Day 96: Building Background Knowledge and Writing
By Mark Heintz
Jan 16, 2020

Day 96

Student voice provided by Anonymous

I gave a few quick questions to start the class. The students keep asking for it, as did the student who contributed to this post. “I wish that we have a few review questions daily at the beginning of class. Since, I know that some people have a harder time than others when it comes to obtaining information.”

The students wrote what they thought the answers were to my questions and then I had them watch a video on the British Imperialism in India and Japan’s period of isolation. After the students viewed/read, they mapped their understanding. This is all leading up to writing a DBQ on India and Japan.

As the student said, “In class we’re doing well in preparing for the AP test. By doing DBQ’s and reviewing them makes us realize what we could have added or changed to improve our writing. Also, it would make the AP test less stressful since, we had so many practices. In addition, reviewing past topics allows them to stay fresh in our minds.” It’s nice to hear we’re on the same page.

The students tell me that they have acquired a skill. However, as the students are making their learning visible, I can see there is a gap. They think that completing something automatically leads to mastery. Furthermore, they feel that gaining the skill is a destination; almost something they acquire and will keep forever.

I don’t believe this is accurate. People don’t just arrive at a skill and can always do it. Professionals at the highest level continue to hone their craft.

As the student put it, “I need help with keeping past information new. So, I can write easier and apply outside information when writing about a topic.” When students take a step back from their work, they understand that they need to keep going. As I watch the students map their thinking, they feel that by completing classwork means they improved. Or they feel they have completed everything we do. But, how do they know they are improving? Are they thinking about what they are doing? Are they in charge of their learning narrative?

I gave the students a few minutes to document some of their progress for their learning portfolio. They reflected on what they have accomplished or not from the previous week and wrote a few notes down in a google doc. As I think about the purpose of the learning portfolio, I believe that a grade or a score on a test is only a small fraction of who they are.

Having the ability to be in control of their story is power. If they say, they read x number of books and here is a sample of them discussing it with people, that completes the story that can be supplemented with a grade or a score. Ultimately, I want them to be in control, add to their story, and have a means of reflecting on who they are as a learner.







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