With my first year teaching Grade 7 Math and Science over, I have come away really loving this year. Compared with my past few years where I have taught four or five classes, working with only two classes over two subjects and homeroom made the year feel quite different. I felt that I worked more closely with the students, parents and supports in the school due to having half of the number of faces and stories to work with. Yes, the downside is that I didn't get a chance to meet the whole grade, but I am looking forward to being in the same class and having the same set up next year. With this in mind, I have made my "Affirm, Refine and Aspire" for next year.
The big thing that was affirmed for me this year is that I do love Middle School. I really enjoy how my students are wanting independence in their learning, want to explore the world around them, play games and challenge themselves, me and their peers. I also love how forgiving this age group is if you are honest with them. I have learned that once they feel you are on the same "team" as them, they will be alright with me saying "hey, I want to try something out today. I think that it will be fun, and I look forward to your feedback afterwards". They are concerned about their performance, but are open to seeing and focusing on their personal growth and goal setting rather than a percentage grade at the end.
This year I focused on assessment and evaluation; its purpose, goals and outcomes in my class. I started, with the support of my teaching team, using a Standards Based Grading (SBG) platform with my class. This method meshed perfectly with my Challenge by Choice activities as well as my strong belief in creating opportunities at any point for students to demonstrate their understanding. Going into next year, I want to refine how I will be using SBG. I will start the year with using Fresh Grade, a program to organize the evaluations and assessments as well as the standards. I am considering giving students the list of goals at the start of each unit and encouraging them to track their own growth over the year and take ownership over their learning. From using a quiz goal list in Khan Academy I have seen how my students used it to take the responsibility in their learning and review. I am hoping that the same thing will be possible in their "Learning Goals" (Standards)
My mind, as it always has, always goes BIG with my ideas and goals. However, what has happened is that my big thinking and great ideas are great, but they also don't provide the time and breathing room for my students big ideas and personal exploration. I am setting the goal for next year to be more "Grade 7". To me this means that I am not trying to get my students to create final products that are reflective of a Grade 10, but ones that are reflective of each person at Grade 7. To do this, I am planning on taking the first three months of the school year to show my students the thinking routines, goal setting and essential skills (such as research, communication, and group work) that they will need for the year. After this, I am hoping to create more open ended projects, questions and ideas that my students will use tools described before to explore and communicate their learning. I also want to aspire to more individual check in time with students, going over their goals and what they are doing to meet the goals over time.
To help with my goals, I am taking time over the summer to learning. I am taking the online course called "Science and Cooking" to get Grade 7 ideas for creating experiments that my students will do at home and explain the science to their families. I will explore Standard Based Grading further by reading Rick Wormeli and I am also looking at online tools that would be the best for my students to track their learning.
I also am setting the goal of taking more time for my own reflection over the year, and trying to do a better job on my blog. I want to track my thinking and development going forward so I can be better at explaining how I got to the end to others when they ask.
Hope that you all have a great summer!