Sunday, February 27, 2011

Student Feedback

One of our most important jobs as a teacher is to be a good coach, and with good coaching comes the job of providing feedback. What is good feedback?  How often should students receive feedback? What are the different kinds of feedback? What feedback is best?

When I take a course, I like feedback.  I especially like feedback if I believe the course facilitator has knowledge and information that I want to learn.  For example, right now I'm taking a fiction writing course.  The professor is really smart.  She knows a lot about writing fiction, and already in a few short weeks, my ability to write a story has developed.  Her hand-outs are pointed and specific, and her comments are brief and helpful.  When she provides feedback, she notes what's good about a piece as well as the specific areas that need work.  Then she provides suggestions or avenues as to how I can improve in those areas.

I'm sure that my students are similar to me.  Good feedback spurs them on, gives them a direction, and inspires them to do a better job.  Today, I spent a lot of time reviewing student work.  I decided to write each student a letter about their recent Museum exhibits.  In each letter, I noted the specific aspects of the exhibit that were noteworthy.  I gave feedback on their effort, organization, and work habits during the project.  I didn't offer specific feedback about improving the project because I did that throughout the project process.  I also corrected a math assessment.  On each assessment I noted areas of mastery, areas that need continued practice, and areas that needed reteaching.  For those needing practice, I gave some practical suggestions, and for those needing reteaching, I made a plan for reteaching and noted that.

The most difficult part of providing student feedback is the time it takes.  Every teacher knows feedback is essential, and almost every teacher laments the time it takes on weekends, nights, and early mornings to grade papers, provide performance reviews and offer feedback.  Today it took me about five hours to review work and provide feedback.  Then it took me another hour to respond to that feedback by writing lists, reworking the schedule, and contacting specialist teachers regarding the results.

It seems like feedback might be the subject of this Tuesday's Twitter #edchat.  I'll be interested to see what people have to say.  If you have any comments you'd like to share with me in the meantime, please do.  This is an area of education I want to learn more about.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Merits of the Museum Project

Fourth graders at my school presented their Family History/Immigration Exhibits today during our Museum Open House.  Each classroom was a wing of the Museum.  Children proudly displayed stories, images, captions, artifacts, food and clothing depicting their personal history (and in a few cases, simply a culture they were interested in).

Last year, a colleague presented a similar Museum.  Our class was invited.  I was struck by the level of pride and knowledge his students displayed; that's when I decided I'd try the same project the following year.

Fourth grade teachers planned the project together sharing ideas, strategies and time lines.  Then we outlined the expectations for students and got to work.  Some of the work was completed at home, and other work was completed in school.

Throughout the unit students learned about immigration and the cultural history of the United States through stories, non-fiction text, films, interviews with family members, class discussions, and project creation.  Much of the project preparation was done in workshop mode with students busy researching, image searching and writing using online tools.  Once project pieces were complete, exhibits were created throughout the classroom.  Then this morning family members visited the students' exhibits.  Later in the day, students visited the other Museum wings (classrooms) and reflected on their work.  As the teacher, I'll read their reflections and write a few positive, personal notes for each child acknowledging noteworthy aspects of their exhibits.

The project is a keeper for the following reasons:
  • It teaches social studies, reading, writing, and math standards (we surveyed our community and graphed results related to the topic)
  • It gives students an opportunity to learn about their culture and the cultures of their classmates.
  • The project is authentic and meaningful.
  • The project is created for an audience.
  • The project includes the 21st C skills of creativity, collaboration, critical thinking and communication.
  • The project builds community and respect for one another.
  • The project is motivating and enjoyable.
  • The project has a significant tech component including Google docs writing, Kid Pix creations, Internet research, Inspiration family trees, social network blog and photo album related to topic, and emails w/relatives to gain information.
  • The project can be easily differentiated for students.
  • The project is culturally relevant.
Providing students with an opportunity to learn, at an early age, about their culture and history as well as the cultures and history of their classmates and other Americans helps to build a respectful school community -- one where students are open minded to the differences and similarities that each person brings to school each day.  By embedding essential skills within this unit, students were also able to develop their skill and standards' knowledge and proficiency. 

Monday, February 14, 2011

May Students See Me as This Beautiful.

I hope I can live up to the beauty of this image of me created by one of my students for Valentine's Day.