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Monday, November 20, 2017

Using Google Form Assessments to Build Metacognition

Students don't have to wait days for me to wade through 75 tests to find out their scores. Instead with Google Form tests, they know their results the minute they press the submit key, and if they don't think they were scored correctly they can come right up to me and debate their score. This new approach to assessing students is efficient and leads to greater ownership with regard to performance and result.

As I get better at making the tests, I am watching how students respond. This efficiency is also allowing me to delve deeper with regard to what students readily understand and what is still confusing to them. It's also giving me a glimpse of what happens when they take an online standardized test. For example, many adept math students simply type their answers in too fast and make silly mistakes related to accuracy, not skill. And so many get weighed down with the language and simply read the directions incorrectly or skip reading the directions altogether. Then, of course, there are the precision masters who are the first ones to figure out where I could have done a better job making the test--I appreciate their eye for detail.

I think the use of Google forms is helping students to become better at metacognition, thinking about their math learning and performance. As they complete answers and solve problems, they know that they'll be scored right away and that makes them want to ask clarifying questions, take their time, and answer precisely. Further practice tests similar to the final tests give them a chance to use Google form to perfect their skill with specific standards and concepts. They can take those tests over and over again.

Finally, as I've stated before, the fact that the data is poured right into a spread sheet gives me lots of analysis opportunities which, in turn, help me to use the test data more efficiently and strategically to inform instruction. Google Form assessments are a terrific way to uplift the teaching/learning program in ways that matter, and hopefully will result in better metacognition, math learning, test taking, and standardized test scores.

Goals Ahead: November/December 2017 Teaching

It's a short and celebratory week with Thanksgiving just a few days away

This week I'll focus on the following:

Math Assessment
Students will do their best on the unit two assessment. I'll coach them to use good test taking strategy. Later they'll positive learning strategy to puzzle through a number of relatively new concepts using online exercises.

Mars Expedition and Space Exploration
Students will have the opportunity to virtually travel to Mars and explore the universe. It will be an exciting and eye-opening event.

Coordinate Grids
Students will learn the basics of plotting points, then practice by making coordinate grid pictures.

Good Character Campaign
Students will continue to focus on our school wide Good Character Campaign with a focus on how we make the attributes of good character visible using this page as a guide. The rationale for this unit is that people with good character typically enjoy greater happiness and more success.

Thanksgiving Breakfast
Our school sponsors an event to foster our collegiality. It is a long held tradition that recognizes the strength and promise of our camaraderie.

After the holiday, the focus will include these events:

Unit Three Math
Students will review their learning success so far this year as we discuss ways to successfully master the standards in unit three. Then we'll get started with the learning.

Culture Focus
Prior to Thanksgiving, students focused on culture in their social studies class. That focus will continue as we entertain many cultures during December when students discuss their holiday celebrations. A deeper focus will occur with respect to the ancient Mayan culture.

STEAM
There will be a number of days devoted mostly to science in order to complete our first science units.

Character Campaign
With posters, announcements, and other activities, students will foster a school-wide good character campaign.

Math Fun
Wednesday math will be devoted to a number of fun math activities to build skill in numerous standards-based areas, areas often not taught with depth until the end of the year, but areas that are included in mid-year and spring assessments.

Keeping the focus is essential to good teaching, and naming the priorities is a good way to support fidelity to that focus. Onward.

Voice and Teaching Well

Educators met with the school committee to voice their thoughts and ideas related to an upcoming decision about school start times. School start times considerations is a topic that's being considered in many school systems in response to research that demonstrates that teens need more sleep. The decisions related to this topic are more complicated than one would think since school schedules are intricate weaves that synthesize academic, social, emotional, and physical needs for optimal programming. Other realities that affect these decisions include traffic patterns, work start times, daylight, and daycare costs/availability. Few decisions related to schools are simple since schools reach out to support all students, and those students represent significant diversity with regard to age, culture, family style, needs, challenges, and strengths.

What's important in all of this is that people stand up to express their thoughts and ideas--decisions are best made when those decisions are inclusive representing the voices of all stakeholders. Though timely, it's best to create the kind of process that listens to everyone's voices including the voices of educators, students, and family members.

As educators we can't be afraid to respectfully stand up and speak out for what we believe is right and good. Similarly we have to be ready to listen to the voices of others too--to see it from their point of view. None of us know it all or have all the answers, and our good work profits from our collaboration with others.

Years ago when an important issue was discussed in our school system, teachers mostly stayed quiet. Many citizens spoke up, yet their point of view was not considered with depth. I went along with the decision made only to realize later that many of the points that citizens were making were not listened too, but were rightly made. The decision made resulted in a lot of problems, problems I didn't expect, but problems that many citizens had predicted. In hindsight, it would have been better if all sides of the story were considered before a decision was made. That would have resulted in less pain and problems.

I often want to make decisions quickly, but the older I get, the more I recognize that it's usually better to take your time with important decisions. If wait time isn't going to create harm, then it's better to take the time to use good process to make optimal decisions. Rushing usually does result in less good, more costly decisions, while taking our time has the potential to result in win-win decisions.

Of course, as my father taught me, we can't complain about decisions if we stay silent. Instead we have to push ourselves to be involved in important decision making. We have to make the time with our colleagues to review the information, listen with an open mind, and share our point of view. Whether we are educators, family members, or students, our good work depends on using our voices to speak out and stand up for what matters.

As educators our experience, expertise, and point of view matters with regard to decisions that impact our students. The experience, expertise, and point of view of students, family members, community members, and administrators matter too. It is in coming together with all points of view and good process that lead to optimal decisions. We can't forget that.