities provided this year through the early phases of the astronomy unit were positive steps in the right direction toward student-driven learning and giving students space to create products that demonstrate understanding in ways they see fit. The enrollment of our librarian in the process not only improved our students access to quality resources but also expanded the space in which students could work and reduced the student-to-teacher ratio to a level that allowed for more interaction and feedback with students. It is important to note, however, that more check-ins do need to be incorporated into the time line with the higher level students as not all of their productions were of as high quality and demonstration of understanding as I would have liked.
- At the beginning of the year the decision to adjust the sequence of the curriculum was made in good faith that such a decision would provide more opportunities for curriculum overlap, allowing review of topics in a looping style of learning giving students opportunities to make multiple connections to the curriculum over the year. Unfortunately, some of those activities put off until later (such as the temperature lab and heat transfer demonstrations) proved to be essential skill and knowledge reinforcements for some activities moved to the front. It will be important for Connie and I to evaluate the level of understanding our students have at the conclusion of this year compared to previous ones and determine if this year’s sequence proved advantageous or not. If it does we will have to spend some time this summer determining how to make the sequence better address the “essential skills and knowledge” referenced earlier while remaining structured for improved reinforcement throughout the year.
- The SLANT method (courtesy of “Teach Like a Champion“) for bringing student attention to a heightened level has proven to be very successful. Overall however, the ambitious goal to include more of these optimal learning techniques has only been a modest success. Lesson learned: it is difficult to change behavior patterns, whether you are adjusting your own or a student’s! Of the many techniques learned the one I would most like to add in 2011 is the “No Opt Out” technique. This technique may help me reconnect the four or five students who have proven to be the most disengaged over the course of the year and have taken more of a backseat in the classroom. It is more imperative than ever that I bring these students back on board with the significance of scientific thinking in their future workplaces and the increased implications of high stakes science testing they will encounter at Reading High.