Monday, February 16, 2015

Process vs. Production

This week I spent some time analyzing student data on standardized tests and thinking about how we recognize and respond to talent. (Ahem...Reflection -- one of the R7 principles). I was looking at some students who are in the very highest percentile ranks on assessments, but teachers aren't all that impressed worth their work in class. Now, we can say they are bored or unmotivated or unorganized...but that doesn't leave us in a place to RESPOND.

I started thinking about the skills it takes to do well on a standardized test and the skills it takes to perform well in an advanced level course. Here's what I came up with. The tests check to see if you can recall and process information. High level courses ask you to produce. Aha moment? How about the workplace? Yes you have to process information, but it's always for the purpose of improving production in some way. So, what do we do about it?

Differentiate. Now, I've annoyed you. Differentiation. The catch-all cure.

Stay with me -- if the student already knows how to process whatever content you're presenting...give them time to work through that process and produce something meaningful.

A third grade student quickly catches on to making an array.

So -- now we have them make an array and that's production, right?
Not quite -- that's simply showing the process. They have to dig deeper. 
Maybe instead...they look at an image such as this...

Then, ask them to identify arrays in several other images.
Now, they are taking a REAL role as designer or architect. 

Give them unifix cubes or legos or Megablocks and ask them to build a design that uses arrays.
Management nightmare...I know -- I've lost you again, but stick with me.

A student cognitively, emotionally, and behaviorally engaged is rarely a management problem.
You can give the student a contract of the job -- to help with any issues.

While designing, students use graph paper to show the various arrays that are used in the design.
Then, you ask for them to reflect by giving them key questions --
How would it be different if...?? What would make the design stronger or weaker?
There's that Reflective principle.

The extensions could go on -- interview an architect, try a design software online, etc.
The idea is that you have to ask them to produce something authentic and professional.
That's Real. That's Respectful. That's Responsive.

Differentiation is a camouflage word for Responsive. 

Think over a concept you are teaching right now. Are there students in the room that will process the concept quickly? How can they move on to production?

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Connecting parents to Testing Week

I love to take tests. Always have. I think of it as a game against myself. However, as a teacher I know that many if not most people don't feel that way.

Our youngest son's school is gearing up to take their standardized test. While I might engage into a full deliberation on standardized tests -- the only thing that will come from that is me spending valuable time and you using up data to read it.

I want to share what I found in his folder, and I'm excited about it not because the school will get better results; but because I -- the mama me -- get to be a part of it!

Of course it didn't take me long at all to know just what I wanted him to know. I love you -- this doesn't matter nearly as much as your  LOVE of learning.

To me it's really more of a test of tenacity and concentration. Then I reflect on my own practice. I often ask students to set data goals in middle school, but what if they had to make a poster like this for themselves. What would it say?

Right now, My little guy believes in himself and the positive message. Will that still be the same in five years. If not, why not? Hmmmm...much to ponder...