Saturday, September 29, 2012

Full Swing

The school year is in full swing now as October nears, the sunlight dwindles, and the shadows lengthen. There is plenty of correcting, grade entering, and lesson planning to do this weekend but I am finding out that if I do not carve out some time to write a blog post, I never get to it.

In the interest of Staying Positive, this is a good time to cite some of the good things that have occurred during the first few weeks of the school year. I am of course still getting to know my new students, but it has been a nice start so far and they seem to be comfortable with my approach. I have enjoyed our classroom interactions so far.

The use of Google Forms, (an example of a homework assignment), with homework assignments has been a big help in improving my formative assessments of the level of understanding for each of my classes. The student homework submissions populate a spreadsheet that can be easily scanned before the next day's class to see what, if any, problems and misconceptions need to be addressed. Students, especially 7th graders, are not very good at asking for help. Getting a quick scan of their work rather than relying on student questions or educated guesswork on my part has been great. I have found that their misunderstandings are not always what I anticipate they might be and that they vary more from class to class than I had thought they would. This has been an important revelation for me. I also quickly discovered that, while it is easy to check student answers in a spreadsheet format, checking their work is not easy in a spreadsheet. After the first week, I had to ask that my students hand in their work the next class day so I can check for individual misunderstandings. Also, there are some math homework assignments that simply do not lend themselves to Google Forms and they have to be done more "old school". While this means, that there are still some papers that I deal with, my paper usage has been cut by at least 2/3. Much easier to manage which helps me be more productive.

I am quite pleased and excited with the usage of our class web site. The amount and quality of the questions regarding homework or class related issues has been much improved at this point in comparison to the previous two years of the web site's existence. And students have answered their own classmates questions a few times which is something I really encourage and am happy to see developing. To some degree, the utility of the web site is up to how the students end up using it. So far the trend indicates to me that my group of new students will be exploring ways to make the site the nerve center of our class when we are not in school.

All in all, plenty of positives to focus on.

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