Feedback

Today was Day 3 of worksheets/CAASPP testing, which means over the course of 3 days I’ve gotten each of my classes once, and for a 2 hour block.

My students still aren’t used to feedback in the way I’m doing it now, so they radically underestimated the amount of time they should do their worksheets in. In other words, they sat around for 2 hours, doing desultory work on their worksheets, while they chatted with friends. I jotted down their work habits, redirected them when the noise got to be too much, and focused on assessing the worksheets they put in front of me.

About 25 – 33% of the kids turned in their worksheets. The work they gave me was generally of poor quality. Some students wrote as little as one word in answer to their questions. Others wrote sloppy or imprecise answers. (“Why did Henry VIII break with the Catholic Church? List one personal and one political answer.” – “He wanted to end his marriage.” or “Erasmus denied that he was a peasant.”) Or they just copied a line out of the textbook at random.

They’re used to (and this is definitely not just from my class) doing the work, getting a grade, crumpling the paper up, and throwing it out. They think teachers grant grades on whim because no one has told them in a way they’ve retained what makes work accurate or complete, and what makes work inaccurate or incomplete.

So when I received their work today I circled the numbers of questions that were completely wrong, and for the ones that were partially wrong I wrote keywords along-side the answers. Then I called them up to my work station. (Images show a sample worksheet.)

Conversations went like this:

Me: “Sally, please come to my desk.”

Sally approaches.

Me: “Sally, your work was mostly strong. Here you have what Wycliffe thought about the Pope and what he thought about the Bible. But what did he do to the Bible? The question asks what he taught about and what actions he took and your answer only covers what he taught about.”

Sally: “Oh. I guess I forgot?”

Me: “OK. Well, find the section where it talks about what he did with his Bible and add that. Don’t erase anything. Next … This answer here is excellent. You completed this and that, just as the question asked you to do. But here…King Henry VIII is from England. Which country is the question talking about?”

Sally: “Switzerland.”

Me: “Right. So you’ll need to find two people from Switzerland. And while we’re on King Henry…how did he want to end his marriage? At the time, ending a marriage in any fashion was illegal. So was he asking the Pope if he could behead his wife?”

Sally: “No. He wanted a divorce.”

Me: “Yes, you need to put that down. And here, where you said Tyndale translated the Bible. Into which language?”

Sally: “Oh. Into English!”

Me: “Right! Any time you say something got translated, you must include the language it was translated into and you have to write it down. Also, figure out how Tyndale died. That’s important. Here you go. Fix it and bring it back.”

Sally: “Thanks, Ms. Caldwell.”

Typically “Sally” would return having addressed about half the corrections I’d suggested, so I circled the feedback she hadn’t addressed and checked the feedback she had addressed successfully.

By the time the students were done, their worksheets were completely covered with text both front and back.

“This is much harder than I thought it would be,” was a lot of the feedback I got from the kids. And it was harder for me, because I basically spent 4 straight hours grading. But I don’t have any work to take home with me today. My evening is free, which is an odd feeling, and I vaguely feel guilty for not having a stack of things to do.

They’re learning, though. By the time they were done, they were able to actually competently talk to me about significant figures of the Reformation.

At the end of the period I had all students photo their papers, front and back, and put them in Seesaw. Then I told them that if they hadn’t finished in time, it was their responsibility to finish on their own time and to find the time to get feedback from me. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have the evidence they needed to demonstrate proficiency.

They’re very slowly beginning to grasp the edges of the concept that if they goof off with their friends, they won’t have enough time to do the work, wait til I assess it, go through our mini-conference, revise the work, wait til I re-assess it, go through our mini-conference, and wait til I assess it again. But I think that by the time January rolls around they’ll be much quicker and more focused about doing their work. (During their waiting time I gave them a survey to complete and asked them to go through their portfolios and address feedback there.)

I have not gotten a single complaint from anyone, which makes me think most of my students didn’t give my letters to their parents. And I’m still fielding anxiety from my students about what their “grade” is.

And best of all, I have a very good understanding of which questions the kids really didn’t get and which things I should cover in direct instruction. Doing it this way – having them do a reading/worksheet and assessing it–will make my lectures much shorter because I’ll only have to target the things that are difficult for them to comprehend. Basically, if I’m writing the exact same words on 60 worksheets, I need to lecture on that and then┬áre-assess their comprehension. But we do need to tie some stuff together. The students don’t see how my lecture of last week on general items from the Reformation ties in to some of the stuff on the worksheets, so we’ll make those connections tomorrow. That will also help all the “stragglers” complete their worksheets.

 

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