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 Seventeen: Answer the Question

This week the content focus was primarily on the Columbian Exchange and how emperors legitimized their rule.  The primary focus was the 1450-1750 time period.  Here were the standards for this unit:

  1. List five results of the Columbian Exchange.  
  2. List two examples as to how from each of the following empires legitimized their rule: Ming, Qing, Ottoman, Mughal, and Aztec.
This week’s skill focus was aimed towards improving students’ ability on the stimulus multiple choice and the document based question.

  1. Analyze primary and secondary sources.
  2. Analyze images.
  3. Write a thesis based in response to the claim.
  4. Pull evidence from a document to support a claim. 
  5. Contextualize the prompt.

Cite Specific Evidence

How do I know the students learned?

In the image below, the students filled out a chart each day with their understandings of the content.  When I actually had them fill out the chart, this helped me see their comprehension of the content. I walked around and saw what each student put in the chart and it was an easy way to see if they had learned.  It was a simple chart, just a place to house what they learned.  The picture below is a sample of the chart.

The way main way that showcased their understandings of the content and the skills was their writing.  I have stated numerous times in previous blog posts that they write all the time, and they still write all the time.  This week, the students wrote multiple times throughout the week to prove their abilities in each of the five skill focus. The purpose of some writing prompts was simply to review/refresh skills while others served to develop new understandings of the skills.  In other words, students were writing to learn. While the students showcased their ability on each of the skills, they also displayed their comprehension of the content.  Another reason I love having the students write daily. 

How do I know the students learned and how do I know if they know what they were supposed to learn?

Last week, I used a Schoology quiz to have students evaluate different levels of the contextualization skill.  This week, I used the same process but with different skills.  To do this, I followed similar steps as last week.  Each student wrote a sample body paragraph of an essay.  I chose several of those student samples representing various levels of proficiencies.   For each of the samples, I took each item of the rubric and turned the rubric into a multiple choice quiz.  When the students took the quiz, they had the choice to choose which criteria best matched the proficiency of the sample. In the sample below,  the students had nine criteria to mark as either proficient or not.  In this case, the student incorrectly identified two as having mastered and failed to identify one proficiency.

Explain the Reasoning 

How do I know the students have learned?

I continue to spend a great deal of class time on writing. I feel that through writing the students show me what they know. Furthermore, writing allows them to use the content in a meaningful way and is far superior then to demonstrate their understanding of a discrete point assessment.  Writing shows their true comprehension of the content.  I cannot stress this enough.  Writing displays that students have mastered the content and can use it or manipulate it in a meaningful way.  It also shows that they don’t understand everything. They cannot fake their way while displaying their understanding through writing when they fail to fully grasp a concept

How do I know the students learned and how do I know if they know what they were supposed to learn?

As for the content chart, I wish I would have stayed more on top of this for their sake.  I did not go back to it every day.  If I had been more intentional about referencing the chart daily, students would have been more reflective of their own learning. 

As for the Schoology quiz, I absolutely love this.  The students were questioning me as to why certain parts of the writings were proficient.  They were analyzing each part. That point is so crucial.  Each skill had special attention.  Each skill was evaluated and honed in on as to whether or not each student knew it. This quiz allowed them to see what their understandings were.  Also, it showed me what they know and needed help on.  All students took the quiz; therefore, I was able to quickly see everyone’s understandings. Such a great learning tool.

Reflection and Impact

I need to be better at having the students quickly assess their understandings of the content in a meaningful way. Also, I need to do this on a daily and weekly basis.  While I know that the students are doing well with the content, they need to see that more frequently in class rather than the weekly online quizzes.

Read week eighteen here.

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