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Finally Getting It: Morning Minutes, January 27, 2016

So yesterday, in 219, my kiddos took the first of two finals, an assessment on rhetorical elements in two speeches.  They had to not only identify the elements but also analyze them and then deliver them in a “three-sentence-essay” format: claim, cite, clarify; we’ve come to call them CCC’s.  And though my kids have had ample practice, they and I were a little anxious going in, feeling a little pressure on game day, performance day.  And atypical to how things usually go in  219, there was an added element of pressure: time.  With so much still to do and the end looming, I could not give them the entire period but only thirty minutes, which really, if they were prepared, was a fair amount of time to successfully complete the task.  Most did, but a few used every available second, and even the extra minute or two that I tacked on at the end.  Hey, I’m flexible to a fault.  I’m working on it.

Anyway, as Jacob, my last straggler, made his way up to my desk (we had already begun getting ready for the next task) he remarked aloud, in his ever-affable way, “Hey, I think I’m finally getting this stuff.”  A few smiles and chuckles emanated from his peers, and I responded, “Well, Jake, now is probably a good time for that to happen.  And while I was pleased with his remark at the moment–teachers like to hear that kids are “getting it,” it was not until later, upon further reflection, that I discovered that his “getting it” was not what pleased me most.  No, what really set with me, was that he finally got it.  Truly music to my ears, for that is what I strive to make happen for my kids.   

I believe in the practice-feedback-performance path to proficiency…well, path is probably a misnomer; it’s more like a cycle, for I believe learning happens when things come full-circle for kids, and sometimes that requires numerous spins around the block until things come to fruition, until kids demonstrate proficiency, demonstrate mastery. I do not believe in the linear, “learn-it-and-leave-it” model that so many teachers employ, trying to plow through as much course content as possible, often leaving kids behind.  And while I think it is hard to truly put a finger on what learning is, I dare say that the “content-is-king” model is what learning is not. So, when Jacob revealed his aha moment yesterday, I reveled in his simple sentiment, glad for him and glad for me, for I put a lot of stock in this approach, and it’s nice to find affirmation in the small successes that my kids experience.  It’s really rather thrilling.  

Today, my kids will take their second final, an assessment on sentences and phrases.  For this, too, they have had ample practice, so I hope that most have an “I’m-finally-getting-this-stuff” moment as things come full circle.  And long before I grade their tests, I will know.  I will know by the confidence I find in their eyes as they hand me their tests.  Looks give measure as much as words. Not much better than the eyes of a confident kid.

Happy Wednesday, all.  I wanted to share with my faithful few that I successfully reached a wider audience yesterday on Edutopia.  They published my first weekly wonder and another post is pending.  I am really excited to have another venue.  Here’s the link.


2 Replies to “Finally Getting It: Morning Minutes, January 27, 2016”

  • Many of my kids brought a smile to my face yesterday. Well, actually two smiles. They were using the tools I had given them, tools we had practiced with, on their final. On Monday my kids embarked on a week long final. Yes, a week. I wanted them to take their time and do their best. We’ve been working toward this all semester. Our final, or performance task, is designed to look like the Smarter Balanced Assessment. My smiles came in the following ways. . .

    First, a large number of my students were writing a rough draft before they typed the final draft of their letter. After spending nine weeks on an essay earlier in the semester, it was great to see that so many were actually going through the writing process on a final/test.

    My second, and possibly a slightly bigger smile, happened when I noticed that many kids were using an argument organizer worksheet that we used last week during our final prep work for the final. Initially I had only said to use your resources, both from the semester and last week, during the final. Some kids used it. So, yesterday I specifically mentioned the argument organizer and while I noticed a majority of students using it, I wanted to see if it was actually helping. First I asked, “How many used this argument organized worksheet?” and the majority raised their hand. Then, when I asked “Was it helpful?”, every kid who used it said, “Yes. Very much.” Yes, it took a little reminder from me, but students were able to work through the organizer on their own to figure out what their thesis, reasons, and opposing views were, and what types of evidence they could use.

    Now, because I haven’t graded these finals yet I don’t have evidence that they “got it”, but I’m hoping to see some improvements in their writing.

  • One success at a time. What a moment for your student, and for you. A confidence builder for sure, it worked well once, it will again. One student at a time.

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