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 downright 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 to see how I make progress towards these two goals and elicit feedback from staff, students, and hopefully people who follow along on the journey. You can read how last week went here.
Week Nine: Answer the Question
My content instructional goal this week was centered around commerce in the post-classical era.
My skill instructional goal was centered on the long essay. The essay was: Analyze similarities and differences in TWO of the following trade networks in the period 600 C.E. to 1450 C.E.
The focus was on the thesis, contextualization, and using evidence to support an argument portions of the essay.
Cite Specific Evidence
To have students check their content knowledge (and get out of their seats), students grouped together around maps I had hung around all over the room. As I shouted out content questions, the students competed against one another to correctly identify where that information could be found on the maps. The great thing about the activity was that students getting up and walking around the room served as a brain break at the same time that it allowed them––and me––to check their misunderstandings. Here is a short video of that in action:
Here are the students chunking information and selecting which evidence best supports their claim to continue to prepare for their writing. At the same time, I circulated and their notes allowed me to see their thinking, ascertain their understanding and respond to misconceptions and questions.
Reflection and Impact
I loved the week. I spent a lot of time on one topic and skill set, but I felt like it paid off. I actually listened to myself for once and stuck to the plan. I normally lose focus and shift to something else by the end of the week, but this blog helped me stay on course. On Friday, I was going to change my plan and deviate from writing the essay. But then I reminded myself that the essay was the focus! It seriously took willpower to have the students write the essay on Friday, but I was so glad I did.