Today marks the beginning of the last week of school with this year's kiddos. We only go through Wednesday with the kids, then we have our teacher close-out (re: socialize and procrastinate) day on Thursday.
Since it is the end of the year, I thought it would be a good time to reflect on the past 9 months. It was indeed a crazy year, what with the layoffs, switching positions, getting a new set of kids 10 weeks into the year, etc.
Nevertheless, the move turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as I found that I really like teaching the bilingual kids, and they in turn showed their willingness to adjust and learn from me.
Here is a list of 5 things that I want to try to do a little (or a lot) differently next year:
5) Play games more often
I did make it a goal this year to try to play more math games. And we DID play more, relative to last year. But I want to play even more next year, time permitting. And that's really the problem -- the time. There is SO much material to pack in before the big test, and SO much time wasted by little things like misbehavior and not listening (not to mention slow, meticulous kids), that we often don't have much time for games. However, when we DID have time for them, all of the kids were on task, and they seemed to improve their skills.
4) Do the "Morning Message" more frequently
This was my first year (7 months, actually) of teaching language arts. So it took me a while to get my feet under me and find out what I was doing. OK, who am I kidding, I'm STILL trying to find out what I should be doing! But one of the things I would do about once a week or once every 2 weeks was the Morning Message. This was a short passage -- 2 or 3 sentences -- filled with grammatical and punctuational mistakes. The kids had to copy it down exactly as it appeared on the board and then make the necessary corrections. It was a fun exercise, it helped the kids recognize mistakes, and it showed them part of the editing process. Next year, maybe I'll up it to 2 or 3 times a week.
3) Be more strict about checking the problem of the day
Every morning, we started our day with a word problem. Every day, we went over the steps to working the problem, but I very rarely took it for a grade, as it is mostly for practice. Quite often, I would notice that kids weren't making the corrections at their desks, instead leaving incorrect operations and wrong answers on their paper. I need to find some better way to garner their attention to detail and checking their work. Perhaps this means having them switch with their partner to grade, but I prefer that they see their OWN work when we're grading the PoD.
2) Use more real-world examples
Last week, we started a projet that involved estimating the cost of an airplane ticket to a chosen location. Some kids thought a trip to New York City cost $2, some thought $1,000,000. The really sad thing was that when these kids asked their parents, many of THEM gave grossly incorrect estimates, like $40. Next year, we'll have to talk more about how much groceries really cost, how much gasoline really costs, how much an airplane ticket really costs.
1) Start the study guide much, much earlier
With about a month to go before the TAKS test (so that puts it at around end of March), I had what I considered to be a brilliant idea. Why not make a study guide containing a sample of everything we've learned so far this year?? It was one of those things that just made me feel stupid for not having thought of it years ago. And I really do think it was effective. The kids enjoyed making it, and having free time to study with it. However, I think it would be much MORE effective, and induce much more retention, if we started it from the beginning of the year and updated it as we learned each concept. That way, it would truly be something that they could continually reference and be quizzed over.