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.  You can read how last week went here.

Week Seven: Answer the Question

My content instructional goal this week was centered around how empires grew and rose to power.

My skill instructional goal was centered around the document based question.

Cite Specific Evidence

This week was the last week of learning new content before the unit assessment.  Also, it was short instructionally because the students took a practice SAT test two of the days. That being stated, the week wrapped up a few minor tweaks to students’ basic skills and understandings of the content.
Content: I had the students compete in a few content challenges.  In the first challenge students categorized classical era words by region.  
In the second challenge students competed in a word grab.
In the third challenge the students sorted more classical era information into one chart in notability. They used the scissor feature in notability to sort the information. 
Skills: The students practice two document based questions in their entirety.  The DBQ mimicked the assessment they would take the next week.  I had them practice thesis statements, contextualization, and using the documents to support their thesis.  

Explanation of the Evidence

The week was jammed packed.  The review challenges revealed there was a misunderstanding of the timeline of empires and how they each ruled their empires.  From that feedback, I created another short video on those two subjects.

The writing still has the students nervous about their abilities.  Even though they are capable of doing it, they haven’t done it enough on their own in a timed setting feel confident in doing so. The biggest skill they struggle with is the contextualization.  They understand the concept of it, but they don’t quite get how it leads into their argument.  I created another short video they could rewatch if they struggle with it before coming in for more help.  

Reflection and Impact

Although they have not mastered all of the skills yet, I feel so much better about how I have scaffolded it this year.  I have started it earlier than I normally do and I have given the writings under test like conditions.  I need to continue practicing and the videos I posted have given the students a better support network for when they feel they struggle.  These skills are going to be the cornerstone of my instruction in the next unit and I look forward to seeing what they can do next week!

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