There are many things I have been meaning to get around to this summer. I looked through the many drafts that I have started and let pass by, but I know to hold myself accountable it is time to set my goals for the upcoming school year. A lot has happened over the last month. I have started graduate school at Boise State University in the Master’s of Educational Technology program. I am working with the Redesign Challenge and will be attending the first Innovator’s Weekend at the end of July to work on my idea and collaborate with other educators across the country. I am very excited about this opportunity to work with other passionate educators and work with experts in various fields such as programming and coding to turn these ideas into a reality! There will be many post to come related directly to this experience. My graduate program requires a learning log of the different assignments that we are doing and what we are learning. Feel free to check it out and let me know what you think.
Goal 1 – Full Implementation of Standards Based Grading (SBG)
I started SBG in my classroom for the last quarter and learned a lot from this experience. I am excited to make changes to the system as I work to find ways to communicate with parents and help students focus on their learning. I did multiple surveys with my students from last year about SBG and have many changes to make. I will also be working on some programming to make the system more transparent to parents. As I continue to work with SBG my hope is that I will become more active on this process through my blog so that we may learn from one another. My hope is to write a blog at least every 2 weeks or as needed about SBG grading and how it is working and not working in my classroom.
Goal 2 – Number Talks
Last year the one thing that really held my students back and made learning math challenging was that they were not proficient with their math facts. Many students were still counting on their fingers and were always relying on the calculator to perform simple addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division problems. If you wanted to instill ultimate fear in all of my students all you need to do is put a fraction in the problem! Not knowing these basic facts causes students to struggle with high order thinking skills because they are spending so much time work on the arithmetic. I was constantly reminding my students that they could do the algebra! I was impressed at how well they understood the algebraic concepts and process, but they could not perform basic arithmetic. This leads to what many would call careless mistakes, but my students were lacking a conceptual understanding of basic arithmetic.
As a former collegiate athlete I believe that practice is the key to developing skills. Math facts are skills and they need to be practiced. Please understand that I am not implying that we just practice, but I want to develop the concepts by utilizing Number Talks. With a conceptual understanding and after building the foundation students will then have time to practice their number facts. As students know their number facts we can move into more challenging Number Talks. I plan to post about my experience with Number Talks and hopefully post a few sample videos as well as my progression through number talks.
I envision beginning many days with practice of problems that students know how to do. I will set up badges for the students in Canvas and this activity will act as their daily warm-up. To conclude each class we will have a number talk, or at least 3 days a week. I plan to work through addition, subtraction, multiplication, division for integers as well as rational numbers such as fractions, decimals and percents. My goal is that student will become proficient in these math facts and see that math is flexible.
My last major goal is to help my students develop a growth mindset. Many of my students have not experience as great deal of success in math of school and are on the verge of giving up. One thing that separates me from my students is how we view success, work, and mindset. I truly believe that they way you think about life and your outlook is very powerful. For example, there is no need to stress over things that we have no control over, but instead we need to make the best of where we are and what we can control. Last year I tried to teach my students how to be mentally strong to help them with their many anxieties about school and tests. I even told them a few stories of my college education and the power of positive thinking:
Let’s go back to abstract algebra which was one of the most challenging college courses that I had to take. Abstract does not even begin to describe the thinking and processing required for this course. I however had a very fortunate situation unfold. In class we were given weekly quizzes by the professor. I was averaging 50s and 60s on the quizzes (I was not pleased with this and was trying very hard in this class). Luckily for me my professor, bless the man, was tired of grading all of the quizzes. To cut down on his grading he decided that we would take the quizzes in pairs. This is when everything started to look up as I sat next to a good friend of mine that I am convinced is a math genie. She averaged 90s on all of the quizzes up to this point. She did struggle with two things: finishing in time and confidence. I however believe it was just confidence. Needless to say, I did not have much to contribute to our work together, but together we, aka she, made 100s on all of the quizzes. She would ask me if the work was right and what I thought, but let’s remember I was beyond confused in this class, but I had complete faith in her understanding. Every time she asked me I would tell her that it was right, but I had no idea. There was one time that I knew how to solve a problem that she didn’t! I was shocked!
If this isn’t crazy enough as it is we get to the end of the semester. I have averaged Ds on all of the test and she has averaged As on all of the tests. At the end of the course she wanted to take the final exam together, but she knew that I did not really understand the material. Her reasoning was that my confirmation of her ability made her relaxed and able to take the test.
After reading Carol Dweck’s Mindset I was able to better understand the concept of a growth or fixed mindset and what ultimately set me apart from my students. I have a growth mindset where I crave challenges, solving problems, and learning from mistakes. My goal is to teach my students how to have a growth mindset and that our brain’s have endless capabilities. To help my students I plan to teach a few lessond and have supporting activities in the first days of school. The activities will include different types of challenging puzzles and task for the students to work on so that they learn how to work through a challenge. As with the other two goals, I plan to blog about this goal as well to see how it is helping my students. I really believe that between these three goals that both my students and I will have a more successful and impactful year.