Q: I have been allowing re-takes for important test/quizzes/papers/projects. But, the kids who need to do retakes are not coming in to do them. I am struggling with balancing remediation efforts and moving forward curricularly. What can I do to make the end of the semester run smoothly?
A from an administrator’s perspective: This is the million dollar question. We would like all students to progress at a linear rate, but that isn’t reality. This is why the scope of each objective becomes so important. By defining in advance what a C, B, and A level students are able to do, I can now differentiate my instruction and decisions in the class (such as homogenous versus heterogenous grouping, looking into a blended learning model for my classroom, or bringing in an RA to help work with the various ability levels within the room). The next piece is where I can speak from experience as I have made the same (incorrect) assumptions – by making things more transparent and creating additional time, all students would simply take advantage of these opportunities. Remember, most students we work with aren’t like us. If they were already good at these things (playing the game of school, take advantage of additional opportunities, identifying their strengths and weaknesses) they wouldn’t be in the situation that we are describing above. What we have in school is an opportunity to continue to help students grow and develop and practice to develop these habits. So if students aren’t coming in after school, look at ways to build in time in your instructional planning (see the answer to yesterday’s question). Strategies could include (but aren’t limited to): differentiating a warmup so that some students are practicing for the day while others are re-assessing, building in buffer days where students are working on their specific needs, creating alternative ways for students to display their learning, such as oral communication or designing their own project. PLCs can give a final exam early and use it as a learning tool by identifying end of semester gaps and then allowing re-teaching/re-learning at the end of the semester and then use the final exam day as an opportunity for students to display what they have learned. At the end of the day, this all comes back to learning. Students not doing things that we ask is not new, it has been around since the inception of school and will continue to be around long after each of us are retired. Changing the thinking to continually challenge oneself to ask what strategy can I use or what relationship can I build to help all students learn rather than focusing on what they aren’t doing will unlock creative ways for you to engage students that you don’t even realize yet. But it is the mindshift as the adult to make learning (rather than the timing of the learning) the emphasis that drives this balance.
A from a fellow teacher: This has definitely been a challenge for me this semester. I have really been challenged to think about how I am spending my class time. I am currently in a cohort with an Elementary school teacher, and I am stealing a concept from K-5 and instituting it in my classes from this point forward: What-I-Need time (WIN time). Building WIN time right into my weekly schedule allows me to differentiate to meet the needs of all learners right inside my classroom. I have students who need to remediate who haven’t made it a priority to do it outside of class. I have given them the opportunity, and they know they SHOULD do it, but they haven’t made it a priority. It is kind of like my membership to the Y…I go when it fits into my schedule and I am not too tired, but it isn’t on the top of my priority list at this time in my life. I KNOW working out is good for me, and I SHOULD do it at least 3-5 times a week, but it just isn’t happening, and that is why I always have like 10 pounds I am trying to lose! So, for me, WIN time is going to be a time for students to work specifically on what they need to do to be more successful in my class. Next semester, I am going to try to build that in 1 day a week, but for now, there is going to be a lot of WIN time before finals. And yes, that means there is some stuff I am probably not going to be able to do curricularly.
Thanks for reading!