Monday, March 28, 2011

What's Going On?

A piece on the front page of yesterday's Boston Globe talked about high school students who stay up all night wading through off and on sleep waiting for some all-important text message from one of their friends.  While I might not understand, and certainly don't agree with, the value of staying up all night waiting for something that can clearly wait until the next morning, the most striking part of the article was said by a student at the end of the piece.

"a senior at Norton High School, said she sometimes falls asleep during lectures. 'But I can just get the notes from someone later,' she said."

As I thought about that statement, I was drawn back to one of my previous posts about "pseudoteaching" (scroll down to my post from February 24).  While I do agree that all of my notes are available on-line, and I do spend a portion of many classes in direct instruction and lecture, I wonder if my class is really something that can just be learned by getting the notes "later." 

And maybe that is what we need to think about in my class and in our classes.  I/We should be making my/our classes less about getting the information "later" and more about getting connected with the information today.  Today, I gave my students the opportunity to use a series of interactive maps to learn about the early years of Reconstruction.  As I read a couple of blog posts from my students, I found some of them were confused about what the purpose of the assignment was.  Maybe it wasn't particularly clear.  Maybe I didn't explain what I wanted them to do as well as I could have.  Maybe I didn't explain what was going on with the assignment.  But maybe all of that was good for them.  Maybe all of that will lead them to ask questions tomorrow that will engage them in what we are trying to do.  Maybe they will make the decision to stay awake and not wait to get the information "later."

Friday, March 11, 2011

Not Every Day is a Winner

Wow!!  My Personal Learning Network (PLN) has been making my blog all business outside of the classroom lately.  As I scanned back over my past few posts, I saw just much that group of people has been influencing my work here.  I suppose that is a good thing, but I wonder sometimes if I am spending too much time following them and not enough time reflecting on what is going on in my classroom. 

Today was one of those days in the classroom where I wonder whether my students have learned much of anything.  I have been using a layered curriculum approach with my college prep (CP) level students from the beginning of the year.  The initial thrust of this went very well and was very encouraging.  The students seemed into it and did really well when the final assessment came.  The one for the second marking period was a little less encouraging and this one, on the Antebellum Period and the Civil War has been perhaps been even less encouraging.  Yesterday and today were I what I call "points only" days when the focus of the days lesson is for them to defend orally the work that they have done.  (For a clearer understanding of layered curriculum, follow the link here)  During different classes, at the end of the instruction for the day, students also have a chance to turn in points, but for some reason, many of them waited until today to turn anything in, which was also the last day for turning points on the "C Level" to be able to move on to the "B Level."  (Again, follow the link for a clearer explanation.

What concerns me is that despite me repeated efforts to get them to turn in whatever work they might have done earlier, very few of them seem to take advantage of that.  I wish I knew why that was.  I wish I understood why they leave everything for the last minute and then think that they are going to have enough time to finish.  I realize that I am not much better when it comes to procrastination, and I suppose in many ways what I am trying to do is help them to learn from my bad habits. 

When I do the layered curriculum in the fourth marking period, I am going to try and use along with the idea of "flipping the classroom."  Maybe by giving them the option of participating in the direct instruction at home, keeping them moving with activities in the classroom, and hopefully allowing for more opportunities for them to earn points outside of points only days, I will find more of a answer to my wishes.  Until then, I will just have to sit and wish.

However, the day was not a total loss as I was able to collaborate with a teacher in ELA about a unit for our new American Studies program for next year.  That, though, is a post for a different day.