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 Twelve: Answer the Question
My content instructional goal this week was centered around the rise of empires in the post-classical era. Not any different than last week, but I am looking at other empires. There are a lot of different empires in the post-classical era.
My skill instructional goal was centered on document analysis, contextualizing a prompt, and using evidence to support their claim. The students displayed their understanding of the documents through a document based question. This skill has repeated for the past six weeks. That was very intentional.
Cite Specific Evidence
How do I know the students have learned? The writing this week was amazing. In the two examples below, the students pulled evidence from two documents to support the thesis.
How do I know if they know what they were supposed to learn?
In the example above, I took three samples throughout the day and put them in a Notability document with a rubric. In front of the whole class, I modeled how to grade one. Then they graded the other two to see if they could recognize mistakes or evidence of mastery. They evaluated the three samples and then I revealed how I would have graded it. Then they assessed their own writing.
As for the content, the writing in each of the above samples showcased a deep understanding of the rise of empires. The students used specific evidence on the rise of the empires. In the second picture, the student cited how the lucrative Indian Ocean trade helped the rise of the Swahili City-States. The author goes further and justified their argument with eight details!
Reflection and Impact
I have stated in previous blog posts that I can get lost in the curriculum. Sometimes, when I am teaching it can be difficult to recognize when progress is being made. This weekly blog has forced me to recognize their improvements. They are getting so much better at reading and writing. Their content knowledge impresses me. They are not perfect and there is a lot of work ahead, but they have improved.
What impresses me the most is their ability to recognize when their writing is on target and not. Slowly, they need me less to evaluate and confirm what they already know. Because the process of writing, showing samples, and peer/ self-evaluating takes place daily, it is ingrained in them. I don’t have all of the answers nor do I profess to have them. But the great thing about this process, I am learning alongside them. AP is tricky and there is not one right way to write. The more I read students samples and work alongside my students as they learn to write, I am shaping my own understandings of what mastery is. I have a better understanding of what is expected and they can relay that information to the students in hopes to get them to recognize it as well.