As the School Year Approaches 

This summer was a first in a long while for me. It was the first summer I had not worked majority of the summer. I actually spent time with my family, with my God and with myself. I worked out hard until our vacation, and then I completely let myself go 😕.  Not only that, I allowed myself to begin thinking heavily about what I want from this new school year. 

A Different Kind of Year

This school year, I’ll have the pleasure of teaching one class of Introduction to Algbrea (8th) in the mornings and performing coaching duties for the rest of the day.  I’m elated by this setup because there are so many things I would love to improve upon as a middle school teacher. I want this school year to be better than two years ago when I was teaching 7th grade, which I would classify as a “pretty good” year.  

So here’s what I’ve been thinking:

  1. Standards-based grading: At our school, we have developed a school-wide grading policy. I’m wondering how my philosophy about SBG will fit into the school’s vision. This year, I would like to continue using portfolios and having students submit the work they feel best displays their understanding of the concepts. But I would like to incorporate concept quizzes which would go into the grade book for reporting purposes. My thoughts are, in addition to the mini daily formative assessments and the common formative assessments (required to administer every Friday) I would provide written feedback to students on the work submitted from the portfolio, it would be a checkpoint each week so students By the time they take the common assessments (summative/formative) we would have  a holistic view of their progress. This post from Dane Ehlert inspired me to keep moving in a fair grading direction.  This year, I will develop literature to share with parents so they will have a better understanding of SBG. 
  2. Context for Learning: When I was coaching at an elementary school, we had learning kits developed by Catherine Twoney Fosnot called Context for Learning.  I loved these kits as they introduced mathematical concepts through an interesting context using books and visual images. I’m using this instructional strategy for the 8th grade concepts this school year. To begin each unit, I have a context which will engage students in investigating the mathematical ideas vs me teaching and telling everything upfront followed by some sort of problem solving activity. Using Fosnot’s work as a guide, the lesson structure will include an investigation, my support during the investigation, and a student-led discussion to summarize the investigation.  Many contexts will be introduced by a video or image. Here’s an example of a lesson I wrote using Fosnot’s lesson structure. Uncle Drew- Solving Equations 
  3. Literature Centers: I’ve pulled book titles from this list and activities from this site to put in a center. Students would read the texts to reinforce ideas and understandings of the mathematical concepts covered using various reading strategies. 
  4. Games for Practice: When I was in the classroom in 2014, I don’t think I incorporated practice enough to balance instruction. This year, as I’m organizing my tasks and activities, I have been very intentional about including practice activities. I don’t want to be a Kuta Software printing teacher. I want my activities to be engaging and meaningful to students. So I plan on making a lot of the games using Popsicle sticks, Versatiles templates, fun kid games like musical chairs and more. 

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