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August 16, 2012 / Jeff d.

Eight (yes 8!) Goals for This School Year

Every year I make two or three personal teaching goals for the coming year…but I never write them down and I rarely tell anyone.  This year I have told many people, and I have more than a few goals – eight in all!  Some of them are new for me and some of them are simply a desire to continue what I’ve been doing, but do it better.  Still others I could really use some help with, so I’d love any feedback.

Here goes:

1. Step up my SBG game

Last year I tried my best to implement at least a version of Standards-Based Grading.  It certainly wasn’t “pure” SBAR, although I don’t think that I want it to be.  I gave a presentation at New Tech’s Annual Conference about how we graded and ended up learning a lot from other teachers (go figure).  One element I want to add this year for skills assessments is a simple rubric at the top (or bottom) of the quiz that lets learners know up front what will be considered “Proficient”.  Last year I made the determination about what “Proficient” meant after the quiz was already done.  Big mistake.

[Update: It didn’t take long to get more info on this one.  The same day I posted it, I found this post from Dan Bowdoin…between his post itself and the plethora of links, I think I’ve got exactly what I need.]

2. Improved questioning and mathematical discourse

This is a repeat goal for me.  How I interact with learners and the environment that we set up as a class for mathematical discussion has always been important to me, but boy do I need a lot of improvement.  An eye-opener for me prior to last year was watching this video of Deborah Ball, dean of the School of Education at the University of Michigan, teaching a group of fifth grade students (scroll down to the BlueStream button).  The eye-opener: never once does she say that an answer is right or wrong…she just facilitates the discussion so that the students make that determination.  Recently, I came across David Cox’s post on Creating a Culture of Questions and was amazed at how similar his description was to how I tried my best to run class last year.  If anyone has other suggestions for resources on this kind of thing, particularly facilitating mathematical discourse, I would love to hear from you.

3. Continue having learners create tutorial videos

Last year we received some grants to have learners create tutorial videos (similar to Khan Academy only in the sense that they are videos – the value was in their creation, not their use).  I saw many benefits in this process, but I made soooo many mistakes in its implementation.  In fact, I have yet to upload any videos because I’m still deciding if I should – here is where they would go.  The problem: I did not build in enough time for drafting, revision, reflection, and checkpoints.  In other words, the final products ended up so full of mistakes that I may not be able to post them at all.  Big lesson learned.

4. Provide a video alternative to practice (aka homework)

As I reflected on what went wrong with the tutorial videos, I thought that it would have helped if I’d had groups create a simple video of themselves explaining the concept on a whiteboard.  Then I thought, why not do that for a regular assignment?  I (and the learners) could get way more information about their understanding and their misconceptions from them explaining a single problem than I could from seeing thirty problems they’ve done on paper.  The only issue is I haven’t worked out exactly how to do it.  We have mini-whiteboards, and every learner has a laptop with a webcam…suggestions???

(As a side note, I’d be remiss not to mention that I don’t give homework very often, and only after its purpose is clear.  Just saying.)

5. Give feedback in a more timely manner

Another repeat goal.  I’ve got to get quicker at giving feedback to learners…I’m talking same day or next day.  The value of it can’t be overstated.  I think I’ll be able to do a better job this year; last year we were creating a new school – year two will be easier…right?

6. Continue to celebrate mistakes

I try to create an environment where it’s understood that we are all learning together, and that mistakes are another tool to help us learn.  Last year after handing back a practice assignment, we would celebrate our “favorite wrong answer” – an idea that I stole from Leah Alcala’s “My Favorite No”.

I also love the idea behind Michael Pershan’s page, Math Mistakes, and he also tweeted this over the summer:

I haven’t figured out the logistics yet, but I’d love to do this in my math class one way or another.  Again, any suggestions would be awesome.

7. Math Whiteboarding!

Having followed Frank Noschese’s blog, I’ve been interested in using whiteboards more effectively…but it didn’t make it onto my plate last year.  But now I’ve seen how Bowman Dickson has used whiteboarding for math, and Kelly O’Shea’s mistake game sounds fantastic.  I can’t wait to try these out.

8. Incorporate more student passion into my class

As I found out through writing and reflecting on this post on passions, this is not so easy.  But I think I’ve got some good ideas…we’ll see what happens.

So there you have it.  I’ll definitely update as the year progresses…


Leave a Comment
  1. Jeff Brenneman / Aug 16 2012 11:20 pm

    #2 is a goal for me this year as well, particularly when it comes to mathematical discourse. I find that I’m pretty decent at using questioning to allow my students room to articulate their own thinking process and decide for themselves whether answers are right or wrong. (This often involves my stubborn insistence on asking simple questions such as “What makes you say that?,” or “What do you think you should do next?” The trick is to not let the kid off the hook until they manage to convince themselves whether or not they’re on the right track. What I’m hoping to do in my classroom is to continue fostering a culture of questions and get to the point where the students are asking each other questions and having mathematical conversations of their own volition; I don’t need to be the one to start the discussion. I’m also hoping to find ways to get my students to use mathematical language correctly and more often. Still figuring that one out.

