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THE MAD LIBS OF TEACHING

Teacher to self: How do I get the students to (name a student behavior that when
missing, cripples learning and makes the teacher want to throw a 2 yr old tantrum) ?

Self to teacher: You accomplish this by (name something that you do not know, you do not
know).

As each school year draws to an end, teachers are already planning for the
following year. For me, it plays out like a Mad Lib. The familiar fill in the
blanks taunt me each summer, forcing me to hit the books and the
chatrooms, challenging me to identify the valuable question then to fill in
the perfect answer. This is how each summer begins. A quest to find, the
perfect answer, to the challenge of the upcoming year.
Last summers mission was handed to me by the 6 th grade teacher. Due to
many extenuating circumstances, she had only taught about half of the
standards that are in her grade level. I needed to cover a year in a half to
get the students were they needed to be by the end of 7 th grade. What I
needed was for the students to step up and take responsibility for their
learning, something you do not see much of in student this age.
Last summer the script went something like this. If I could only get my
students to take more responsibility for their learning. How do I eliminate
the, I didnt know how to do it, excuse that some students use as a get
out of jail free card nearly every day? That conversation is normally
followed with, No I didnt take notes/I lost my notes, I forgot to ask
questions in class, I couldnt come in after school, and no-one at home could
help me.
How do I hold my students accountable for their own learning? How do I
create students who look back over their notes when they are stuck,
students who ask for help when they need it, students who actually pursue
the answer instead of shrugging their shoulders and giving themselves a
night off of homework because they didnt know how to do it?

Below is my inventory of the issue:


What behavior needs eliminated? Learned helplessness, the I didnt
know how to do it card. Excuse making for not having classwork done, not
doing homework.
What behavior needs to replace it: Students try to answer questions
before raising their hand. They take a few minutes and check in their math
book for help, look in their notes, or quietly have a friend help them.
Students take the steps required in an attempt to solve a problem. When
doing homework, they continue to take these steps when needed.
Desired result/long term effects: students actually DO their work-
(more learning and practice) They find answers instead of excuses. This
frees me up to assist students who truly need the help instead of being tied
up with students who want their hand held every day. Students become
self-sufficient, motivated, empowered, learners. They take responsibility for
their learning and seek out answers on their own.
Current practices in place that address issue: Fred Jones seating
model, tutoring after school, parent contact -all helps some but not enough.
Notebooks- waste of time, students cant keep track of.
Action Plan: TAKE AWAY THE EXCUSE!
Give students all of the tools they need to become more self-sufficient.
Have a laundry list of interventions that students must use before the I
didnt know how could be said.
After doing an extensive amount of research over the summer on middle
school learning, motivation, learned helplessness, and any other google
search I could think of, I decided to implement the following programs:
1. Interactive Notebooks- although I have always required students to
maintain a notebook and have even counted it as a grade several
years, students still tend to write notes on random pieces of scratch
paper and lose them. Hopefully, the interactive nature of this type of
notebook will deter notes from being written on scratch paper, and the
time and dedication it takes to make it will extend its life expectancy.
As an added bonus, students will be allowed to use notes on tests- not
random pieces of loose paper (a policy I have never implemented
before, but is used across Doral campuses.) Note to self: students
need to buy into the value of this notebook early on. Concerns: huge
time commitment

2. Khan Academy- Khan Academy is far from perfect but after spending
several weeks researching it, I found a few priceless qualities that it
possesses.

a. Immediate feedback with hint feature- Students know


immediately if problem is wrong, if a student is working on a
problem and gets stuck, they can access hints, one at a time,
that are specific to that exact problem. If the student doesnt
get unstuck, he/she can continue with the hints and see the
entire problem worked out one step at a time. Student is then
provided with another problem that require the identical steps.

b. Introductory videos with printable notes- Khan Academy


is far from being a stand-alone product, but it does have videos
for each topic. These videos are designed to be done
independently by students. They are ideal for students who
have received instruction on a topic previously, but forgot it or
didnt quite grasp it originally. Note to self: When getting
ready to start a new unit, use these videos to expedite review
time. 2nd semester use videos to systematically revisit earlier
skills that are not reinforced throughout the year but curriculum
design. **use prior grade lessons for students to work
independently on to fill 6th grade gap

c. Personalization- students can go straight to a lesson and


complete it in less than 5 minutes if they know the content.
Once a student completes 5 problems in a row correctly, the
program moves you to a different skill. Student A may only
complete 5 problems where student B might have to complete
50.

d. Record Keeping- I have access to know how much time was


spent on site, how many problems attempted, solved, the
number of videos watched ect.

How do you get students to take more responsibility for their learning?
You use interactive notebooks to encourage good note taking and allow
them to use notes on test. Use Khan Academy forcing the students to be
more accountable as it documents all resources used for help and time
spent on each task.

Active research in progress