By Mark Heintz


I have two main focuses as I write this weekly blog. Two driving questions that I have in my mind while making decisions.  They are:

  • How do I know if my students know? 
  • How do I get them to know if they know?  

Whether that is a skill or content, I want to know if they know it.   I no longer think it is acceptable for me to guess or get a feeling on whether or not they know it. Getting the students to know if they know it is down right hard, but I am really attempting to get to a point where the students can recognize their understandings or progress on their skill levels and content knowledge.  Therefore, the purpose of this year of reflection is see how I make progress towards these two goals and elicit feedback from staff, students, and hopefully people who follow along in the journey.

Week Three 

This week marked the end of the first unit and the beginning of the next.  The first unit is only two weeks and will provide me with important feedback on which students will need extra support. Also, the unit will help me understand how much instruction I will need to dedicate to working with documents and writing.  Every year my take away from the first unit is to do more documents and more writing. This year was no different.  You can read how last week went here.

Answer the Question

This week’s plan entailed an assessment of the first unit with a reflection piece, and then shifting into the second unit. The purpose the second unit is:

The goal of this week was to have the students reflect on the first unit, to be able to write a thesis statement for the long essay, and master some of the religions content.

Cite Specific Evidence
Several moments I captured on video of the student reflecting on the first unit were very revealing. The clips reveal examples of students who were able to identify specifically what  they knew from the first unit and what they need to work on skill-wise. Listen to the conversations between the students as they look through their work.

  • Self assessment and peer assessment on the content portion of the test

  • Self assessment in writing

The students excelled at the reflection.  I needed more time than I allotted to get through all of the questions.

Explanation of the Evidence 

The students need more help with writing.  I knew that, but it was great to see that they knew that! It might sound terrible that they weren’t successful in the skill, but it was more important to me that they were still successful in my goal of being able to identify what they know and don’t know. I, too, learned where they are with their progress and now I can make appropriate adjustments to my instruction and to tailor support for individual students. Reflecting on their current understanding is the key to progress; and at this point in the year, that is far more important than their current grade.
I feel that the students are making progress towards mastery. I wanted to ensure they knew that their grade is in progress and it will change in the positive direction throughout time as we march through the class and grow our abilities.  
Reflection and Impact

Wow! This has really changed my instruction.  I have limited the amount of documents we go through at a time so I can ensure the students master it.  Furthermore, we started working on thesis statements.  I originally was going to only spend one day on the thesis this week and come back to it next week. However, I spent the remainder of the week on thesis statements and am still going strong into the next week.  I need to keep things simple, small, and ensure mastery.  Hope to have you read next week! 

Read week four here.

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