Today’s post in the latest of a series that I’ve been writing about this past year.
The previous ones have been:
I’ve found that it’s critical for me to find the time to reflect on school year before it ends or immediately afterwards. Having it all fresh in my mind maximizes the lessons I can take into the following year.
Here are a few key strategies that seemed to work, and that I want to make sure I continue – and expand on – next year (note that most of these specifically relate to my ELL classes – except for a few minor changes in my TOK classes that I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I pretty much stuck there to what I had done the previous year and it worked very well):
- At least in my ELL classes, continue using a hard-copy textbooks and paper notebooks, and next year reduce even further other computer-based lesson activities. Clearly, based on anonymous student evaluations and my own observations, students prefer the paper-based activities. The laptop has its place (see my previous post about online learning tools), and students greatly benefit from using it for writing, but I suspect more learning would happen for at least some if I went back to printing out materials (like data sets) that I had students reading on Google Docs this year (not least because it would reduce the temptation to surf the web). It seems to be less of an issue in my IB Theory of Knowledge classes.
- Pre-teaching keywords prior to reading textbook chapters through having students create slideshows about them and having them “jigsaw” teaching their classmates. These “Word Splashes” created opportunities for small group work and practicing presentation skills, and appeared to substantially enhance reading comprehension of the textbook (based on student evaluations and my observations). Though I’ve obviously done some pre-teaching vocabulary in prior years, I had not devoted as much time to it, and it clearly was worth the effort. Again, this is for my ELL classes.
- Increasing the number and use of peer tutors was hugely beneficial to students, and I’ve previously written how I plan to expand their use further next year.
- Generally ending each class – ELL and TOK – with a short online game (see my post on online learning tools) was an activity I carried over from distance learning, and was always a winner. Not only was it a review of what we had done, and a formative assessment, but it always ended classes on a high note. The “peak/end” rule finds that people usually remember how they feel at the end of an activity, and that informs how they might approach doing it again. Ending with an online game, I believe, also helps students leave the class – and then enter the next day – in a more positive frame of mind.
- Having students complete a weekly short online Google Form letting me know how they are feeling/doing has been invaluable. I began doing this in distance learning and, though I’m always checking-in with students verbally, I’ve learned so much information from the online forms and have been able to intervene with students in crisis more immediately.
What has worked for you this year?