Well every year my grade sevens get the chance to write FSAs. I think I heard one student call them Fully Stupid Assessments. Clever, I know, but I have always been wondering what we can use these for. Our province has really been trying to improve these so that they show thought, creativity, and student choice. It has been very interesting to see students reactions to some of these changes. We just recently did the math problem solving portion, and boy tell you it stumped a lot of kiddos. There wasn't one clear answer. In fact one question gave an empty graph and students had to create their own question for the survey, and then fill in the graph based on THEIR QUESTION, and then ask follow up questions. I thought it was brilliant, but man did it stop some kids in their tracks. Then there were the questions that had them create their own hiking path, based on some numbers they developed, and there were just very few constraints. I loved it; they hated it. My favourite part about it is that now I know where I can focus more in our problem solving. They can do these tasks, but they need more experience with it. That is what assessment is for right?
Yup, it has been awhile. So, I am trying to do the fly by of things that have happened.
Train the Trainer
I got to learn some basics of coding and teaching coding. It was a great time to see what our province is trying to do to encourage design thinking and problem solving. I am caught hook, line, and sinker in this especially as it can relate to math and give students a context for why they would learn this stuff.
As a way of getting students to partake in a lot of the new ways of learning that the new curriculum offers the flag project (and sewing component) were a great intro to the curricular competencies that we are engaging students in. It will be great to see what their self assessment looks like on the process, but the outcomes of their presentations were incredible!
With that in mind, we were working hard on self assessing so introducing students to the idea of core competencies was great. I love etymology and we discussed the term core coming from the Latin for heart. These are the HEART competencies, the centre of a person (in the medieval sense) the hinge upon all that we do as teacher. It was a fruitful discussion and students were able to partake in a great moment of self reflection that is now hanging on our wall.
There's more but...
I need to get back in my daily routine of writing these. So this is my catch up. Remember I am always "embracing the drawing board." Nothing is perfect and I need to live that out so "BACK OFF!"
If you have never seen nor heard of my broken calculator you can see and hear about it here. Every year I come to this lesson I think, "This is the last year I will do it," and then somehow it becomes the time in my class that gets the most excited about math and problem solving. I tell the story of the calculator, and we jump into using it. Kids get excited by seeing possible patterns, testing their results out, and then I lead them into organization, and predicting. It is essentially an introduction to the scientific method, that leads to some discoveries on the nature of place value. It was one of the lessons that I am most proud of as a teacher, and I do not think it will be leaving my repertoire anytime soon.
This year the palpable response of students to correctly predicting some of the outcomes has been incredible. Literally cheers when they get it right, and boos when I tell them that it is time to stop math class for the day. This is the stuff that makes teaching worth coming back to time and time again.
This year I am really working on accountability in assessment. This is not in order to police students and make sure that they get things done (though that is a nice side effect of the process), but I want them to see more and more how to break a project into bits and pieces. I divided the jobs out this time, but I do want to chip away at the process. This project I gave them roles and a check list for each role. I want to slowly take away that framework so that students are presenting their own framework, and turning a large project into actionable tasks. This is why we are working on SMART goals; hopefully they really learn to take this on.
Getting kids to get out of the habit of using boring words is excruciating. Even in this example here their concept of an interesting word is less stellar, but they really got the concept. When I checked in on some of these words we developed a pretty decent framework for choosing words.
Yeah I skipped a day, so what are you perfect?
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