Quarter One Check-In

The first quarter will officially end in 10 days.

That’s already one fourth of the school year down.  Even though it went by fast, we still have 3/4 of the year to go.  I want to make sure my eighth grade students are prepared for high school.  Thus, today we took our Quarter One Check-In Survey.

From the beginning of the year, I thought I was helping them to stretch their limits by giving them 9th and 10th grade work.  When they were supposed to know Tier Three academic vocabulary words, I was giving them Tier Four.  I stepped outside the curriculum to bring in external, more challenging resources.

Yesterday afternoon, I ran into the mother of one of my most creative, talented students.  The mother asked me for a copy of my syllabus.  Although it was a simple question, it made me wonder.  Today, I asked the student for her honest feedback.  She told me that my class was, “too easy.”

It stung a little, still does.  Those two words reminded me of my first year of teaching middle school English, when I taught the curriculum and nothing more, because that’s all I knew how to do.  Three years later, I felt that I was way beyond that point.

Putting my ego to the side, I asked her what she meant.  She elaborated that she already knew all of the things we were doing in class.  Then, I realized that I was not dealing with an eighth grader reading at a tenth grade level; this child could probably do tenth grade English with her eyes closed and both hands tied behind her back.

I figured this was a good time to take a temperature check of the entire class.  Taking a page from my buddy Chris Aviles, I whipped up a Google form to glean student perspectives on the course. Seventeen of my 37 students took the survey.  Many were helping set up for field day, and were not in attendance.  Here are some selected responses.

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This tells me that I have room to challenge them more.  Perhaps 11th grade resources would be helpful.

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Again, room to grow.

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The jury is still out on Genius Hour.  We will continue pushing along for now.  We clarified what it’s about in class today, because some students were still a bit confused about the concept.

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My students tend to really enjoy blogging.  I may add more blogging days into warm-ups.

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In terms of Edmodo apps, the class favorite was No Red Ink, where they get to correct sentences about their interests, which contain grammatical errors.

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They seemed to react very positively towards our gamification model.

They were also able to write qualitative open-ended responses.  When asked what they enjoy most about the class, the two overwhelming responses were playing Kahoot and blogging.

The suggestions for improvement were very interesting.  One student says that she prefers to learn with a paper and pen, so I think I’ll include that option in the future.  One student asked for more explanation on assignments, which I will definitely take into consideration.  One student wanted to re-do our Draft Day, since Fourth Period did not have an official draft.

In terms of what excited students most, they expressed strong interest in the Drama unit.

When asked how I could help them in reaching their learning goals, most students asked for help to stay motivated and support.

I asked a couple of students follow-up questions based on what they wrote.  I was able to talk to one of the students who chose a 1 in terms of class difficulty.  In one of my Voxer groups, Charles Cooper and Trisha Connor mentioned “Choose Your Own Adventure” models of learning, so I asked her if something like that would interest her.  She was very excited about that idea.

One student had asked for a lunch study group.  This is not feasible with my current schedule, so I proposed to him the idea of Virtual Office Hours via Google Hangouts.  He also seemed enthusiastic.

I’m planning to implement some of these changes immediately.  I wanted to follow up with the original young lady who inspired me to create the survey, but she was occupied in another class.  I plan to survey my students again in a few weeks after we make said changes.  Can’t wait to see the results.