Tuesday, November 25, 2014

formative feedback

In the best classrooms, grades are only one of many types of feedback provided to students.
― Douglas Reeves
Feedback. We know we need to provide thoughtful, thorough feedback to students in order for them to make progress in their learning goals.
The importance of feedback has been widely studied and documented. We all know from our own educational careers that feedback was important to us. It helped validate our work, identify strengths, and show us areas to continue to improve. Formative feedback is usually the most helpful, as it provides us with tools in the midst of learning rather than presenting achievement after learning. Time is a factor, of course, with providing feedback to students, and especially at this busy time of year, time is at a premium.

There are a number of places to look for suggestions to make formative feedback work for you. An article in Educational Leadership describes 7 keys to formative feedback. Edutopia has a link to some formative feedback ideas here. Here is a list of 10 tips to make formative feedback most effective. Across these articles, the keys are that effective feedback is practical and timely, and specific to the learners' needs and the learning targets. While this type of feedback is challenging, finding ways to incorporate specific feedback, rather than simply a "good job" at the top of a paper, can really help propel students' learning.

What are your favorite tips for providing formative feedback to students? What challenges do you face? Comment below with your thoughts and ideas!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

alternatives to withholding recess

“Those of you who did not finish your math homework
will be staying in from recess to complete the assignment.”

I’ll admit it – I was guilty of saying this. When I was teaching 5th grade, I occasionally had students who missed homework chronically. Managing missing and late homework is such a difficult aspect of teaching, and there were times when I felt I needed to hold students back from recess in order to finish this assignment or that.

American Academy of Pediatrics’ Policy Statement on The Crucial Role of Recess in School states:

Recess serves as a necessary break from the rigors of concentrated, academic challenges in the classroom. But equally important is the fact that safe and well-supervised recess offers cognitive, social, emotional, and physical benefits that may not be fully appreciated when a decision is made to diminish it. Recess is unique from, and a complement to, physical education—not a substitute for it. The American Academy of Pediatrics believes that recess is a crucial and necessary component of a child’s development and, as such, it should not be withheld for punitive or academic reasons.

I realized that, after reflecting on why students were not completing homework, there were things I could do proactively to support students and avoid withholding recess. I made sure that students’ planners were updated with the homework, and had some positive consequences if they got their planner initialed by a parent each night. It might be the case that students forgot what was assigned by the time they got home, so having an accurately filled out planner was one step.

Because I was teaching in a self-contained classroom, I was able to adjust my schedule a bit to include 20 minutes in the day that was choice time for students that were caught up and homework make-up for those that were behind. This time was really valuable for students, so they were motivated to get their homework done so they could have choice time. I know that not all teachers can play around with the schedule, but it could work to have 20 min / week out of your teaching time work for this if missing homework is a big problem in your classes. It can allow you time to work in small groups or individually with students that might not be completing homework because they need additional instruction.

Now, if the misbehavior is during recess time itself, then the consequence of missing recess might make sense. But in the case of missing homework, this wouldn't seem like a good consequence. And as an educator writes in this Edutopia article, you can talk to the student. See what might be behind the missing work. But try to avoid withholding recess.