March 18, 2016
How do we encourage students to risk? How to we encourage them to ‘stretch’ and try something new? It’s a big challenge in the world language classroom. I have been using rubrics a lot to find out about how something went for a student, but it took until this year for me to use them to ‘prepare’ students to interact. I realized that the rubric (and it’s construction/labels etc) is one way that we communicate class expectations. So why don’t we ask them, prior to the activity, to set up/predict/plan how they will work to meet them? This post focuses on interpersonal speaking but the concept may also be adapted for writing as well.
Initially I started asking students, prior to starting the activity, to select their ‘challenge’ (the ‘extra push’) – and check off (on the rubric) what they wanted to focus on doing/improving. Then I asked them to share that challenge with their partner to build in a bit of accountability. Then we moved on to the activity. It seemed to work well – they sincerely considered their ‘extra push’ in the interaction. But for me it wasn’t enough. It felt a bit focused on the ‘what I am not doing’ and not acknowledging ‘what I can already do’. Clearly, I needed a more balanced approach.
Lately I’ve been trying to acknowledge/encourage via “checks and a smile“. Prior to the activity the students select the ‘challenge/push’ for the activity – that gets the check. For my novices I generally have only 1 check, but in my upper level courses I expand that to 2 challenge/push areas. Then I ask them to select something that they already feel that they do well – what they are proud that they already incorporate into their interpersonal work. That gets the happy face. I like how this combination gives a personal pat on the back for something already accomplished and still sets out something for them to reach for in their work.
When I ask students to reflect, as I always do, they are ready to tell me how they well they felt they did in meeting their checked challenge. Increasingly, with the equal focus on a strength, I see reflective comments about what they are ‘proud’ of as well. And that is a happy face for everyone!
January 20, 2016
One of the reasons I am making a big shift from numbers to proficiency/expectation descriptors is to ensure that students don’t wait for me to tell them how they are doing – but rather that they will know and be able to articulate for themselves. With this shift comes more challenges in improving feedback and learning opportunities for students. I am by no means good at this – but, as a believer in ‘small tweaks lead to big changes’ I have been experimenting with additional ways to provide feedback. I think I’ve been really weak on this in the past….so my ‘small tweaks’ this semester included:
Pop Check-In – born out of the frustration of students being able to do things for a quiz but not 10 minutes later, and a desire to see if they are really ‘getting it’, I introduced the concept of the “Pop Check-In”. These are not announced beforehand and focus on a particular skill/structure we may be working on. As my students know – and can repeat back to me – this is a chance to see ‘what is in their heads’ now. It is not ‘for marks’ but rather is for learning and feedback for them on how well they are internalizing a concept. More here….
Rubrics With Feedback – Ah Amy Lenord – where would I be as a teacher without the amazing sharing (and challenging) that you do! I realized after reading a piece by Amy that my rubrics needed to be reinforced with some ‘great job/for next time’ comments. And Amy’s amazing post on this inspired me to make a change to my rubrics too. With attribution, I have added her checklist to my oral interpersonal rubric – fabulous and so easy to use when I am grading students. Extending beyond that I decided that my writing rubric needed it as well. This is my first draft of this and I know it will evolve but I am looking forward to using it in the future!
Completion Required – I am taking in more small pieces of writing this semester. I realized in the past that I left too much to the final summative writing piece. My twist on feedback is not to do the corrections for them but to highlight areas of weakness and ask them to work on them. They get an ‘incomplete’ in my evolving grade-book until that is done and the piece is then marked as ‘complete’. In order to be able to do the corrections I often include hints or reinforcement of the concept via a written comment, a chat with me or pointing them to one of my on-line reviews.
Reflective Responses From Me – I am very keen on collecting reflections from students especially after they self-evaluate an activity. I used to read them but this semester I added what I thought was a missing component which is my comment on that reflection. So now – especially after a summative oral that has been self-assessed (yes – I do those!) I take the time to read and respond to their comments. Then they receive that back with their ‘unit summative’ sheet and I make sure to attach it so that they see the comments that I have made. I notice that they take the time to read and note them. I also do an ‘end of course’ reflection and take the time to write, or orally respond to each as well. They get this back at the final exam – a nice way to end I think.
Unit Summative Sheet – I usually don’t have students keep a summative writing piece but have always felt that they should retain something at the end of the unit to chart their progress. So this semester I introduced their unit summative sheet (brightly coloured so its easy to find). On it are two rubrics that I have filled out – their writing/oral pieces with checklist feedback (see above) showing how they are doing in meeting expectations. I also attach the pre-oral rubric they fill out – so that they can see how they felt about how they would do going into the oral. I am also looking to incorporate a space on that for them to include a reflection about what worked for them in learning in that unit and a place where they can articulate how they felt about their learning during that course of study (based upon a piece from the TELL project). I saw many students voluntarily take these out as we were preparing for finals to help them prepare.
Oh there’s so much more I think that I can do…but with these small steps I hope I’m moving in the right direction….