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Saturday, July 19, 2014

A Midsummer Night's Read

Hi, all.  Predictably, my summer reading fell off the rails a bit, but it's okay.  Time to catch up!

First, here's a book I said I'd read this summer that I actually read.  This cool book from 2009 explores the many studies on homework and its impact on learning.  Oh, what a complicated issue.  It is a learning strategy that dares to cross "the boundary separating school and home" (158).  Every school has its own culture and norms about homework (our department has a mandatory 15% chunk of the grade), and every teacher has his/her own expectations.  But ideas about homework are changing, just as schools have changed.

Here's what I know: when I assign less homework, my students seem to do better grade-wise, and the classroom experience is less jumbled and confusing (it's hard to plan for the next day when my data shows about 25% of my kids did the homework).  While I don't think I can assign NO homework (especially in AP and honors-level courses), I can make an effort to be thoughtful with what I assign outside of school.  The more engaging the assignment, the less difficulty students have with completing the homework, and I have fewer instances of plagiarism ("Blindly copying is NOT 'working together,'" is a phrase I used a lot).

This chart popped up on Twitter (from this blog), and I like it.  I'm going to work on varying the types of homework I give (right now, it's mostly reading) and how I assess students' efforts.

I'm now changing my summer reading focus to class participation, which goes by many names: speaking, listening, conversation, dialogue, speech, response, oral language, presentation, etc.  I'm presenting on the topic at NEATE, and I am tackling the subject for my SMART Goal again this year.  It's always been a part of my practice I felt needed help (or just never felt satisfied with), so I'm trying to read up.  Amazon to the rescue!

I finally got a chance to read The Power of Protocols, which seems like a staple for administrative teams, not necessarily teachers.  Protocols are challenging because the roles and rules feel stifling, but at the end of a protocol, I often feel that I was a better listener and that other people listened to my ideas more thoughtfully.  Protocols seem to change the accountability of everyone in the room.

This book features fairly traditional protocols (jigsaw, last word, hopes and fears) and some new ones I'd love to try with my students: analyzing a problem with a "consultancy" and examining a student's draft with a revision protocol.  In short, this was a great guide to why protocols are useful, and I definitely see some ways I could use them for many idea exchanges in my classroom.  

Next were two books I picked up at NCTE in November.  This text identified my main problem in leading discussion; I want "an open exploration of ideas rather than a simple recitation" (xiii).  This book proposes a curriculum of moral dilemmas that the students explore by positing ideas and supporting them.  I like this idea, but I'd need to connect the strategies to texts I already have, not hypothetical ethical scenarios.  I'd need my students' ideas to be much more text-dependent (this book was pre-CCSS).

There's a mention of online discussion in this book, but Twitter wasn't around when Talking in Class was written.  I have used Twitter for a few tasks this year--advertising their independent reading books was the most successful (look for #t3reading).  Maybe I could use Twitter for reading notes and discussion more often?

Great books!  Looking forward to reading about more practical strategies I can use to have my kids talking more in my classes (in a good way!).

Make sure you register for EdCamp Malden at MHS on October 18:  The theme is "ELL Success," so hopefully I can get some ideas on getting my ELLs to talk more in class.  All are welcome to this, our first EdCamp!

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