Friday, September 23, 2011

A Quality Work Wall

I have been back in the classroom for the last six weeks and it is great to know that I am still fired up about my students' daily experiences. This year I have tried a few new twists to each lesson. If you walked into my room, you would find all the characteristics of a standards-based classroom. However, just making sure that my class has all these characteristics isn't enough. It is one thing for me to understand what a standards-based classroom is, but what about my students. Shouldn't we expect our kids to know what it is too? Too often we throw out new buzz words and never really consider keeping our kids in the loop. I mean, do your students really know what the NCLB Act means for them? After spending the last couple of days grading assignments from Choice Boards and Learning Contracts, one thing was definitely consistent. I made a mistake! I assumed that my clearly written directions would provide students with what they needed to know in terms of presenting a final piece that was filled with effort and high quality. I was wrong. My expectations were not clear for them. Of course, I can sit here and say that they should know what quality work is because they had to turn in writing assignments, artwork, and other products in other classes before. However, something that might have been acceptable for 7th grade may not be considered acceptable in 8th grade in terms of quality. My students could have just thought that since work was turned in one way in another class, it would be acceptable in mine. While this could lead into a new blog on teachers' perspectives on quality work, I will leave that for another day. In my reflection over my students' work this week, I have decided that I want to go beyond just showing one student exemplar for a specific task. Instead, I would like to create a QUALITY WORK WALL that show student samples of various types of activities that are done throughout the year in my science class. Students really need to see what it takes to submit different kinds of assignments, but assignments with the same level of effort and quality. Now, just posting work on the board will not do, nor will posting work with direct feedback be as effective. I want to take things a bit further. I envision a Quality Work Wall that is comprised of quality work that meets/exceed standards, has specific feedback, AND incorporates annotations filled with specific characteristics that must be obvious in student work. I think this will help set the tone for what I expect to see in student work. How will this go over? My hopes is to implement this as soon as we return to school next week and document the changes that I notice in quality and effort down the road. What about you? Are your students clear on your expectations for your class assignments? Do they understand what quality and effort mean for you and what it should mean to them? I encourage you to reassess your student exemplar wall or create one if your room is lacking in one today. ...the journey of a science teacher

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