Tag Archives: assessment

Quarterly Revue

Yes, I spelled my title correctly.

This quarter I continued my habit of critiquing elements of education technology, in one instance eliciting some thoughtful conversation regarding the appropriateness/usefulness of interactive white boards in classrooms.  I believe that continuing to think about these tools and their use was a good step toward structuring my future classroom in a way that best serves students – including leveraging the right tools in the right way, in terms of tech.  I also drew quite a few comments with my musings on the seeming fine line between professionalism and caring, and how one can look like the other in teaching, and vice versa. It’s good to get the chance to stretch my thinking on these issues, and my colleagues have given me great opportunities to do so this quarter, both in class and in the blogosphere.

I took what I think is my first ever opportunity to post actual student work in my blog, and commented on assessment; doing this in a public way, which both shows what I’m doing in my teaching and invites comment on it, is pretty new to me, and I’m just starting to get used to it. But I’m encouraged by the results so far.

My most valuable contributions to others’ blogs came in the form of my comment on a math lesson, in which I contended that number sense should be the true goal of math instruction, and my thoughts on the value of integrating the teaching of literacy skills with literacy content in this post. In both cases, what I mainly did was reference some pieces of my own (emerging) education philosophy, constructed from the theory and some of the practice we’ve been exposed to in our training so far; I think these references mainly served as reminders to focus the conversation. Hopefully they were found helpful.

Overall, it’s been a tough quarter, and I have to confess I don’t think I’ve been expending quite as much brain power on my blog as I have been on other needful things. But I do believe that my blog contributions are getting more refined and more purposeful on the whole, as well as perhaps more brave – I’ve been more willing to share everything, not just my successes but my worries as well. I see this as a positive trend that I will continue to explore.

Going forward, I’m not sure exactly what will happen to this blog. I think it will continue to be used, though it may suffer a dry spell; this quarter’s going to be busy, and after that, I have to get hired. But if I think anything especially profound, or if my students do something I think the world needs to see, I’ll put it here. Until then, happy teaching, and happy reflecting.

A Good Dam Lesson

Wanted to throw up some thoughts and photos on the end of a pretty good dam lesson (hah) that I led this past week.  Briefly: it was built on the back of a unit about the interaction between water and landforms, which used stream tables (pictured) to do experiments about how water flow, slope, etc. change patterns of erosion and deposition.  Much of the unit was focused on the process of scientific investigation: asking questions, making predictions, running experiments, collecting and analyzing data, using that data to write a conclusion in which we also change our ideas about the mechanisms behind phenomena, and speculate about further experiments.


This particular lesson took the unit in a new direction: kids got to create and imagine, and also got to learn about the design process.  They had a prescribed amount of certain materials (Popsicle sticks, straws, toothpicks) with which to build a dam in order to protect a tiny fictional town from flooding.  The lesson progressed from a class discussion about dams (including analysis of a picture of a dam on the Skagit river and discussion of the design features of that dam) to group-work on designing dams, to actually testing them in class last Friday.

The kids were SUPER into testing the dams, and as we tested them one-by-one, I made sure to ask 2 students who hadn’t been part of the dam in question’s design team what they noticed about the design (which resulted in lots of good vocabulary use) before the test, and ask 2 students who had been part of the team what they’d change, after the test.  All in all it was a very engaging lesson which clearly resulted in solid learning on the part of the students involved.

Coming out of this week, one of the main challenges I’ve set for myself is to be much more conscious about differentiation of instruction and assessment – to be much more intentional and explicit about these issues in my lesson planning.  In this particular lesson, this mainly manifested in me making sure to check in with as many students as possible about how the lesson was going for them – specifically, giving as many students as possible to answer my questions about the dam designs.  I feel pretty confident that I managed it with this lesson – I’m sure that the format of the lesson, with everyone gathered around and commenting excitedly about how the water was moving through the stream table, really helped some of my “focus students” stay engaged, and checking in with them throughout resulted in a strong impression on my part that they were getting the learning targets for the lesson (namely, parts of the design process and important design elements of dams, specifically).