Yep. Its been a long time since my last post – but here we go…
Writing…ugh. I’ve just never been a fan of words – I’m a math teacher, after all – reading / comprehension was a struggle for me growing up – I remember having to read some passages multiple times causing me to run out of time on those tests…which led to frustration. I do, however, now realize the value of writing – whether to share information, share something I’ve learned or simply for refelction – it is a valuable tool.
This past year, my PLN has had a great impact on my classroom. I have such respect for experience shared by my new “colleagues.” As I read @samjshah’s post this morning – I paused for a moment and wondered how many others feel the same about writing as I did. Not a fan. I saw it as an added requirement handed down from administration and I did not see the value in it at the time. At the beginning, it was a very mundane task – collecting random things from students and calling it “writing” opportunities. Just checking it off the list – sadly I admit – not giving my best effort. As time went on, my frustration led me to discuss with our curriculum specialist and other English teachers – gathering ideas / resources that could help me be purposeful in my writing assignments. I have learned they do not need to be random tasks interjected in-between units that are completely unrelated to the content. Writing should not be an “add-on” but a compliment to what I am already doing.
When we don’t give students opportunity to share in writing, communicate their understanding (or lack thereof) and to reflect on their learning…we are missing out on so many opportunities for learning – ourselves. Seeing different perspectives of student learning about a certain topic, we get a clearer picture of what actually took place in our classrooms. Student writing becomes a chance to reflect and improve as a teacher.
One of my favorite new strategeis this past year (not my idea and I’m sorry I cannot cite the source, likely work with CASL, Stiggins, et al) – was “Wrong Answer Analysis.” Students were asked to review their assessments – and write an explanation for each missed part of the assessment to included:
- What was the question asking? (in their own words)
- Was your mistake simple or something you need more practice / study on?
- Explain why your answer was incorrect or how how to solve it correctly, justifying your solution.
I learned a lot (about their misconceptions – about my teaching) by reading their responses – and would have missed out on so much if I passed the assessment back and never given them time to reflect and analyze on their learning and share in writing. Wrong Answer Anaylsis did not earn students any credit toward their grades – but they were not given an opportunity to re-assess without submitting one.
When we ask students to write – we are opening a window to their minds – we are able to see their ability to share their thoughts and communicate how they approahed a situation. We can see if they have developed a deep understanding – if they know why they are doing what they are doing or just going through the motions.
As I finished reading his post – I wondered – do teacher’s not ask students to explain / write because they themselves only know how to perform the steps, how to show students how to do a process – cannot explain, with deep understanding, why a process works? If there is content or a skill that my only response to students is “we’re building a foundation for something that comes later”…well, do I actually have deep understanding? Maybe I need to do a little homework myself.
Why are teachers afraid to reflect and analyze their teaching? For me – to be an effective teacher – I must be a life-long learner and demonstrate what I require of my students.
Summer reads include:Results Now, Mike Schmoker (finish) Literacy Strategies for Improving Mathematics Instruction, Joan Kenney Mathematics Formative Assessment, Keeley & Tobey (finish) More Good Questions, Marian Small (use examples to write questions for each unit)