After warming up on about 5 minutes of working on an iPad ap, Sushi Monster ( one of their favorites), I told students that I could prove that they had grown in their understanding of addition and subtraction of multi-digit numbers and that I was very proud of each of them.
I passed both pre and post tests back to them so they could see their growth. I told them that they should place tests side by side and compare their work. I wanted them to think about what they didn't know when they took the pretest and what changed that they would have such good progress. I gave them several minutes before presenting questions that would help them understand what standards they had mastered and what needed to be mastered yet.
I asked students if they could explain what standards they had mastered. I always list the goals at the top of their assessments so that they can understand the purpose of their assessment and use as a reference. They are simplified versions of the standards.
One boy opened up and said " You aren't gonna have us write, are ya?" I laughed out loud. I caught them on film talking about Why am I making them write? The answers were very literal. "So we can learn," is always a favorite reply. It is my hope that as the year progresses and they get used to evaluating themselves, the answer will come more easily and they can recognize if their goals have been mastered.
I wrote three questions on the board:
1. What standards have you mastered?
2. What standards do you have to work on yet?
3. What was the most important skill that you learned in this unit that you will use in your life?
I told them that I wanted them to plan a paragraph by first listing the questions on a piece of paper and answering them in detail. Then, I wanted them to create a paragraph based on their plan. They set to work. I roved around the classroom and observed their progress.
Conference Time: As students finished and brought me their writing, I had some interesting conversations. I read each piece with the student next to me and asked them questions about their learning as I read their writing. I decided to film these three students because they were surprised that they grew. Their pretests were really at mastery level with the exception of equations and variables. All students struggle yet with equations and variables. I am teaching it consistently in order that it becomes habit.
Many of my students know HOW to do an algorithm or word problem...but to take word problems apart and create equations was their greatest challenge. Talking the talk about progress and mastery. The conversation implies that they are interested in their progress and starting to understand who they are as math students in the process of learning.
To emphasize the "why" behind the learning, I had to help this students as he finally discovers the purpose of this rigor and how to explain it. This film catches his disappointment and earlier he said he would just go back to solving story problems without equations. This helps me understand my challenge to support CCSS and work through the desire for students to revert to just "doing" the problem. As we make progress and transition, we will see more students at fourth grade level thinking and explaining themselves logically. I think this rigor that CCSS presents them is the biggest challenge: to back up and think about "why". The last student grabs everything I say and holds on to try to master skills. Many students work hard at this rigorous progress. Ummmm.... Variables.???