Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Revisiting the Math Practice Goal

My goal this year was to stay more faithful to student feedback related to home study. While the goal was well founded based on the fact that students who completed home study with regularity last year did better on systemwide/state assessments than students who did not stay faithful to this study, I have found that my goals were too strenuous and not meaningful enough to keep up with.

In general, to spend countless hours after school reviewing student work, adding comments, and noting who did the work and who did not is not worth the time it takes. Why?

First of all, it simply takes more time and energy than I have after school. The school day is extremely busy and the after hours reflection and prep time consuming and meaningful.

Next, the efforts are not rewarded with meaningful, positive response. In general students who don't complete home study are students who need greater person-to-person support, not more notes on papers or emails home to family members about missing home study assignments. Generally students who don't complete home study, most often have families that can't support that home study. Therefore rather than berating families/students about missing assignments, I'm adding more extra help time before and during the school day to provide the support these students need--this results in greater growth and more meaningful support.

Further I can use a large number of online systems/assessments to help me check students' homework completion and progress. These systems/assessments are targeted, efficient, and useful when it comes to getting a quick look at who is doing their work, who is not, and how they are progressing. I can match these online assessments to what I notice in school and then make good choices about providing students who struggle with more targeted and helpful support.

So what does this mean for my practice goal?

First, the goal was rightly directed in that all children need to practice to learn well.

Next, the goal was ill directed in thinking that I had endless hours and energy to look over countless practice exercises each week. I simply don't have that time or energy, and even if I did, the results of my at-home review is not nearly as powerful as the personal support I can provide students before school and during lunch.

And, I will still review significant assignments and make time for students to look over my review and reflect on what was accomplished. These efforts will be placed in student portfolios and shared with family members. In general these will be assignments that are richer, more meaningful, and completed both in school and out of school. Examples include our recent volume project and upcoming fractions story project. I'll also audit students' countless online practice efforts and give them an overall progress comment for their online practice efforts. The comments will likely range from rarely completes online practice to regularly and successfully completes online practice. And as we've done in the past, I'll print a student stat sheet for each child that demonstrates the results of many online assessments that we give. Most of that information has been shared with students upon completion, but the stat sheet helps to give a good overview of student efforts and progress.

For the 2019-2010 I'll likely stick to the practice goal, but update it with what I've learned this year.

How do you best foster student practice so that they learn well? What do you find to be most helpful in this regard? How do you use your time effectively so that student practice and your support is both meaningful and results-oriented? I continue to think about this.

Note: I placed this post online and received some amazing comments via Twitter: