tl;dr version: My goals for this year are to improve my human connections with my students, differentiate with menus (or some other method), and collect enough pre- and post-test data to know if my differentiation techniques were successful to move every student forward from where they started the year.
I have so many goals floating around in my brain that I don’t know where to start. I have a tab open with https://saravanderwerf.com/2017/08/01/my-speech-to-myself-to-start-the-2017-18-school-year-goals/ to refer to multiple times as I start the year. I love Sara’s emphasis on making a human connection with each and every student. I have to admit, that is an area where I would like to improve. Sometimes I’m so excited about the math that I forget to be intentional about learning other things about my students. The fact that by September they can recite how many dogs I have, how many sisters I have, and how many years I have been married should be a hint that they’re more interested in a personal connection than in the mechanics of fraction division. (Is it weird that I get really excited about all the different ways to explain fraction division?)
My primary goal for this year is to be intentional about differentiation. One of the things I’m most proud of accomplishing in the past two years is keeping my school using heterogeneous groupings in our math classes. Now it is important that we demonstrate that we can meet everyone’s needs in those heterogeneous groupings. To do that, several things are necessary. One is a clear definition of what it means to meet their needs. If we don’t have a method to measure our progress then we have to rely on the intuition of ourselves and our parent body, both of which may be less accurate than I would like. My first thought is that as long as everyone knows more at the end of the year than they did at the beginning, then we are meeting everyone’s needs to start where they are and make progress from there. Now I need to generate pre- and post-test data to determine if that is actually happening.
I’m interested in using menus to let kids pick from different tasks to explore ideas and practice them. I definitely see how this applies to practicing a new concept. I’m less clear on how it applies to developing the concept. Just because someone can add fractions with unlike denominators, that doesn’t mean they understand the algorithm they’re using. I need deep understanding to be present so when that student reaches Algebra in two years and needs to add rational expressions they will have a chance at success. So, I can’t just ask them to add fractions to determine what they know. I have to craft a pre-test that gets at their deeper understanding of the algorithm. Perhaps it is there and they just don’t know how to express it. Perhaps it isn’t there at all. How do I know the difference between those two cases? This makes me want to take every student through the concept development phase and only differentiate when we get to the practicing the algorithm phase. I’ll have to think about that.
In the 2018-19 school year, I’m going to get a group of kids where about a dozen of them have been working one to two grade levels ahead since they were in elementary school. Somehow I have to have a system in place that will ensure that they have the deep understanding I want to see of sixth-grade concepts and then allow them to work at the level they left off in fifth grade, which might be seventh or eighth-grade math. Some of them might be ready for Algebra. All I know is that I’m going to squeeze every drop of depth and application that I can out of the middle school curriculum before I let them rush ahead to Algebra 1. I’ve seen too many students over the years who rush ahead and then have gaps in their understanding that stop them in their tracks later. In fact, I was one of those students as well. I thought I was doing fine until I got to college and realized all the things that I didn’t understand about all the math I had memorized along the way. I don’t want that to happen to my students too.
Oh, and if that doesn’t keep me busy enough, I want to try my hand at interactive notebooks too. You know, in my spare time. =) . Ok, time to #PushSend.