It's been forever since I have been on the blog, but I am going to try to get back in the swing of things.
So I am going to start with one of my educational passion areas: meaningful and timely feedback.
Anyone who knows me knows I am a horrible procrastinator. Much like kids don't look at feedback once something is "done and graded," I don't like to look at work that is "done and turned in." Now, let's face it, I cannot give up grading. It just won't happen. But why would I spend tons of time giving students feedback on something that is "done." They don't care at that point and to be honest, neither do I.
1. Grade as you go: I give points to students literally as they work. If they get the concept, the points go on the paper, right then and there. If they don't, I might underline an instruction, or have a conversation with the individual or the table group.
How do I make time for this? I do very little whole group instruction, I teach process skills (which are in their notes) and sometimes my conversation might be as simple as -- "What's the first step for reading a map?" and the answer can be found in their notes. By pre-teaching problem solving strategies, analysis strategies, and other process skills that can be used on a variety of assignments, I can have "meaningful conversations" that are brief, which lets me move to more and more kids. The first step of map reading? It's to look at the title. You wouldn't belief how often I get questions like "Where is Mexico on this map?" then they read the title and find out they should be looking at the whole map. Also, it allows me to say, "did you need me for that?" which allows me to help them recognize that they have got this, without me! Now I am fostering some independence in my students and by repeating similar processes throughout the year allows kids to learn to break down tasks into steps and work through unique problems on their own.
Eventually, after I have done this for a while (potentially a whole quarter), I can start sending peers out with grading pens. Once they get their points for the task, they get their own pen and they can have conversations of their own. They get really good at directing classmates to their notes, at asking probing questions, or at helping peers realize what part of the directions they need to rethink (or just plain out missed). And this is where the race is on, because suddenly a feedback process that was pretty lengthy, becomes significantly shorter.
So what do kids do 1) while they wait for feedback, 2) when they are done, 3) if they choose not to grade others? That would be #3 of the "Am I on Task" self-check: "Am I actively engaged in a learning activity?" I ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS have a list of other learning tasks students can be working on. It usually includes a long-term task or project that they can continue working on but typically also includes some more passive learning activities. For example, since I teach social studies, my students can watch CNN student news (now called CNN 10) and glean a little info about what is going on in the world. Other students learn through games on iCivics.org. Are these on point with our right then and there goals? Nope. But they are learning, and they are on a content topic.
There are a whole slew of ways to make this happen and it doesn't just have to be with points. One teacher I know made a house on student papers (5 sides for 5 things she was looking at). She knew if students didn't get their "house" done, that they were priorities for the next day's instruction. Sometimes you just go back to an E or an S. E for extention, S for support, or E/S as in, you choose. Then you begin a reteach or clarify lesson and while other students do the extension and you have pre-informed students about where to go. Give the extension to all students, so they have it if they are inclined to try. This is particularly wise if you are working on a skill they need for independent work.
I was going to hit on some other strategies, but I think there is plenty to chew on here. The others will have to wait for another day. Let me know if you have questions.