Posted in educational leadership, elementary math, learning, reflection, teaching

Making a Math Class Kids Will Love, Part 2: Goal Setting (and Collaboration)

Making a (1)

I finally did it! I unlocked the magic behind SMART goals. And, hey, it only took me, like, a school year and a little more 🙂 We started goal setting as a school-wide focus a couple of years ago, and I just couldn’t figure it out with my 4th graders (see my post about that struggle).  I tried. I read. I read lots. I tried something else.  I collaborated. But nothing seemed to stick.

Enter my brilliant friends, Monica Maynor and Shayla Johnston, who (somewhere between the two of them) came up with an easy to follow progress monitoring sheet perfect for the kids to use and reflect upon themselves. Monica had the idea of having the students record their pre-test scores on a bar graph on the front of the page. Later, we take the exact test as a post-assessment, and the kids mark this test right beside it.  They are then able to see in bold colors or pencil scratches the gains they made during the module.  We teach through the use of Learning Targets and on this sheet there is a spot for each lesson and a short reflection on why they met or did not meet the day’s target. Perfect, right? All that was missing was some goal setting in the little box that remained.

So we discussed our goals. With the momentum of our newly organized goal setting sheet, I knew exactly where to go…

“I want to be a better mathematician.” Me, too! But…how will you do that or decide that you are?

“I want to get better (or faster) at multiplication (division/subtraction/addition).” Me, too! But…how will you do that or decide that you did?

“I want to be the best in the world at math!” Me, too! But…that’s not my only job, nor is it yours! Think that’s doable?

Time for a quick lesson on SMART goals!  We talked about SMART and ran all of the above (and a few more) through the test! They helped me with a few of my own goals such as getting into grad school and running another 5k. They loved it. We turned each of our goals into something…

Specific: We always have a number. 7/12 learning targets, increase post score by 40 points.

Measurable: Kids can see if they’ve done it or not.

Attainable: Goal is to gain, not make a 100…not everyone will. Especially if one started with an 18. Bringing that up 60 points to a 78 shows tremendous learning!

Relevant: Keeping in mind the idea: how is this important to my future success as a 4th grader? In middle and high school?  Why do I need this in the first place?

Timely: “By the end of this module…”

After we wrote, we did a “whip around” quickly sharing our goals out, helping to fix any that are missing an element of SMART, in particular the S, M, and the T.  We are on our third module, about to begin our fourth tomorrow, and we’ll follow the same procedure, checking in to make sure we have a SMART goal in this way. Many sound the same, but we are all working on the same work, so that is to be expected. Besides, save the uniqueness for the celebrations when we end the module!
My kids now understand how and why they met their goals or know they still need help. When I am ready to form small groups for tiered instruction, I use these goal setting sheets and their reflections to guide me. This, sometimes more than a post-test, tells me how well they comprehended the module.

This level of voice in their reflections is starting to come through stronger as we move into the fourth module.  I can’t wait to see what the rest of the year will bring. They’d never know to have this conversation had they not set a goal and had it to reflect upon. It only took me a year, a couple of good friends, and a lot of collaboration to figure out how to do set SMART goals that work for kids, but learning takes time, even for us big kids!

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Posted in 20 Time, Genius Hour, teaching

GH with My Geniuses–Week 1

The Friday before Spring Break, usually one of the craziest days of the year, we held the gaze of 40 sets of 4th grade eyes. No one wanted to miss a word of what we were about to discuss…today ended the wonder…today we would answer the question “What is Genius Hour?”   I had teased my kids with the idea of studying anything THEY wanted for 30 minutes each Friday. It had been on the class calendar twice already, and each time it had been moved.   They were mesmerized….

After viewing a few videos collected by experienced GH teachers (see them from Hugh the Teacher here) and some talk from the two of us and our technology guru, who had, in her classroom, finished a few Genius Hour projects, the real questions started.

“Can I do my project on Legos?”

“I really like horses…”

“Me and my friend really want to do something about soccer.”

“Is it OK to study the planets?”

“So you are saying, like, anything is OK…really?”

I sent a form home over the break and set up a Q and A in Netschool, in case anyone needed help with their projects over Spring Break. I was ready. They were ready. And we were all more than excited…

The day we came back the questions began again.

“If I need to talk to a baker, can you help?”

“Do you think I could find out how to do this?”

“Can we really study ANYTHING?”

YES! YES! YES! I let them know they needed to consider just these 3 questions:

Why is this important to you? Could it/why should it be important to others? How will you teach others what you learned?

The last would be a presentation of some sort, but they could determine what that would be. We have done a few presentation tools, but with the help of our dear LMS, we can learn more, I told them confidently.

Fueled by the power of my #geniushour PLN and resources, I knew this would be the beginning of something incredible.

The projects proposed in the second session blew us away! Yes, we did have to reel a few in a bit, but most were practical projects and things that a kid could do by himself. Some would work in groups, building robots or websites, some would start researching their own genealogy or creating a new uniform or even shoes for a sport they love.  One of my favorite projects involved baking a cake with cookies inside.  And of course, her final project will be to present the how-to (using Snapguide, probably) and BRING THE CAKE!  Aw yeah….

My kids were hooked…nothing had held their attention like this self-directed learning. All I could think was “Where has THIS been all of my life?!?”—kind of like I felt when I really understood how to do a PBL!   When 2:30 rolled around, they begged for a few minutes more! WHAT?!? It was 2:30 on a FRIDAY, and my kids wanted to work longer? Yeah, seriously…

Week two spilled into today, and I had to set parameters for the GH projects. They want to finish work, come in at recess, and stay after school just to do more.   I had to let them know when we could and could not work (the time on Fridays, early mornings before the bell, and during recess) or else they spent the daydreaming, talking, and planning!   It was hard to say though, because GH is not only their favorite time of the week but mine, too. This was said with pride in their enthusiasm for learning but sadness that all learning does not get to happen this way….yet….

As I prepare myself and my team for a more inquiry-based approach to 4th grade learning, I plan to use my GH experience as a jumping off point.   And I question, if we can do it right, could every subject be this interesting? Everything, even the “boring” things, like phases of the moon (which for some reason just gets me down every year 🙂 ). I’m looking to a few great books like this one, the forward-thinking teachers in my school and district, and my trusty PLN for those answers!

GH is everything I thought it would be—this messy, crazy, loud teacher’s dream come true!   And I can’t wait to see what will happen next!

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