It's the last day of the semester and one of the tasks I have each class do is write a summary of the class. They tell me what they liked, what they didn't like, and what they would change if they could. They have to explain why on each of their answers. I always take these print them out and read them over the weekend. Normally there are no surprises, but there is always one or two ideas in each class that are worth some serious thinking. I have put in some changes as a result of some of the things they have told me. Since I have found it valuable to have my students do this I thought I'd do this about my semester.
My sixth graders were great, every time they were introduced to something they acted like eager puppies, not only were they excited about doing it, they were bouncing around trying to show their friends and sharing how they did it. Lots of energy all focused on the task. Wonderful stuff. How do I get my 7th and 8th graders to show that kind of excitement?
My seventh graders did well for the most part, but lacked the focus and excitement of the sixth graders for the most part. We were doing the new curriculum and trying a lot of stuff I had never done before. Really good learning experience for me, I found a lot of pitfalls and traps to avoid in the new materials. Which means I spent a lot of time correcting my 7th graders and trying to get them to use the materials in the correct way. A lot of time will be spent over the break thinking of how to structure each assignment so these learning pitfalls don't happen and the kids are not sidetracked.
My eighth graders, well, I tried some stuff to prepare for the new curriculum next year and ran into massive problems. Most of my kids had no prior knowledge or experience to build upon. Everything had to be reexplained over and over getting simpler and simpler. Finally I had to give up and go to other activities that I had done with the 8th grade before, but by that time I had lost them. Just before the end I had gotten most of them back, but by then it was too late. I've taken steps in my planning to not repeat those mistakes next semester. I think I have found solutions to the problems I ran into, but it was very frustrating for me with my eighth graders this last semester.
Personally, I have gotten very excited over discovering the "Web 2.0 tools" including blogging and screencasting. I have been doing a lot of online researching and feel like Rip Van Winkle waking up to a new world. I have been doing a great deal of thinking about how to bring these and other tools into my class and how to share them with the rest of my faculty. Some progress with the former, a lot of fear and tension about the latter. This is one of my goals for 2007 to bring at least three faculty members into the blogging community.