Saturday, September 26, 2009

Redesigning lesson plans and grading sheets

I'm trying to redesign my lesson plans, so that I'm doing them the right way.  I'm writing them out as unit plans--starting with what students need to know and be able to do, moving on to how I'll know if they can do it, then worrying about how to get them to do it, and what to do about it if they can't.  So my order of operations is: Objectives, Formative Assessments and Summative Assessments, Instructional Activities, Interventions.  Once I have all of that, I can teach my students to manipulate the time necessary to do the activities.  We can do station work (which a lot of my students like and are shockingly good at it), practice transition procedures, spend less time worrying about learning activities and more about learning.  It will also help move away from the text book.  In short, I'm working on making my lessons do all the things they're supposed to do.

This is as opposed to my de facto method of lesson planning--fill 60 minutes of class time a week, make it as informative and interesting as possible, and give the book-generated test afterwards.  This is a survival-level-teacher technique, and I'm trying to get beyond that now.  I've survived, I'm in year 4, I need to stop being a mediocre teacher.  And the ability to plan seems more and more important to that.

It isn't easy--I still have to fill the 60 minutes a day, I still need to make it as interesting and informative as possible.  Right now, I have a sort-of cross between the two--I have a unit outline (in a format given me (not personally, she was a presenter at a conference) by Helene Curtain) in which I try to include all the information, but down below, I have a much more learning-project-oriented list organized by communicative objective.  Besides which, the form includes a BEGINNING activity, a MIDDLE, and an END.  I'm not certain I know how to divide a unit of study into that.  I can do it for an individual learning goal, but not for a whole unit.

At the same time, I'm trying to make my grading process more in line with the principle of standards based grading, and not just a traditional gradebook with an extra column for standards.  The high school used to use a program called Standards Score (formerly WebGrader), but we don't anymore.  WebGrader has difficulty taking into account anything besides standards, and the high school divides its grades into Standards (no less than 80%), Employability Skills (10%), and Final Exam (10% plus all the standards you can grab).  That's how I figure it works out, anyway.  If any of my readers from our school want to argue with me about that, I'll happily post corrections here.

I also have to be able to assess most of my standards more than once.  It's not just that students', say, speaking skills need to be getting better.  They should also be able to perform a growing number of communicative tasks in a growing number of contexts.  (A portfolio is obviously where I'm going with this, and I've said this before.  We're still working on it.)  So, how do you figure the idea of multiple standards assessments into the notion of "you get the standard or you don't"?  The answer, I think, is that you have to be able to do (and have done) each standards some percentage of the time (75%, maybe?), and then you've gotten the standard.  Another really hard change.

But, I keep slogging through the hard work of being a good teacher.

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