Well, I am finally getting around to putting my reflections about SBG into my blog (thanks to some twitter pressure motivation. Here is a brief synopsis from the beginning of the year on how I started the class out. But keep in mind, this was learning by doing for me, so things definitely changed as I went.
So here I go:
Reasons I started this year:
1) I had attended some sessions at regional MCTM conference 2 year ago on SBG and thought it made so much sense, but didn’t do anything right away because I said I wanted to learn more things about it first.
2) I finished 16 credit hours of math grad classes over the previous 2 summers and had a horrible experience in my number theory class with a professor that the only thing I learned from was how not to teach.
3) So beginning of August (week before inservice) I decided it was time even though I hadn’t done much more research than I had the previous summer. But I had a revelation – if I wait to implement until I know everything and got everything ready – I will never implement.
Here is where I need to give a shout out to my go to guy when it comes to SBG – Chris, if you are reading this – there is no way I would have survived the first year as well as I did if it hadn’t been for you. Thanks a million. (BTW – Chris was in my grad classes over the summers and was doing his action research on SBG and was teaching the same 8th grade standards I was AND most importantly was willing to share everything – Amazing teacher and friend)
4) I’m sure you have them in your district – “the class”. You know – the class everyone talks about as they make their way through the district. Well I was getting “that class” this year and I was very nervous. So I figured what a great place to try something new because I knew what I had done previously wouldn’t work well – and it was too late for maternity leave. ha ha
Things I loved:
1) EVERYTHING – well probably not everything. But almost everything. I loved that the kids knew what I wanted them to learn. I loved seeing them learn. I loved seeing them try again when they realized they hadn’t learned (rather than moving on after the test). I loved the engagement the students had in their learning.
2) I loved that I know I had a better year with my 8th graders (“the class”) over if I would have stuck to traditional grading. They saw the work that I was putting in to allow them to learn the math and they knew I cared and were willing to care back (at times). Don’t get me wrong – I still had tough moments – and there were tears, but it could always be worse.
3) I loved that I was passionate about teaching again – or I should say more passionate. I never stopped loving teaching, but this year I didn’t care about putting in extra hours at home looking for another way to get gets to understand irrational numbers because their concept quiz showed that the majority didn’t understand. (I guess this could go under didn’t like as well because I was hard to plan out a weeks lesson plans when truly I shouldn’t plan the next day until I see how their quiz went that day – made it hard for advanced make up slips. Kids just got used to me saying “see me when you get back!” But isn’t that formative assessments at its best – use them to guide your teaching. I guess I think so)
4) I loved the discussions I had with students about learning and the things they put on their teacher evaluation at the end of the year. Here is my absolute favorite (sorry if this seems like I’m bragging, but it made me feel that my struggles through the first year of SBG were SOOOOO worth it – I’ll be honest – made me tear up a little)
From an 8th grader in the additional comments section of year end survey – “I feel like i have learned more this year than any other year. Most teachers dont care what your scores are they just keep teaching. You would take the time to go back and actually explain it to us in a way that we could all understand it. I was scared of math class because of the teachers the last few years. This year i can say that i feel completely confident and safe when i walk into this room. I never have had a complaint about this class.”
AND THAT LADIES AND GENTLEMEN IS WHY SBG IS SO IMPORTANT!!!!
Things I’ll change
1) I had already adjusted my concept list throughout the year so I will need to go back and revisit the list and update it
2) I need to find a better way to communicate scores on each concept. Kids kept track of their own (as well as me) on a sheet but parents rarely ever saw that paper. I need to make all kids more accountable rather than coming to me and asking “which ones aren’t I proficient in”. I also need to find a way to keep parents informed better when students are falling behind and needing to come in on their own time to spend more time learning on a concept they aren’t proficient in.
3) I need to find a way for kids to practice on a concept before they come in to reassess. Too often they would come in and look at their list and say “I think I’ll assess on ….” and hadn’t prepared. That was very frustrating. So I might make a livebinder that has some links to practice problems for each concept that they must print off that they have completed before they reassess. But I’m still mulling over that idea.
4) I am realizing that I didn’t challenge the students that understand the concept from the beginning and got perfect quizzes right away. Instead I just gave them another quiz to see if they could do it again. I would like to find some higher level thinking questions (even though my quizzes were leveled to basic knowledge and what I thought was advanced but looking back advanced probably wasn’t the right word) for each concept and challenge those kids.
5) I’m also throwing around the idea of interactive notebooks. We’ll see how this summer goes with me preparing for it, but then I think again about my previous comment mentioned above – But I had a revelation – if I wait to implement until I know everything and got everything ready – I will never implement.
I could seriously go on forever about SBG (going to implement in Calculus this year fully – started about half way through the year this past year) because I truly see the benefit in it – and the kids did too. So anyone that wants to talk/tweet/email/chat/etc about SBG look me up (@beckyrahm) or comment here. There is always room for me to improve and I love hearing other teachers ideas that I could use in my classroom. #alwayslearning