I had a bit of a break this week again as Deb is working with the students on a research paper. They have had class time to work on it, and it has been a good chance for me to observe again, given the fact that I’ve been with these classes every day since I’ve started teaching. It gave me a chance to stop and really take a look at how this classroom works, what I can do to improve, and how I should be planning the remainder of the year. Of course student achievement is important to me, so reading from The First Days of School this week gave me more to think about as I begin to plan for the remainder of the year.
Some of the most valuable information that I will take from this reading came from page 31 in the text. There, the authors provide research on improving student achievement, and have given me something against which I can check my own work. One that I found most interesting was the reminder that objectives really are an important part of lessons, and students should be made aware of those objectives. Here at Seattle Lutheran, it is a department-wide practice to share with students one objective at the beginning of each class or lecture. I would even take this one step further to remind students again of the objective at the end and even during the middle of the lecture, in order to help them understand why they are learning the specific topic.
Another idea that I have begun to implement (and a reminder is always helpful!) is the idea that I should have a “wait time” between asking a question and expecting an answer from a student. Sometimes I rush through questions and do not allow much response time if students aren’t responding right away. I have been trying to get better at this; sometimes waiting 10 seconds for an answer may seem like 10 minutes, but it allows the student time to thoughtfully and carefully answer the question.
This week was slightly challenging for me in that I decided to try new things, and they did not go quite as planned. Of course, it is important to note that just because something doesn’t go well the first time that I will be doomed to repeat it! The situation is this: in the past (and in other classes) I feel like lectures for this class have relied heavily on PowerPoint presentations. I decided that it was time to change things up, and so I informed the 11th graders that they would be taking notes on their own. I walked them through what I expected and how things would work. They were told that I would be giving my lecture without the PowerPoint and that they should be taking notes accordingly. I informed them that I would be writing important ideas or terms on the whiteboard and I also provided them with a graphic organizer that they could potentially use to take notes. At the end of the lecture we went over the graphic organizer to help fill in the blanks (I asked students what they thought would go in each blank based on the lecture we just had and discussed it somewhat as a class.) The next day I did another lecture without a PowerPoint lecture and provided them with a rough outline. This seemed to help a bit more, but I think that it is something that these students need to work on, as they really struggled with taking notes on their own. I encouraged them to paraphrase certain definitions, but there were several students in each class that repeatedly asked me to repeat a definition more than once so that they could write it all down. One of my goals for the remainder of the year is to use activities in class (or possibly homework) that encourage them to paraphrase or summarize their knowledge.