The opinions expressed here are the personal views of Karl Fisch and do not (necessarily) reflect the views of my employer.
Going in to this year, I feel that there are more things to think about then ever before. I feel there are more options that I can take advantage of, but there is still some uncertainty on which is the best avenue to go with my students this year. I think that expectations might have to stay somewhat general so that I have some room to try new things as the semester continues. I am excited to try new things, but I am also anxious to make sure that I am starting out on the right foot. I know that things will turn out right in the end but the uncertainty at the start of the semester gives me a lot to think about.
James, I really agree with your comment about general expectations. Its hard for me to say no late work from the beginning if then i decide that i might allow it. I think my major goal is to have an expectation that you will be an active learner in my classroom. Easier said then done. But I do not want my students to think that they can just show up. Another goal of mine that i am a bit nervous about is to experiment with new ideas yet maintain a balance with things that I have done in the past. I am also going to be teaching gender western civ classes, which will be a completly new experience.
Changes for this year? I want to keep the amount of direct instruction to about 30%. I will have students collaborating in their quadpods. I will allow students to use their notebooks on tests (unless they do a make-up test). As said before, I will refuse to think for my students. It is not about me; they must become invested in their learning. Grading will sort of be different (no 6-week, no 12-week grades?!?) in that I want students to see how important the feed back is verses the grade. This means I will need to have some persuasive conversations with my students about grading. I like James’ idea about bonus points for the group if everyone earns a pre-specified level of proficiency on an assessment. The classroom will look something like this:* Students give help to each other about previous day’s assignment and place the finished work in their binder.* Students are given a problem to explore and attempt to solve.* Large group discussion of the problem allowing students to instruct the class when possible (or I will fill in when necessary)* Time to work in small group (quadpod) to make final draft of the day’s work* Begin assignment due the next day
How am I thinking about starting this year differently? C'mon...I have been thinking about it since we knew we were going to have laptops. I am so overwhelmed right now thinking about challenging my students, myself, my colleagues, as well as keeping up with the expectations I have of myself and others have of me. I know for the most part how I am going to start the year differently is that I am going to keep a plan of what I would like to occur in class each day but be open and flexible for change. I need to do that not only for me but so the kids see that I am not as stressed as I feel. I want to do so much but am realizing I need to do things well and so it is better to do it right the first time rather than trying to accomplish too many new things.
Barb--I like the term "quadpods." It sounds like your students are about to be ejected into space.Anyway, I've been working through my class policies and trying to emphasize that questions form the basis of my classes. I have a few questions that I like to pose at the beginning of each semester, but I'd like to get my students forming their own individualized investigations from the start. It seemed easy enough this summer when classes of 6 or 7, but I'm wondering how it will translate into classes of 30 (or more)...
As I sit at my desk and read about the changes that other people are going to make, I think that I am feeling a little confused. Like Anne and James there are a lot of changes that are going to occur. The start to the year will be interesting with the laptops and deciding how to use them most effectively. I have made changes to my policies and my ideas for how the beginning of each class will look. The students are going to see instruction in a whole new way. I like to think that I will, like Barb, try to keep direct instuction to a minimum. I will be forming homework groups for the students to check their work (I think that James did this last year). Those are just some of the changes for next week (yikes!).
With new comes resistance and I am feeling this from many colleagues? Is anyone else getting this? Anne, Kristin, Jesse? Other content folks? We try to stretch ourselves and really broaden our students' skills, their critical thinking skills, but often we do so with treading on "sacred" grounds that are just not to be touched...aka= content. I am starting this year excited, but concerned. I will seek advice from you all to forge into to new and "untouchable" territory.
The fun so far has been trying to explain to a student teacher my ideas for change in the course she will be teaching. And one thing that keeps coming up is that the teacher must be even better prepared to teach in a constructivist manner as you must prep for almost anything and everything to occur. She'll do what she is comfortable with. Other than the obvious work with laptops that I am still trying to understand, I am ready to use blogs and wikis from the start. I am looking forward to the challenge of putting my money where my mouth is.
After last year, what am I NOT thinking about changing?! I think that the easiest way to sum up the change I'm thinking about is "it's not about me." It is so easy in biology to get caught up in the "so much to cover, so little time" game that teachers quickly become the all-knowing source and dispenser of knowledge. Kids sit, absorb, and regurgitate everything back, only to forget it three weeks later. And I'm sure this doesn't just happen in Biology. So, I don't want it to be about me anymore. Sure, I'll still have to give some notes and instructions, but I hope to put biology back into the hands of my students. They will be responsible for their own learning, beginning Day 1. And that's what I'm most excited about...making these changes right from the start, not trying to implement them half way through an already non-constructivist year.
I agree Cara-What have we not been thinking to change? I think one important factor that I will not forget is the idea of staying with what has worked, fostering those personal relationships, getting them to relate. I have changed a lot of the way I am approaching my units-through inquiry, constant inquiry. Gettting them to relate, to question the world, based on these central questions. I would love a more constructivist class; I would love to do more performance based assessments, having them do the research of background knowledge and sharing, presenting. I do not want to be the sole giver of information. It's like I heard someone say before, "I've already passed high school, I want to know what YOU think." I want to create an environment where my kids feel like they can share, that everything they learn has significnace to them, thus the what matters question- I am blogging with four of my five classes-freshmen included. I am excited, yet still feel like I'm getting my feet wet-but each year, I keep doing it better. There are so mnay ideas to share, try out and I really feel more comfortable. I think by doing these things, you establish a great rapport with your students too. They respect that you want them to challenge themselves and that you are trying new things.
One new thing that I am doing this semester is that I am allowing students to retake any quiz or test (not essay portion) if they are not satisfied with their grade. The original score will still count, and the new score will be weighted half as much. It gives students the opportunity to learn what they missed the first time, and - less importantly - to improve their grades. Because of this I will no longer offer extra credit assignments (which I never did much anyhow).Also, at least in World Civ, I am going to try less direct instruction. Often students will have to print PowerPoints from my website so that we can use that information in an activity, rather than a traditional lecture. I see this an experiment, so I will at least try it for the first unit, and then decide whether or not to continue.
As most of you have said, lots of change is inevitable this year. I would say I have two main goals: one is to be as brave in my junior Western Civ classes with constructivism as I have been in my US History classes. US was a great place for me to start because 1) I am more thoroughly versed in the subject matter and 2) the students never had AHS social studies classes before mine, and did not have preconceived notions. Now that I am more versed in the Western Civ material and constructivism I am more willing to work it into the junior level course.My other goal is more concrete - I want to expand the class use of blogs. We can have more in-depth discussions in class because other discussions will be moved to the blog.