    • Jeff d. / Aug 16 2012 11:33 pm

      Yep, this is a goal that I will have my whole career because there will always be room for improvement. I’m right there with you on turning questions back on learners…my most frequent would be “can you tell me what you mean by that?” – which often segues nicely into using mathematical language (though I definitely struggle with that too). Another thing I’m working on is structuring wait time, and I want to start adding questions like “can you explain what she said in your own words?” It’s all good stuff, thanks for your input.

  2. Kelly O'Shea / Aug 17 2012 4:49 am

    Hooray for Mistake Game! 🙂 Blog about it once you’ve gotten the chance to try it, please!

  3. Cindy W / Aug 18 2012 2:12 am

    So many of these goals are right in line with ones that I have for this year- especially 2,3,6 and 7. I have yet to write a post – too busy reading sooooo much good stuff right now!

    Like you, I have not generally shared goals. Writing them PUBLICLY sure makes them more “real.”

    I think you are headed for a great year! 🙂

  4. goldenoj / Aug 25 2012 11:26 pm

    Such strong goals. Good luck and good work!

  5. pitoinfinity / Aug 26 2012 12:38 pm

    I am also whiteboarding this year. At this time, I am just figuring out how to transition the use of them during the class period. One thing our evaluators are looking for this year is classroom procedures and the effectiveness of them. Basically, making sure classroom time isn’t wasted. So, curious how people are moving in and out of using whiteboards.

    I am also very intrigued by the video idea. Most of my students, 90% of them have iPhone’s or a smartphone of some type that does video. So, this is something I could utilize in my class. I am very interested to know more about what you might be doing. I agree, if you implement something like this, it might involve less homework/assignments of students doing problems. This is a very exciting idea! Thanks for sharing.

    • Jeff d. / Aug 26 2012 1:47 pm

      Thanks for your input. As far as transitions go, since we are a 1:1 school, the learners all have their agenda online and at the beginning of the year we work on transitioning to the next agenda item without being prompted. It’s not a perfect solution (especially since not all schools are 1:1), but it does cut down on wasted time.
      For video homework, I’ve considered having learners use their own devices, but I worried about it being cumbersome to upload…but they could email it to me and it wouldn’t be much more trouble than if they (somehow) used their webcams. Thanks for the suggestion.

  6. Appetite for Instruction / Aug 27 2012 11:53 am

    Great goals…still working on mine but stepping up SBG and feedback are definitely going to be on there!

  7. bgoeckner / Aug 28 2012 11:18 pm

    Great goals – very similar to mine. Looking forward to the updates!

  8. Katrina H / Sep 4 2012 2:00 pm

    I was so excited to see you had stopped by my blog! Thanks so much for the encouragement!

    I’m curious to see what you came up with for #1. I went through sample work the third day of school to talk about what “developing”, “proficient” and “advanced” look like, but that was for one prereq. skill. Not sure how well it will translate later for them. (And for me…but it was good practice!)

    I’ve been thinking about providing fast feedback, too. It takes me hours to write/type specific and detailed comments for all of my students, so I’m contemplating making feedback videos. Talking seems faster to me. We’re 1:1 with tablet computers, though, so all of their work is in a shared OneNote notebook. I can just screencast what’s on my computer. The question remains of where to put the videos (there’s Blue Harvest, but I don’t want *another* site they have to log into…gotta figure out if I can put them on my online gradebook) and if it really is faster!

    • Jeff d. / Sep 4 2012 5:21 pm

      Thanks for your comment, Katrina, I appreciate it.
      For my skills-assessment rubrics, I’m planning on using something very similar to Dan Bowdoin’s (linked above), with one exception: I’m going to leave it generic enough (like the bolded 1-4 list on his post and nothing more), but I’m going to leave space for me to fill in more details on a quiz-by-quiz basis. For example, I may add to the definition of “making mistakes” to be more specific to each quiz. The key for me that is different from last year is that I am going to include rubrics ahead of time – no more waiting until afterward, which just doesn’t make sense.

      In terms of feedback, one thing that we are doing this year is creating homework “base” groups. This amounts to a group of learners that will work with each other on occasion prior to discussing an assignment. When it comes time to turn in an assignment, we will only collect from 1 base group at random. This way, those 5 or 6 kids can get specific, timely feedback, and I’ll share quality work and “My Favorite Wrong Answer” on the document camera so that everyone can benefit from it.

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